Blog Archives

New from Backbeat: The SG Guitar Book!

The SG Guitar Book is the perfect book for guitar enthusiasts! Tony Bacon, author of the most thorough and readable guitar books out there, tells the story of how the SG came to be.  Do you own an SG? Tell us your story in the comments section!


Gretsch, Sg coverTo many vintage guitar fans, it seems inconceivable that Gibson dumped the Sunburst Les Paul in 1960 and, during the following year, introduced a completely new design, the one that we know now as the SG (“solid guitar”). Back at the start of the 60s, this made perfectly good business sense to the managers at Gibson. Sales of Les Paul models were faltering, and the company decided to blow a breath of fresh air through its solid body electric guitar line.
The company described the result as an “ultra-thin, hand-contoured, double-cutaway body.” The modernistic amalgam of bevels and points and angles was a radical departure, and this new book tells the story of all the SG models that followed: the Junior, Special, Standard, Custom, and more.
All the stories are here of the classic Standards, Specials, Juniors, double-necks, Customs, and TVs, and also the lesser-known SGs, such as the Tributes, the Deluxe, the Supreme, and the Diablo, as well as related guitars like the Melody Maker and signature models for guitarists from Robby Krieger to Jimmy Page.
There are interviews with and stories about Gibson personnel through the years, and all the major SG players, including Pete Townshend, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, Angus Young, George Harrison, Gary Rossington, Tony Iommi, and Derek Trucks.
In the tradition of Tony Bacon’s bestselling series of guitar books, The SG Guitar Book is three great volumes in one package: a collection of drool-worthy pictures of the coolest guitars; a gripping story from the earliest prototypes to the latest exploits; and a detailed collector’s database of every production SG model ever made.

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WATCH: 108 Rock Star Guitars Promo

Armed with a macro lens, an incredible eye for detail, and a truly groundbreaking vision, Lisa Johnson’s guitar art is taking the world of fine art photography on a rock-and-roll ride. Check out this awesome video promo for 108 Rock Star Guitars!

Coming this Fall – 108 Rock Star Guitars

Jack White - 1963/64 Airline Guitar

Hal Leonard Books will release a softcover edition of 108 Rock Star Guitars by photographer/author Lisa S. Johnson on November 11, 2014. This exquisite book, originally issued as an embossed, red leatherette-bound hardcover in limited quantity that USA Today called, “…a monster of a coffee table book…” will now be available to a much wider audience at a more affordable retail price of $54.

Hailed as “impressive,” “jaw-dropping,” “masterpiece” and “elegant” by media and artists alike when it was released in October 2013, 108 Rock Star Guitars received widespread accolades for its overall design and the artistry of the images—up-close portraits of the cherished guitars belonging to some of the world’s most iconic players. American Photo magazine named it one of the “Best Photo Books of the Year” for 2013, while Brian Setzer called it, “The classiest guitar book I have ever seen.”

Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Slash, Carlos Santana, Jack White, Ronnie Wood, Lou Reed, Ace Frehley, Billy Gibbons, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Winter, and Les Paul, who also wrote the foreword, are among the rock stars whose instruments are featured.

The softcover, with French flaps, includes many of the same features of the original book in a slightly smaller size (9”x10.5”): 396 pages, 486 gorgeous color images, reproduced using a six-color printing process, on high quality paper, and cover art that replicates the hardcover’s award-winning design.

“I am thrilled that Hal Leonard, with its global distribution channels, will publish the softcover edition of 108 Rock Star Guitars,” Johnson commented. “Even at a lower price, it was essential that this version maintained the style and beautiful quality of the hardcover edition, and I think anyone who sees this book will appreciate the care and detail that went into the new presentation.”

 

In 108 Lisa Johnson by Ewasko TIFF format (135 of 229)Rock Star Guitars, Johnson’s extreme close-up images capture the intimate details of her six-string subjects in a fresh and distinctive way revealing the beauty and art in these magnificent instruments, and giving insight into the personality of the musicians who play them. Additionally, she provides personal anecdotes describing her 17-year quest to photograph these guitars and documents her travels from the backstage hallways of some of the world’s most famous venues to the artists’ private homes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa S. Johnson grew up in an artistic family, where she fell in love with melody and imagery and pursued a career in photography. After a successful 10-year stint working at Eastman Kodak, she met the owner of a vintage guitar shop in Memphis, Tenn., and began exclusively photographing guitars. She lives in Las Vegas.

 

Gibson Interviews Tony Bacon

In Sunburst, author Tony Bacon explores the origins of the Gibson Les Paul Standard and asks the question: was the Burst really the best guitar ever made? According to guitar greats such as Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, it sure is! Gibson reached out to Bacon to ask him why the guitar world remains enraptured with the sunburst Les Pauls. Read the whole interview here!

 

Superstrat cover singleWhat, to you, is the allure of a sunburst Les Paul? “It pains me to say it as an author, but the allure of a sunburst Les Paul is quite difficult to put into words. It’s like Frank Zappa said: ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture.’ Why is a guitar good, why is it bad? How does it feel for a player? These are all very personal things. “So I don’t really address that in the book. What I tried to do was address why original Les Paul Bursts were overlooked at the time. And why, later, people hit upon it. And what’s happened since, including how Gibson reacted over the years… right up to now, and doing a very fine job of recreating the “uncreatable” if you like. The magic carries on. This is my fifth book about Les Pauls, but it’s always an interesting story and I keep coming back to it.”

Why did you write the book now? “I wrote the Million Dollar Les Paul book in 2008, but that was more of a conventional textbook. The criticism of that was: where are the pictures? And that was fair criticism. So Sunburst is, in some ways, a reaction to that. This book has the greatest pictures. “I keep finding out new things, there’s lots in the book, but it still can’t quite explain why original Bursts were so good. To understand, you have to pick one up and play it.”

Why do you think so many guitarists are obsessed by sunburst Gibson Les Pauls? “On the surface, they’re just wood, plastic and wire. But they’re not. Jimmy Page’s #1 is something else. Billy Gibbons’ “Pearly Gates” is something else. The Peter Green/Gary Moore Les Paul is something else… and it goes on. There are more pictures of all these sunburst guitars in this book than any other, I think.”

 

Sunburst: How the Gibson Les Paul Standard Became a Legendary Guitar

Superstrat cover singleSunburst, from Backbeat Books, is the latest venture in Tony Bacon’s explorations in guitar models and music. Sunburst unravels a myth and puts into sharp focus how 1,400 or so guitars produced at the end of the ’50s became the most desirable electrics of all time. Check out more of Tony’s books here.

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The Gibson Les Paul sunburst model – the ‘Burst’ – was made between 1958 and 1960, and today  it is probed and picked over like no other guitar. That’s because it really is like no other guitar. In fact, as we discover from the musicians, collectors, and guitar-makers found in this book, it may well be the greatest solidbody electric ever made.

You only have to listen to the music made with this guitar to realise that it’s a special instrument. Its roots are on Eric Clapton’s Beano album with John Mayall in the 60s and Jimmy Page’s classic work with Led Zeppelin into the 70s; there are its appearances on timeless cuts such as ‘All Right Now’ and  ‘Hotel California; and today we hear it bolstering Joe Bonamassa’s worldwide blues-rock success. Many more guitarists have found that the tone and feel of a Burst come together in a magical blend that helps them play better than ever before.

The sunburst Standard can be a beautiful object, too. The pictures in this book celebrate the splendour of its figured maple top, each one a unique signature, and reveal the way that the rigours of time can turn the hardest-worked examples into careworn road warriors with a history in every ding and paint-fade.

Sunburst is the latest book in Tony Bacon’s bestselling guitar series, with a thoroughly researched story partnered by a gallery of full-color pictures of great guitars, rare memorabilia, and famous Burst players – from Keith Richards to Joe Bonamassa and Jeff Beck to Billy Gibbons.

This book shows how Gibson slowly came to understand and more accurately re-create the original Bursts through its reissue programme, under way since the early 90s, and how Gibson’s artist models, limited editions, and collector’s specials have widened the appeal of an already legendary guitar. Sunburst closes with e reference section that provides production details and identificiation clues for every significant model, new and old, of this most enigmatic and revered instrument.

 

Squier Showcase: Celebrating 30 Years!

In 1982, Fender revived an old guitar-string name for its new line of Japanese-made electric guitars. Thirty years and millions of guitars later, Squier is almost as important to the company as the main Fender brand.

In celebration of the budget brand’s 30th anniversary, we’re showcasing some of Squier’s more experimental guitars, as featured in Backbeat’s own Squier Electrics: 30 Years of Fender’s Budget Guitar Brand If you like what you see, please check out the full text here.

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Squier Electrics: 30 Years of Fender’s Budget Guitar Brand

Guitar pundit Tony Bacon reveals the stories behind the original (and collectible) Japanese-made Squier Series models, the way that Fender has often been more adventurous and experimental with Squier, away from its protected main brand, and the famous musicians who have chosen to play Squier instruments, from Courtney Love and her Venus model to blink-182’s Tom DeLonge and his one-pickup/one-control signature Stratocaster.

Full of the luscious pictures, absorbing narrative, and collector’s data that characterize Bacon’s best-selling instrument books, Squier Electrics is the only guide to one of the most popular guitar brands of recent times. Available for purchase here.


TONY BACON
is a leading author on instrument history and a co-founder of Jawbone Press. His books include Paul McCartney – Bassmaster, 60 Years Of Fender, The Ultimate Guitar Book, The Stratocaster Guitar Book, Electric Guitars – The Illustrated Encyclopedia, and many others.