From the folks at Gibson.com – who do a heck of a lot better job with their website than their Fender counterparts – are these tidbits of WoodyTone detail about Duane Allman, Eric Clapton (his Gibby-related “woman tone”), and fleet-fingered tonemeister Joe Bonamassa.
Those links are to the piece in full, all of which are worth reading, but here are some things that stood out for me:
> Although Duane’s best known for playing a ’59 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul or his Cherry SG through a 50-watt Marshall head riding atop a matching 4 x 12 cabinet, arriving at that combo took years of real hunting and experimentation, both live and in the studio.
> His first notable guitar was a Telecaster with a Stratocaster neck, which then yielded to a ’54 Strat. At the start, Duane was a Fender man; the Twin-Reverb was his favorite. He use a Fuzz Face distortion box, and legend has it he’d only use run-down batteries to power his pedal, believing their low voltage yielded a warmer sound.
> When he formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, Dickey Betts already had a fatter, more aggressive sound generated via his Gibson ES-345 and ’68 SG. So Duane also got an ES-345, soon followed by a ’57 Les Paul Gold Top with PAF pick-ups, and then a Cherry Sunburst Les Paul. He kept the Gold Top’s pickups, and swapped them into the Sunburst.
> Billy Gibbons found Duane’s most significant guitar acquisition for him in 1971: a ’58 Tobacco Sunburst Les Paul. He used it on the classic Eat a Peach and The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East albums. As he’d switched to Gibson guitars he also switched to Marshall amps, and those discs in particular capture the thick, buttery, distortion-colored tone that became his signature. Late in ’71 Duane got his Cherry SG, too – from Dickey – thus completing the essentials of his sonic arsenal.
> Duane’s and Dickey’s Marshall cabinets were modified. They were half open-backed and instead of the 25-watt Celestion greenbacks had JBL-D120s for a cleaner sound. Duane also used circular picking to soften his attack and increase his speed.
WT commentary: The world misses you, DA!
> For zeroing in on “Woman Tone,” a powerful neck-position pickup is essential. Start by turning your guitar’s tone dials all the way off. Next, place the pickup selector switch in the middle position. Now roll the bridge pickup’s volume to about six or seven, and crank the neck pickup all the way up to 10.
> Clapton used a Marshall 50-watt head through a 4×12 cabinet with 25-watt Celestion greenbacks running full out – volume, bass, midrange and treble all set on 10.
> Try adding a wah-wah. Leave the pedal cocked at a high angle at various stationary positions to see what a little signal attenuation brings to the game.
WT commentary: I’m a bridge pickup guy (some Strat and P-90 neck tones), so I can’t really get into this. But it’s interesting!
> Bonamassa’s current live rig rests on a classic foundation of Gibsons and Marshall and Marshall-style amplification. Among his six-strings are four Custom Shop Historic ’59 Les Pauls as well as his Joe Bonamassa Inspired By model.
> He runs four amp heads on stage: a 100-watt Silver Jubilee Marshall, a Category Five Joe Bonamassa JB-100 (based on Marshall’s ’68 Super Lead Plexi), a Two Rock 100-watt Signature 1 and a Van Wheeldon Twinkleland. The Silver Jubilee provides Bonamassa’s core sound, and the three other heads are switched in and out. His cabinets are Mojos with EV-12-L speakers.
> Effects are a Vox Wah-Wah, a Fuzz-Face Bonamassa owns that was custom made for Eric Johnson, a Gas Pedal clean boost, and a Tube Screamer.
WT commentary: I had the good fortune to see Joe when he was just starting his solo career, in a very small place. His playing and singing was just incredible. And his tone? Woody to the max.