Guitars That Jam – Blakesberg Available Now

by AlanPaul on May 20, 2015

My friend Jay Blakesberg has a great new book Guitars That Jam: Portraits of the World’s Most Storied Rock Guitars. It features a Forweord by Warren Haynes and pictures and the stories behind. Here is a sampling of the goodies therein.

There are a few limited editions left. Only 150 were made. The limited edition is signed by both Jay and Warren, comes in a beautiful hand-made clamshell box and also comes with a signed 8×10 print. More info on them at



If Tom Anderson’s recollection is correct, at the beginning of the Wake of the Flood sessions Garcia was presented with the custom guitar that would become his primary axe for the next couple of years (and intermittently for many more years). Garcia’s new axe had been crafted by a luthier named Doug Irwin, who, Rick Turner says, “came to work with me when we set up the chicken-shack factory [in Cotati]. He trained with me and eventually started making the guitars for Garcia and then split off and did his thing.”

Rick Turner hired [Irwin] for a half-time job at Alembic; he spent a year or more there, learning the ropes from Turner and Frank Fuller and devoting his free time to building his own electric guitar. One day, toward the end of 1972, Garcia was in Alembic’s Brady Street store and spied the first guitar Irwin had made for Alembic. “He bought the guitar right on the spot [for $850], and asked me to make him another guitar,” Irwin recalled in an interview.

“So I built the next guitar for him,” Irwin recalled in the same interview, “which I had actually started building at the time he ordered it; it was made out of purpleheart [also known as amaranth, a South American wood] and curly maple. It had an ebony fingerboard and mother-of-pearl inlays. This is the one that became the ‘Wolf.’”

Grateful Dead, Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ, November 24, 1978

The guitar didn’t receive its “Wolf” moniker until later. Garcia had put a decal of a bloodthirsty cartoon wolf below the tailpiece, and after bringing it in to Irwin for refinishing between tours one year, “I knew the decal was going to be gone, so I just redid the wolf as an inlay,” Irwin said. “In fact,” Garcia recalled in 1978, “it was a week or so before I even noticed what he had done!” Garcia first played the Irwin guitar on the October ’73 tour.

Beginning with the fall 1977 tour, Garcia stopped playing Travis Bean guitars and went back to the Irwin “Wolf,” which a little earlier had been retooled to include the effect loop and unity-gain buffer that had worked so well in the TB-500. Garcia never expressed any particular dissatisfaction with the Beans; perhaps he just liked the woodier feel of the Irwin axe. It was at this time, too, that Doug Irwin inlaid the “Big Bad Wolf” (as Jerry called it) on the spot where an identical sticker had been.—Excerpted from Grateful Dead Gear, by Blair Jackson


This is Neil’s main electric guitar. It’s a 1953 Les Paul goldtop that’s been painted black—in 1953 they only made gold Les Pauls. It’s got a mahogany neck and a mahogany back with a maple cap on the top.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Key Arena, Seattle, WA, November 10, 2012

Originally, the ’53 Les Pauls came with what’s called a “trapeze bridge.” The strings came from underneath the bridge because the neck wasn’t tipped back far enough in ’52 and ’53, which made the guitar pretty much unusable. In ’54, they got rid of that bridge because they tipped the neck back to its present position, but the thing with having less of a neck angle is that you can have a lower bridge, which works much better for a Bigsby, which Neil has used extensively. So this has a Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge on it, and it has a Bigsby B7 vibrato on it.

Originally, this guitar was made with two P-90 single-coil pickups. In the early ’70s, Neil took it to a luthier to have some modifications done. When he came back to pick up the guitar, they’d gone out of business. Neil tracked down the guitar, but the bridge pickup was gone. So they put in a late ’50s Gretsch pickup, a DeArmond pickup with adjustable magnets for the poles. It’s a special Gretsch pickup, and it’s only in the bridge position. The neck pickup was still the P-90, but they put a silver cover on it. I started working for Neil in ’73, so this was the condition I found the guitar in, with the DeArmond pickup and the Bigsby and the Tune-o-matic.

“Neil has even talked into it, screamed into it, and you can hear it coming out of his amplifier.”

After a year I put a Gibson Firebird pickup—a small, two-coil humbucking pickup—in the bridge position. The Firebird is a very unusual pickup noted for its particularly bright tone. This particular pickup is remarkably microphonic. If you tap on the guitar, you can hear it. Neil has even talked into it, screamed into it, and you can hear it coming out of his amplifier. It’s that microphonic, which contributes to the unique sound he gets.

I found the remnants of a switch in the middle of the four knobs. No switch was there, and what it did I don’t know. So, what I ended up doing was put a miniswitch in that hole and routed the bridge pickup directly to the jack, bypassing both the volume and the tone control on that pickup. After I did that, Neil said, “It’s like it goes to 11 now.” You’d be surprised how much energy and tone gets absorbed by the volume and tone control. It’s a remarkable guitar. It has extremely low action and plays really great. —Excerpted from interview with guitar tech Larry Cragg



It was my first time in Nashville—I think it was around 1970—and I went to

Gruhn Guitars there—great guitar shop. I was just nosing around, playing a few guitars, and one of the guys in there was watching me—and he said, “You ought to look at this guitar.” He pulled it off of a rack, and I played it and fell in love with it. It was 350 bucks. Back then that was a lot of money—it was a couple months’ rent—but I had to have it. It’s worth a couple hundred times that now—it still has all the original parts. It’s pretty much the holy grail of thin-body guitars.

Furthur, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA, December 30, 2011

I was immediately drawn to the feel of it. I also liked the way it sounded, but I loved the feel—loved the neck, which is relatively slim for a Gibson. Sonically I can do just about anything. It’s not going to sound like a single-coil guitar—it’s definitely a Gibson—but that said, it can get bright, real bright. In fact, I generally play it pretty bright. It has wonderful balance. The tone isn’t real tubby. Sometimes Gibsons have a sort of tubby tone, but not so with this particular guitar. And it works well both in the studio and live—it’s good no matter where you plug it in.


Warren Haynes has announced the details for Ashes and Dust, his new album with Railroad Earth, due out July 24 on Concord Record.

I visited Warren in the studio during the recording and was able to hear rough mixes of over half the album. It sounds great.

Ashes and Dust features plenty of new material, along with a few songs that Haynes penned 20 or 30 years ago. Allman Brothers Band fans will recognize the oft-played “Spots of Time,” a never-before-recorded tune that Haynes co-wrote with Phil Lesh and which here features Haynes’ longtime ABB bandmates Oteil Burbridge and Marc Quinones. Check it out:

“I’ve been writing songs all my life from a more folky, singer-songwriter, even Celtic direction,” Haynes says. “For a while, I’ve been compiling songs that didn’t necessarily fit in with Gov’t Mule or the Allman Brothers or even my last solo album. So this record was really a chance to bring a lot of that music to fruition. It’s really given me the opportunity to take a lot of songs I love, that didn’t have a home, and build a home for them.”

Haynes invited Railroad Earth to back him on the new release, and co-wrote “Word on the Wind” with Railroad’s Todd Sheaffer.

Warren in the studio, playing me some tracks.

“We’ve known each other casually for several years, and then at Del-Fest a few years ago, we winged a few songs together and it went really well. A little later, when I was opening the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, they joined me for part of the set. We did that with a little more rehearsal, more preparation, and it was a great experience. At that point, I started thinking that maybe I should make my next record with these guys.”

In addition to Railroad Earth, Ashes and Dust features appearances by Grace Potter, on a duet a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” as well as singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin and longtime Willie Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael.

Ashes and Dust tracklist:

Ashes and Dust Tracklisting:
1.       Is It Me Or You
2.       Coal Tattoo
3.       Blue Maiden’s Tale
4.       Company Man
5.       New Year’s Eve
6.       Stranded In Self-Pity
7.       Glory Road
8.       Gold Dust Woman featuring Grace Potter
9.       Beat Down The Dust
10.   Wanderlust
11.   Spots Of Time
12.   Hallelujah Boulevard
13.   Word On The Wind

Deluxe Edition (bonus CD):
1. Company Man (demo)
2. New Year’s Eve (demo)
3. Glory Road (demo)
4. Wanderlust (demo)
5. Hallelujah Boulevard (live from 12/28/2006)


B.B. and Buddy – my story in the New Yorker

May 15, 2015

In 1995, I had dinner with BB King and Buddy Guy in an Austin, Texas studio. It was after rehearsal and before recording the Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. As we ate, the two had the most incredible conversation, all captured on my tape recorder – the same one Clapton’s bodyguard wanted to lodge inside […]

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Where Ya Been Frank Marino

May 12, 2015 Widgets In 2005, I caught up with Mahogany Rush’s Frank Marino for Guitar World. Just stumbled back across this story and enjoyed reading it I hope you do, too. After touring as the leader of Mahogany Rush for over 20 years, Frank Marino decided he had enough in the fall of 93. On the […]

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B.B. King video lesson 2 – soloing

May 6, 2015 Widgets With the terrible news that B.B. King is in home hospice care, we will continue to celebrate his legacy as much as possible. Today, we have another video lesson, focusing on soloing. As noted yesterday, that’s my friend Askold Buk interviewing B.B. King in this great clip from the instructional videos they did together in […]

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B.B. King video lesson – playing scales

May 5, 2015

How about a video lesson from B.B. King? With the terrible news this week that the King is in home hospice care, I want to celebrate his legacy as much as possible. That’s my friend Askold Buk interviewing B.B. King in this great clip from the instructional videos they did together. Askold and I were […]

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Gregg Allman at the Roxy – By Bob Lefestz

May 1, 2015

THE FOLLOWING WAS NOT WRITTEN BY ME, BUT BY BOB LEFSETZ. I don’t agree with it all – “hot ‘Lanta” is not GA’s showcase – but totally dig the concept, and shared it here, because I thought my readers would enjoy. I have been a regular reader of The Lefsetz Letter for years. Check out […]

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Carlos Santana and Warren Haynes to Join Phil Lesh at Lockn’

May 1, 2015

Well, this could be interesting. Phil Lesh & Friends will perform twice at this year’s Lockn’ Festival and number two will feature special guest Carlos Santana joining Warren Haynes, Barry Sless, Rob Barraco and John Molo. This lineup joins the previously announced Friends lineup featuring members of Chris Robinson Brotherhood like Robinson, Neal Casal, Adam […]

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Allman Brothers Band “Ramblin Man” – Hofstra, 11/2/72

April 27, 2015

Allman Brothers Band “Ramblin Man” – Hofstra, 11/2/72. Only show featuring Berry Oakley and Chuck Leavell together. After they recorded the song but, of course, before it was released. Impossible to watch this and not wonder “what if?”

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Free Download from Gov’t Mule’s Dub Side of the Mule

April 10, 2015

Gov’t Mule is offering a free download of “Reggae Soulshine” from the forthcoming album Dub Side of the Mule , featuring Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals. Dub Side of the Mule was just released on Evil Teen Records. Click below to download for free. Buy Dub Side of the Mule CD here. Download on Itunes here. Recorded […]

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