Welcome To the Hotel California Rigs

April 8, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More


In the early ’70s, the Eagles were heading down a country path. That was all well and good, but they wanted to rock.

So in ’74 they hired Don Felder, a great guitar player, a rock guy who grew up in Gainesville, Fla., gave a young Tom Petty some lessons down there and had at least one lesson from Duane Allman.

Then, in ’75, the already well-known Joe Walsh was brought into the band, for the same reason: rock!

Neither guitar-slinger disappointed, the best testimony to this being the first album with both on it: 1976’s Hotel California, one of the best and best-selling albums of all time.

The single “Hotel California” – known as “Hotel Cali” by the rap crowd (lol) – is of course known by us guit-heads as the song with one of the best lead breaks of all time. For me, hearing it never gets old. Song craft – remember those days?!

Here we take a look at the gear Don and Joe used on the title track. Warning to those with GAS: Though Joe, in particular, does have bad GAS, studio rigs back then were very simple…no doubt a big reason they sound so great.

Don’s Gear

Don and his '59 LP.

Don and his '59 LP.

This was Don’s tune, so we’ll take a look at his gear first.

For the 12-string intro, he said he used a Martin 12-string acoustic (not a Takamine, as some have said) through a Leslie rotating speaker. Sounds like the guitar was mic’d acoustically and with a DeArmond soundhole pickup.

The electric guitar he used was a ’59 Gibson Les Paul, which he bought in 1975. He ran that straight into a stock Tweed Deluxe: He still loves those amps and uses reissues now. That’s it.

During that period he also used an Echoplex, but that was not on the track. Here’s a quote from him about that from an online interview: “’59 Les Paul and Fender Tweed Deluxe amp. No effects at all.”

His favorite strings now are Ernie Ball Slinkys (10s), not sure if he used those back in the day.

His use of the ’59 prompted Gibson to build the Don Felder “Hotel California” 1959 Les Paul, announced last year. One of those limited-run, uber-expensive jobs.

Since he used a Gibson doubleneck live for the tune, Gibson also made replicas of that guitar. Worth noting is that the doubleneck has two jacks, the second one added by Don himself: The 12-string ran straight to a Leslie, the 6-string ran to his board and then to his amps.

Joe’s Gear

Not sure if this is the Tele used on the album. Note the Strat pickup in the neck.

Not sure if this is the Tele used on the album. Note the Strat pickup in the neck.

Joe used a Fender Tele through a ’59 Fender Tweed Deluxe amp that some say was modded but I could not find a reference to. Should’ve said above that the Twwed Deluxe is a small amp, but still sounds great. It obviously suited both players and the song.

Here’s a brief demo of a ’59-’60 Tweed Deluxe. You can hear kind of what it would sound like in the right (pro) hands. These amps do have a 12-inch speaker, a Jensen P12Q (reissue version here).

For some reason, I can’t find anything solid about what phaser Joe used on the track. Sounds lush. Most people think it was an MXR Phase 90.

Bottom Line

Hmmm. Now I want to at least mess around with an old Tweed Deluxe. Here are the fellas playing this tune live.

‘Hotel California,’ Live, ’77
> Love the backstage singing that leads off this vid. That’s talent, man!
> Notice Joe has a Strat pickup in the neck position.


> Hotel California album producer Bill Szymczyk on the recording the tune’s guitar-battle end (from here): “one of the most amazing times that I’ve had as a producer. Don and Joe were with me in the control room, and we ran their mic cords out to amps in the studio so they could hear exactly what was happening. Don Felder was on one side of me, Joe Walsh was on the other, and we were punching in all of these incredible guitar parts which had not really been written before we started to do it. So we were doing a lot of what we call search-and-destroy — ‘Well, let’s try this and let’s try that. If I did that, then the harmony would be this…’ Just overdubbing all those leads was a basic 2-day process, and man, what a ball that was. They’re both great, great players, and the two of them were on fire.”

> Don knows guitars. Not only did he rewire his Gibson doubleneck himself, he says he puts custom pickups in his Strat, either wound by himself or by MJ in the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. He also has custom humbuckers made that match the output of the humbuckers of his ’59 for his new Les Pauls. Wonder if us mortals can get a set….

Category: Don Felder, Joe Walsh, Les Paul, Leslie, Martin, Seymour Duncan, Telecaster, Tweed Deluxe

Comments (5)

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  1. Audio_Ed says:

    I work as the house audio person for a local civic center. The white gibson double neck once owned by Don Felder for the 1978 tour is now owned by Joe Bonamassa. When Joe came through a couple months ago I got a chance to chat with his guitar tech. Joe has several interesting guitars in his arsenal (some pre-owned by other well known icons) This guitar has the inscription “HC 78” stamped on the back of the headstock. The guitar itself appeared to be in pristine condition. Joe played this guitar on a couple songs during the set, most notable a cover of “Young Mans Blues”.

  2. gibsonguitar1988 says:

    Actually on the acoustic Don used, he in one instance said it was a Takamine, and more recently the Martin. So that’s where the Takamine reference comes from. Right from the horse’s mouth.

    I played the parts of Joe Walsh for 3-4 years in an Eagles tribute. I used a Fender Blackface Twin Reverb 65 Reissue.

  3. rockman627 says:

    you can build an authentic tweed deluxe clone
    or get a re-issue and do a few mods to get it more authentic than off the shelf.

  4. John says:


    That “HC 78” ser no means JoeB has one of 100 Felder EDS-1275 aged reissues ($6500 for the aged model, $9000 for the signed/aged model): http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2011/Mar/GALLERY_Joe_Bonamassas_Dust_Bowl_Tour_Guitars.aspx?Page=8&

    Cool guitars. I want one in the worst way, but can’t justify the cost at this point: http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/SG/Gibson-Custom/Don-Felder-Hotel-California-EDS-1275.aspx

    The actual Felder “Hotel California” EDS-1275 lives in the RnR HOF in Cleveland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNqJ77lpqdM (EDS-1275 discussion starts around 1:45)

    Good interview here that includes a discussion of the EDS-1275, some of his other Gibsons, and his Florida connections to Stephen Stills, Bernie Leadon, Tom Petty, and even Duane Allman: http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/don-felder-0811/

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