We've all got to start somewhere, so if you're fed up of strumming away on a no-name acoustic - take heart - many of the world's greatest guitar heroes began their musical careers in exactly the same way. First up, Slipknot's Mick Thomson...
“I had to have it,” recalls Slipknot’s bogie man of the Hohner Tele copy in his local mall. “So I delivered papers for a month and a half. I stupidly thought it sucked, and let it go for like $40, convinced that it was dog-s**t, because all the other neighbourhood kids had much better guitars than me, with whammy bars - and I just had a fake Tele.”
Post-Appetite For Destruction, we’d imagine a shipment of hand-buffed Les Pauls has arrived each month at Slash Towers with a silk bow around the crate.
As a broke LA urchin, though, he’d settle for anything. “I asked my grandmother for help,” Slash recalls, “and she gave me an old flamenco guitar with one string on it that she had packed away in a closet.”
The Rage Against The Machine wizard hammered out early Led Zeppelin riffs on a $50 Kay SG copy, chosen for the logical reason that “it was the one with the most knobs that was within my two-digit price range”.
The Soulfly guitarist earned himself a billion years of bad luck when he customised his late father’s acoustic: “I remember that Paul Stanley had a guitar that was all mirrors, so I decided to do the same. I broke a mirror and glued it on - it was not well done at all!”
Jimi’s first electric was a 1957 Supro Ozark 1560S, bought for $89 from Myers Music Store in Seattle. The guitar got a run-out in The Rocking Kings, before being pinched from The Birdland Club in 1960. If it ever surfaces at auction, expect a stampede of hedge-fund managers.
“It was a horrible piece of crap,” says the Machine Header of his $42 no-name electric. “I broke a string, and like an idiot, I was winding the new string towards the tuning peg, and it snapped and almost took my eye out.”
Long before his iconic butterscotch ’53 ‘Micawber’ Telecaster arrived in the rack, 15-year-old Keef was plunking on a Rosetti gut-string acoustic.
“If you want to get to the top,” he writes in Life, “you’ve got to start at the bottom. Same with anything. Same with running a whorehouse. I took it everywhere and I went to sleep with my arm laid across it.”
“It was a BC Rich Mockingbird,” remembers the Halestorm vocalist of her first squeeze, “but I don’t think it was all Mockingbird, because there was something seriously wrong with the neck!”
Before the Ibanez Custom Shop came knocking, Satch settled for a Hagström III. “It was just such an odd-sounding thing,” he says.
“The only thing it had going for it was it was light, and it had a great vibrato. So I knew how to do divebombs, squeals and make a fool of myself in front of my friends.”
Billie Joe Armstrong
The Green Day man’s cherished Fernandes Strat copy (aka ‘Blue’) was bought from his guitar teacher.
The original appeared in classic videos including Longview and Basket Case and while BJ’s latter-day Gibsons are technically ‘better’, Blue replicas still see action on stage. “Every single guitar has its purpose,” he says. “Even the ones that sound like s**t have something they do that’s cool.”