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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Neil Young's Ragged Glory Sound - Guitar World, October 2009

Neil Young's Rig
(Click to enlarge)

Amongst musicians, many often wonder how Neil Young achieves his unique sound that has been described as like "a jet plane in a thunderstorm".

From Neil Young: Ragged Glory - Guitar World (Guitar World, October 2009) by Richard Bienstock:
At the center of it all is the volatile 1953 Gibson Les Paul goldtop Young calls Old Black. A brutal and battered beast, the guitar is responsible for the legendary gritty tones heard on countless Young classics, including “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down By the River” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).”

The Les Paul, which features a Bigsby tremolo and a P90 pickup in the neck position, received the black paint job that inspired its nickname prior to being acquired by Young. Since then, it’s undergone several further modifications, including the addition of a “chrome-on-brass” pickguard and back plates, a bridge-position Firebird pickup and a toggle switch, installed between the two volume and two tone knobs, that acts as a bypass. “You flip that,” says Cragg, “and the Firebird goes straight to the amp.”

Cragg installed the Firebird pickup back in 1973. “Originally there was a P90 in there,” he explains. “But in the early Seventies the guitar was lost, and when Neil recovered it a few years later the bridge pickup was gone. He put a Gretsch DeArmond in there for a while, but when I came onboard I replaced that with the Firebird, which has been there ever since. Everyone calls it a mini humbucker, but it’s not. It’s a humbucker, and it’s very microphonic—you can speak into it. It’s really piercing and high and a big part of his sound.”

More on Neil Young's Sound.

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At 7/16/2012 09:13:00 AM, Blogger john said...

Having been born in the same year as Old Black I feel an affinity!!

At 7/16/2012 09:27:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

can't blame ya there John.
SO, the question then could be, what's the most famous guitar in rock and roll history?

At 7/16/2012 10:26:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@SONY - Willie Nelson may not be r-n-r, but his guitar Trigger is pretty famous.

At 7/16/2012 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Maybe Chuck Berry or Robert Johnson's? Bill Haley?

At 7/16/2012 11:02:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

I like the suggestions,
there's also Paul's Hofner bass, Lucille (though there have been more thatn one)

At 7/16/2012 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Page and the double neck!

At 7/16/2012 01:22:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/16/2012 01:42:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I would say Lucille is beautiful. If were talking beautiful i would add Slash's Les Paul and George Harrison's cherry red Lucy. Hendrix had a beautiful white strat. I guess I like the vintage. Oh Steve Winwood has this caledon jade fender strat that he still uses in concerts if youre lucky to see one.

Of course we're forgetting Dylan's first electric that that sunburst of electricity that rocked his sound...

At 7/16/2012 02:41:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

One more. The most beautiful to me is that White Falcon Gretsch. It takes my breath away.

And Leadbelly's Stella. (Same as Johnson???)

At 7/16/2012 03:47:00 PM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

Warren Haynes 12 string Les Paul, 1 of 2 only made,I believe Slash owns the other one.Warren pulls it out occasionaly with his band Govt Mule. Keep On Rockin!

At 7/16/2012 04:00:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Like, like like. It would be interesting to find out which guitar was actually played on the most recordings, on the biggest selling recordings sold, the most billboard charting songs, etc....stuff like that. Probably difficult to research. But old black could be in the running for most recordings it's used on.

At 7/16/2012 04:27:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Sony, do you see the 1953 goldtops are selling for $35,000! LOL

Neil's is probably worth more and IT'S PAINTED! LOL

(Old Black has it's own Wiki page, too!)

I wonder if Neil had kept his Chet Atkins Gretsch would it be worth more than $11,000 which is what the vintages are going for today?

The PBS History Dectective program is going after the authenticity of Dylans' first electric which apparently has been up in someone's attic. The story is that that he left it on a plane after the festival but Dylan claims he took a bus.

Stay tuned.

At 7/16/2012 04:47:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@soldiersteve, I heard there were 3 made. Slash & Warren own two. Rumor has it that the head stock was converted to a six string. Any verification?

At 7/16/2012 04:54:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

I know of a White Falcon Gretch for sale for +-$2400 thru a friends website. I think it's a 60's or so. If its still there.

Old Black will end up at the R&R Hall of Fame one day I figure. Some things are actually priceless.

At 7/16/2012 05:01:00 PM, Anonymous caltrader88 said...

also, how does Neil keep the Bigsby spring from flying away when he rips the bar 90° from the body. The recently referenced video by Thrasher depicts what I mean at the end of TTN.

At 7/16/2012 05:07:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

sorry the Gretch is a 2006.

At 7/16/2012 07:00:00 PM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

@mnotr. Yes the head stock is like a six string Les Paul. If you go to govt mule site at and look under from the road and hit gigs theyve played it has pictures and their is 12 string pictures.He mostly plays it for a song called Railroad Boy and others.I was at a show a few yrs ago when he brought it out for the encore,a song called So Weak,So Strong. Not sure if 3 were made. I will post a question to emule,which is the mule fan email club ive been a member since '95. The mule play Cortez,Rockin Free World,Ohio,Find The Cost Of Freedom,NATDD once in awhile on tour. Saw them two Weeks ago in my hometown,but no 12 string played,was hoping for it though, I will post back about the 3 12 strings Les Paul guitars made by Gibson when I get an answer.

At 7/16/2012 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@soldierssteve*salute*I read there were 3 12 strings made . Slash and Warren have one each. The headstock on the third one was converted to a 6 string later. I was mistaken about Winwood's vintage firebird -- apparently the one he has now is a replacement.

At 7/16/2012 09:32:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Calteader88, I'n sure he's lost a spring after pulling bar the way he did in that video which explains why he lost all his strings. Is it possible that Larry has invented something that would allow him to pull and tug at strings like that???

At 7/16/2012 10:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Famous guitars? What about Stevie Ray Vaughan's Number 1? It is on display in Austin (until about October) at the Bob Bullock State History Museum. Amazing piece of history. Beat to absolute hell.

I think I read they made 100 replicas (which look/are beat up like the real thing), and they are worth $20-$30k or something these days. The real thing would be priceless.

At 7/16/2012 10:16:00 PM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

@mnotr, Its a 12 string head,not a 6 string. Their is pics at www.mule.netfromtheroad.10/29/09 Ithaca,NY, & 8/7/10 Bflo,NY. Shows with Railroad Boy & So Weak,So Strong have pics of 12 string Les Paul. 3 were made, a NYC collector,Warren Haynes & Slash.

At 7/17/2012 06:59:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

Interestingly enough the PBS show you speak of MNOR is to be shown tonight (at least in my town). One of the forensic experts is from Rochester and has indicated he's 99.9% sure it's the Dylan Strat from Newport FF 1965. This fella has written books on Beatle Gear and also has an upcoming book on Rolling Stones Gear.

"This old guitar ain't mine to keep, it's only here for a while"
~ Neil Young

At 7/17/2012 07:38:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

I took pictures of all the guitars at RRHOF. Don't visit Cleveland that much but now it's on my radar just because of the RRHOF. It's finally coming together there. Wonder if Demme's 3 bios of Neil will play there?

Neil has loaned them a few things I see.

At 7/17/2012 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

@Sony, I think Dylan probably has a room full of guitars -- several sunbursts in fact like BB has his collections of Lucille -- so it's possible the one left on the plane with the engraved plate on the case is the original. What's pretty clear is that you'll never get a straight answer out of Dylan. We know lawyers speak on record for just about anything but that doesn't mean it's the truth.

Stay tuned for the history detective tonight.

At 7/17/2012 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

SoldierSteve*salutes* Definitely 12 string headstock on Warren and Clash's. Can you verify if the collector changed No. 3's headstock? (Just curious. If you paid that much why would you change it? Just take the strings off, no? Dumb collector?)

Another thing, if you have the money to buy a 1955 vintage Fender Strat, why would you wreck it to look like SRV's? KWIM? I just read an article how you can mess up your guitar to look old. Most musicians change all the gear to customize anyway. No one can keep up with those personal details unless you're a handler like Larry.

Weird collectors.

At 7/17/2012 10:59:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

What about that "guitar" that Jack White makes in the first scene of "IT MIGHT GET LOUD!"

That might be my favorite movie of all times or at least for today.

At 7/17/2012 04:16:00 PM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

This site has a forum about the 12 string Les Paul. I guess 3 were made.Warren Haynes,Slash, a nyc collector or a japan collector? Its a great sounding guitar on recordings and live in person when Govt Mule rocks us.
Has anyone seen Slashs 12 string,just curious what color it is? Keep On Rockin Thrasher.

At 7/17/2012 05:10:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

It's a stunning cherry sunburst and the video is on youtube. It looks like the grammyes.

At 7/18/2012 12:00:00 PM, Anonymous Soldier Steve said...

A black ebony 12 string Les Paul is available to purchase here. No price on the page but im sure its up their. I have a 91 black Les Paul standard that I bought brand new for $1100 in 91. I got it signed in 99 when govt mule was a trio,Matt Abts,Warren Haynes,Allen Woody. RIP Woody, one of the best bass players that ever lived. I found slashs 12 string on YouTube,its a nice cherry sunburst. Keep On Rockin! Looking forward to my 29th Neil show in Cleveland in October.

At 7/20/2012 06:19:00 AM, Anonymous Nozo said...

Who painted Old Black?


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