Anatomy of Neil Young’s ‘Old Black’ Guitar
Universally amongst fans, Neil Young's guitar ‘Old Black’ is the stuff of legends.
From the crunchingly brutal Crazy Horse feedback fests to this year's solo electric, the Gibson Les Paul guitar has played witness to the full range of Neil's ragged glory. So if you're interested in the anatomy of Neil Young’s ‘Old Black’, check out Gibson News - Neil Young’s ‘Old Black’ Magic by Ted Drozdowski.
Here's a clip on the “wheat stack” that caught our eye in particular:
There is speculation about the year of “Old Black”’s neck. It has a partially painted-over pearloid inlay on its headstock that appears to be a “wheat stack” rather than split trapezoid style. The “wheat stack” inlay was applied to Gibson necks made between 1961 and ’68, well past “Old Black”’s vintage. Of course, most of the paint is off the back of the guitar’s mahogany neck after decades of brutal and beautiful playing, and the binding is equally frayed. Also, there’s another aluminum plate in the rear, just under the bridge to access the bridge screws from behind.
All of which reminds us of an incredible story posted awhile ago by Geoff:
I feel compelled to offer some history on this instrument.
I saw (and met) Neil the last Sunday of his opening week with Crazy horse at the Troubadour in LA, April 1969 with a friend named Jennifer Starkey... back when Old Black was Young!
The guitar was traded from Jim Messina in 1968 for a Gretsch and used on Neil's first solo album and the 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' LP. I have vivid memories on how the guitar was decked out that night and can verify most of it with a photo from an old poster.
The details are as follows:
*The instrument was a beautiful gloss black with an old punch-print tape strip above the pickups that read: 'It ain't easy bein' a fuckin' indian!'
*The bigsby was a B-3 model (like a B-7 without the under-strung tension bar)
*The stop-bridge holes and bushings were open, and still are.
*The bridge coil was an old black face Rowe DeArmond M5A single coil as found on 50's Gretsches and Guilds. (This coil was left for repairs at a shop that folded and the coil disappreard. For a short time the LP was fitted with a Gretsch Filtertron but was replced in '72/'73 with a Firebird coil and the current B-7 Bigsby.)
*At that time the headstock was indeed nicely bound with creme binding and, even then, sported the Gibson crown inlay.
*The tuning machines were Grover N-102 roto-matics.
He played the first set with Crazy Horse (Danny Whitten using Neil's Gretsch 6120 and both of them using Fender Bandmasters reworked for overdrive by a guy named Randal!) But the second set Stephen Stills showed up and the two of them drank champagne, played their Martins, and sang just about every Buffalo Springfield song ever written.
All that was missing was Richie!
Quite an evening...
Good memory Geoff! You don't see that much accuracy coming back from '69.
Guitar Tech Larry Cragg with ‘Old Black’
More photos and articles on Neil Young's guitars.