There are few guitar players that truly take on the title of “Guitar God”. To earn such a title, one must have true mastery of the instrument in a way that is unequivocal to others. This immortal strummer must take the guitar to new heights and bring us listeners on a sonic journey that leaves us captivated again and again. Maybe it is their melodies or their technique. It could be their style or flare, but no matter who you ask it is indisputable. They are king.
Today, June 24th we honor the man born 75 years ago today: Jeff Beck!
Having one of the most prestigious careers in musical history, Jeff Beck has been a sonic chameleon since the start of his career with his first band The Rumbles in 1963.
His talents were noticed quite quickly when in 1965 he was asked on the recommendation of his good friend Jimmy Page to replace Eric Clapton in a band called The Yardbirds.
*Editors side note: How insane of a sentence is the one above this? Like talk about a name-dropping extravaganza of guitar playing insanity that band had.
It was after his brief stint in The Yardbirds that he formed The Jeff Beck Group which featured at various times Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Micky Waller and more. Jeff has since gone on producing legendary albums to this very day.
Throughout his esteemed career there have been a few guitars that have been fused to Jeff Beck’s name. Each guitar played an important role in his development as an artist, but also has helped share the sonic landscapes we are still trying to capture today. Let’s go through some of Jeff Beck’s most known and prestigious guitars.
1954 Fender Esquire
While on tour with The Yardbirds, Jeff purchased his 1954 Esquire for 75 pounds and later tracked such songs as “I’m a Man,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Over Under Sideways Down” with it. To a shocking surprise this was actually Jeff’s first electric guitar, as when he joined The Yardbirds he did not have a guitar of his own so he borrowed Eric Clapton’s red Tele for the time being.
Unique to this guitar was its forearm and tummy cut which were hand carved by the instruments original owner John Maus. The pickguard, originally white was replaced by a black Esquire pickguard and the 1954 steel saddles were replaced with 1952 brass saddles due to rust. To further make this guitar unique, was the fact that its original neck was broken and replaced with a 1955 maple Telecaster neck.
1958 Fender Telecaster
Jeff’s 1958 Telecaster is of particular interest not necessarily because of its history with Jeff, but to whom it was gifted to. Jeff Beck played his 1958 Telecaster until he gifted it to his good friend Jimmy Page. This guitar was famously painted a psychedelic finish and is now known today as the “Dragon” guitar. This guitar was to eventually be the guitar that recorded Led Zeppelin I and is the very same that recorded the legendary solo on “Stairway to Heaven” on Led Zeppelin IV.
1954 Gibson Les Paul
This 1954 Les Paul was found, already heavily modded by Jeff Beck at Strings and Things in Memphis during the 70s. With an oxblood brown refinish, rerouted cavities for humbuckers (the original 1954 would have had P90s), shaved neck and replaced tuning pegs made this guitar certainly stand out. This Les Paul would become a staple for Beck and would eventually become synonymous with the “Blow by Blow” album released in 1975.
It was during the Blow by Blow sessions that Jeff Beck was approached by pickup master Seymour Duncan with this new guitar. The Tele originally started its life with a slab rosewood fingerboard, and was routed to accommodate two PAFs which came from a 1959 Flying V owned by Lonnie Mack. Beck, flattered by the gift would later return the favor by letting Duncan choose among 3 guitars in which Seymour chose the 1954 Esquire.
In recent times Beck has been sporting his signature Fender Jeff Beck signature guitar. This guitar is different from its Strat siblings with its LSR Roller Nut for improved tuning stability, noiseless pickups and contoured heel.
From blues to jazz to rockabilly and fusion Jeff Beck has seamlessly blended his musical soul and identity into so many forms. Constantly innovating the guitar, Jeff still astonishes players to this day with his tone and playing.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Beck backstage at a show in Nashville where we discussed his most recent motorcycle projects (he is a huge motorhead, as am I) and I am happy to say he is as great a person as he is a player!
Happy Birthday to the legend himself and thank you for being you!