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Stories Behind 5 of Rock’s Most Famous Guitars

Rock stars have their own wild stories about life on the road, but in some cases, their guitars have stories that are just as interesting.  In honor of Guitar Month, we look at the stories behind five of rock’s most famous guitars.


“Red Special”

“Red Special” is so…well…special, Brian May wrote a book about it.  May and his father built the guitar in the 60’s over the span of two years, and it’s been played on every Queen album.  May still plays this guitar live to this day.

Brian May's Red Special - The Book Launch

Brian May's Red Special - The Book Launch Subscribe to the official Queen channel here In 1963, Brian May and his father Harold started to hand-build an electric guitar. Brian dreamed of a guitar that would outperform any of the existing commercially-made electric guitars and his father had the technical skills to make the dream come true.



What happens when you take a Fender Stratocaster body, outfit it with a Gibson pickup and then give it a stellar paint job?  You get Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat!  Sure, the Gibson pickup was later replaced with a Seymour Duncan pickup (which means he essentially destroyed his Gibson ES355 for no reason), but in the process, he created a guitar so iconic it’s in the Smithsonian!

Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstein guitar replica (part 1)

Eddie Van Halen on the making of his Frankenstein replica guitar!


Prince’s “Cloud” gained its fame by appearing in Purple Rain.  Can you think of a guitar that’s literally a movie star?!  Didn’t think so.


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“Old Boy”

“Old Boy” belongs to Tony Iommi and gets its nickname from its paint job.  For starters, John Diggin, the luthier behind this legend, apparently didn’t have enough time to apply the correct number of paint coats.  Add the fact that the guitar was left in a hot car causing the paint to “bubble,” you can understand why “Old Boy” looks so old.

Tony Iommi on his Jaydee 'Old Boy' Custom guitar

For the fourth heat of Sky Arts' new series Guitar Star, the hopeful rock guitarists will be mentored by legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. We spoke to Tony ahead of filming about one of his oldest Jaydee Custom SG guitars, handmade by John Diggins.


Getting its name from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, Keith Richards’ “Micawber” was given to him as a birthday gift from Eric Clapton just before the Rolling Stones began recording Exile on Main Street.  Keef still plays the guitar live and in the studio to this day.

Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos: Struggle

Live at the Hollywood Palladium, December 15, 1988



Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock reporter. The first man she ever loved was Jack Daniel.  (True story.)