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B.B. King, the King of the Blues, didn't have just one Lucille – he has given that name to all of his guitars since the 1950s.  | Photo: Gibson archives
B.B. King, the King of the Blues, didn't have just one Lucille – he has given that name to all of his guitars since the 1950s. | Photo: Gibson archives
Ondřej Bezr -

10 + 1 Guitars that Have Been Named

Guitarists – whether they're famous stars or perpetual bedroom players – tend to be fickle-minded, constantly adding to their gear and sinking incredible amounts of money into it. But when they do find their holy grail guitar, they usually stick to it tooth and nail. And they often "legitimize" their relationship with their beloved instrument by giving it a name. Often after their loved ones, sometimes the name is based on the guitar colour, and other times the reasons are quite bizarre. Let's take a look at ten of the most famous "guitars with names", plus one extra bonus.

And as always with similar lists: if you don't find your favourite player and their guitar included, don't stone the author. This is his personal selection, which does not aspire to be definitive.

1. B.B. King: Lucille

Let's start with the most famous one. The "King of the Blues" didn't have just one Lucille – he has given that name to all of his guitars since the 1950s, but it was a modified version of Gibson ES-355 without F-holes in the body (to limit the feedback) that got to the general awareness.

It was named after a story where two men in the audience fought over a girl named Lucille during a King’s gig and a fire broke out, nearly burning the guitarist's instrument. One can still buy King's signature model from Gibson or Epiphon under the name Lucille, at various prices.

2. Willie Nelson: Trigger

The only acoustic in our review, but probably the most famous one and also the most easily recognizable in sound – which is extremely important. The Trigger has been named after the famous horse from Westerns starring American actor and singer Roy Rogers (he starred in dozens of cowboy movies in the 1940s and 1950s). It is a Martin N-20 classical guitar with nylon strings.

The singer, who turns 90 in April and is still on the move, got his beloved guitar in 1969 after a drunk destroyed his previous Baldwin instrument. He fell in love with Trigger, though and he wouldn’t play any other guitar at concerts or in the studio. And the guitar shows it: the pick hole on the front of the body (which lacks a pickguard) has grown alarmingly large, and the guitar also bears dozens of signatures of Nelson's musician friends or famous athletes, for example. Willie has said that when the Trigger falls apart in his hands, he'll stop playing. Let's hope its construction is strong enough.

3. Albert King: Lucy

Laymen usually associate the Gibson Flying V model with heavy metal, not only because of its original "sharp shape", but also because many "heavy" guitarists really like it. But the fact is that the most famous "V" player in music history was a bluesman. Albert King got his first Korina wood Flying V in 1959 and recorded almost all his hits on it for the legendary Memphis Stax label.

The guitar was named after King's favourite actress Lucille Ball – but the name Lucille had already been "taken" by another blues King, so Albert had to modify it slightly. He had a total of five Lucy guitars during his career, but only the first one was made by Gibson, all the others were custom-made by different guitar makers for King.

4. Keith Richards: Micawber

It is one of the most famous guitars in history and even today, as it can still be seen played at Rolling Stones concerts. The 1953 Butterscotch Blonde Telecaster was given to Keith by Eric Clapton for his twenty-seventh birthday. The guitarist replaced the classic single neck pickup with a Gibson humbucker, and later changed the standard Telecaster bridge single with a pickup used on Fender lapsteels.

Most importantly, he started using the guitar in open G tuning, taking off the fat E string. The name comes from the name of a character in Charles Dickens' novel "David Copperfield". Richards uses the iconic instrument in songs that the Stones' setlist simply can't do without, like "Brown Sugar" and "Honky Tonk Women".

5. Eric Clapton: Blackie

The story of how Eric Clapton got his black Stratocaster is quite well-known, but it's still worth remembering. In 1970, the guitarist bought six 1956-57 Stratocasters from a Nashville guitar shop for prices ranging from two to three hundred dollars (in today's conversion, that's something between 1500-2500 dollars, which is no comment...). He gave three of them away to his friends George Harrison, Steve Winwood and Pete Townshend, and used the other three to build the ideal piece.

Blackie was Clapton's main guitar until the mid-1980s, and in later years he used it only on rare occasions. That was until 2004, when a charity auction to support Clapton's Crossroads Center for drug and alcohol addiction treatment raised nearly one million dollars for Blackie.

6. Neil Young: Old Black

The main guitar of this hero is originally a 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. Neil Young acquired it in a trade in 1968 and hasn't let it out of his hands since, although he has continuously tried other models, too.

The Old Black is quite modified compared to the original. Not only its colour was changed to black, but also a Bigsby tremolo was added and the original pickups were replaced with a P90 at the neck and a minihumbucker à la Gibson Firebird at the bridge. In fact, virtually everything on this guitar has been changed (several times), and Neil Young is known as a lifelong seeker of the ideal. When he finds it, he will lose the meaning of life. Let's hope that doesn't happen for a long time.

7. Roy Buchanan: Nancy

A shamefully neglected blues and rock guitar virtuoso and innovator, a true world champion on the Telecaster, incidentally one of the candidates to become the Rolling Stones' second guitarist after the death of Brian Jones. His main guitar has always been a Butterscotch Blonde Telecaster, a 1953 vintage, which also adorns the cover of several of his albums. There are no known modifications to it.

Buchanan was one of those guitarists who could probably squeeze an authentic tone out of an ironing board. He achieved it almost without any effects, he had an admirable technique of combining picking and fingerpicking, and even Jeff Beck – with all due respect – was no match for him in his perfect work with volume and tone pots. It's a shame that Buchanan couldn't bear the burden of life and, in 1988, at the age of only forty-eight, he hung himself in a prison cell after a drunken incident. Sadly, he will forever remain "the best unknown guitarist of all time", as the media also referred to him.

8. Bonnie Raitt: Brownie

The current Grammy winner for Song of the Year and owner of fourteen other golden statuettes of gramophones, the American slide guitarist par excellence does not let go of her Fender Stratocaster assembled from several pieces – the body is from 1965, the neck a little younger. She allegedly bought it in her wild years, in 1969, at three o'clock in the morning for just 120 dollars. The guitar has been modified to allow Bonnie to practice her main guitar technique, the slide, well.

By the way, she uses a glass, rather large bottleneck slide, put on her middle finger, which is rather unusual. The natural brown guitar became the model for Fender's signature model in 1996, and it's gratifying that the indisputable Bonnie Raitt was the first guitarist to receive this honour.

9. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Number One + Lenny

The greatest blues-rock guitarist of the 1980s was not seen with any other type of electric guitar than the Stratocaster, either directly from Fender or from private guitar makers. He had several of the main ones, each bearing their own name. The most prominent and widely used, however, was logically the brutally battered Number One, which also became the model for his signature model. This was the 1963 vintage, which came to Vaughan a decade later. He played it on all of his albums and most of his concerts, the guitar head was burnt from cigarettes he (like Eric Clapton) used to tuck behind the strings and sometimes "just forgot".

Vaughan's other famous Stratocaster, coincidentally the same year as Number One, is called Lenny – it was bought for him by his wife Lenore. It sold at auction in 2004 for 623,500 dollars. Unlike the Number One which is kept to this day by Stevie's older brother Jimmie Vaughan, also a famous guitarist who showed Stevie his first chords as a child.

10. Tony Iommi: Old Boy

Although it looks like a Gibson SG at first glance, Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi's lead guitar is made by Birmingham maker John Diggins, owner of Jaydee Custom Guitars. He built it sometime between 1975 and 1978, and Iommi first used it on the Sabbath album Heaven And Hell.

The chestnut surface of the body looks rather used. Not because Iommi was such a savage on stage, but he allegedly left the guitar in the car in extremely hot weather and some of the lacquer peeled off due to the heat. For a darker sound, Iommi uses the guitar in a half-step down tuning.

+1 Billy Gibbons: Muddywood

As a bonus, we mention this unmissable guitar because, according to available information, no one has ever played it in public. Yet it has become a legend. That Billy Gibbons admires old bluesmen is a matter of common knowledge. One day he went to see the house in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Muddy Waters was born. It had been hit by a tornado and was about to be torn down.

As a souvenir, Gibbons loaded a piece of cypress roof beam into his car and had it built into a guitar by Pyramid Guitars in Memphis, decorated with a snake-like motif of the Mississippi River throughout the neck and body. Once the guitar was made, Billy Gibbons donated it to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. Perhaps it's a shame he doesn't bring it out in concerts from time to time. He says in an interview that it "plays like melting butter"...

Tagy guitars with names B.B. King Keith Richards Fender best guitarists Billy Gibbons Tony Iommi Stevie Ray Vaughan Bonnie Raitt Roy Buchanan Neil Young Eric Clapton Gibson Albert King female guitar players

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Foto: František Vlček, Lidové noviny