Guitars are probably the most popular of all musical instruments people know. Electric guitars, in particular, have had a crucial importance for the music industry. In the hands of some legendary guitar players who gave them life and personality, electric guitars wrote history. Here are the 5 most iconic guitars.
Gibson Les Paul
The electric guitar Gibson Les Paul was produced and first sold by Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1952. It was based on the prototype model of a solid-body electric guitar designed by Lester William Polsfuss (also known as Les Paul), whose name it bears. It had a single-cutaway, curved top body made of mahogany and two P-90 pickups (later upgraded to humbuckers). The same wood was used for the set-in neck, but the fretboard was made of rosewood. Its original finish was solid old gold, later replaced with a translucent sunburst finish.
The Les Paul revolutionized the industry, being one of the first massed-produced electric guitars and one of the best-known electric guitar models in the whole world (source). Although retired from the market for several years and replaced with the drastically redesigned SG model, the Standard and Custom variants of Les Paul were reintroduced in 1968 due to the popularity they had gained.
This guitar has covered many genres and styles, most frequently being used in classic rock, but also jazz or metal. The high-end Deluxe Les Paul was used by many remarkable guitarists, such as Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin or Vivian Campbell of Dio. Even more have created their signature models of Les Paul, among them being Slash, Gary Moore, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
Gibson Flying V
The Flying V was introduced to the public in 1958. Its unique and uncommon body design, meant to be futuristic, was radically different from that of the other electric guitars out there. However, Flying V did not have success in the beginning, so the production was discontinued and undertaken in 1963 when it started gaining popularity. An updated model was launched in 1967 and has been continuously reissued ever since.
The 1967 model became the standard. Although the V-shaped bottom of the body was kept, the wood originally used was changed to mahogany, the pickguard became bigger and the bridge was replaced with a stopbar tailpiece. The set-in neck of this standard version is made of mahogany and the fretboard of rosewood, ebony or baked maple.
Even though they were made popular in the beginning by the blues guitar players Lonnie Mack and Albert King, the Flying V guitars are mostly associated with heavy and thrash metal. Some of the most prominent guitarists who wrote history together with their Flying Vs are Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica, Kerry King of Slayer, Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, K.K. Downing of Judas Priest, and, last but not least, Jimi Hendrix.
The Gibson SG is a model of electric guitar produced by Gibson in 1961. The SG in the name stands for ”solid guitar”, in reference to the solid body of this type of instrument. In what concerns the design, both the body and the set-in neck of this guitar are made of mahogany. The pickguard on the body is black and the traditional pickups are humbucker or P90, in a combination of two or three pickups.
Originally, Gibson launched four variants of the SG electric guitar, from low to high-end, as follows: the SG Junior, the SG Special, the SG Standard, and the SG Custom. Over the years, many variations of the SG have emerged (among which special or limited editions), but the all-time-best-selling guitar of Gibson is the SG Standard model (source).
The SG has typically been used in metal, stoner, heavy or psychedelic rock. It was popularized by some of the most notable guitarists, such as Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Angus Young of AC/DC, both of which owned custom-made SG guitars, as well as Robby Krieger of The Doors and Eric Clapton (in the Cream era), the two of them playing an SG Standard. Numerous doom and stoner bands created music with SGs, among which Kyuss, Electric Wizard, Fu Manchu or Mastodon.
Released in 1950 initially under the name of Broadcaster and renamed Telecaster one year later, this solid-body electric guitar quickly gained popularity among musicians and established itself as the first commercially successful electric guitar in the world (source). Both its design and versatile sound represented a revolution in the production of electric guitars, thus remaining among the most renowned and required electric guitars of all time.
The Telecaster’s asymmetric single-cutaway body, usually made of alder or ash, features two single-coil pickups and a plastic pickguard. The bolt-on maple neck has a fretboard made of the same wood or rosewood, and it ends with an original and easily distinguishable headstock whose tuning pegs are mounted on one single side, while the other side is cut curved. Several variants have been launched on market, with differences in price, quality and features, yet the essentials remained quite constant.
As for music genres, the Fender Telecaster was mostly used in blues, jazz, country, pop, rock and roll and funk. The list of guitarists who have used Telecasters is large, including Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Noel Gallagher of Oasis, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, George Harrison of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones.
Another trademark of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is the Stratocaster, introduced to the public in 1954. The biggest innovation it brought was its distinctive design, being the first mass-produced electric guitar, whose body shape was significantly different from the previous acoustic models (source).
Just like its brother Tele, the body of the Stratocaster is made of alder or ash, but it is double-cutaway and the top horn is extended. It has a plastic pickguard and usually three single-coil pickups. The neck has the same characteristics as the Telecaster, both featuring the same fingerboard and headstock. The design of the Stratocaster has suffered small changes over the years, yet the overall look has been preserved, just like in the case of the brother Telecaster.
The Stratocaster was a favourite of many guitarists, among whom Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, George Harrison of The Beatles, Robert Cray, and the list goes on.