They’ve been beaten, banged up, sweated on, chipped, dinged and damn near destroyed; some have been left in pawnshops, one was dumped from a truck, and still another was dismissed as a throwaway piece of junk. They’ve also been admired, lusted after, and scrupulously copied by both guitar companies and budding luthiers the world over.
In photographing 108 of the more notable guitars made famous by some of the world’s most iconic axmen and women, Lisa S. Johnson realized that it wasn’t enough for her to merely take what she calls “some nice mug shots of instruments, which has been done already.” Over the course of the 17 years that it took her to compile the forthcoming book, 108 Rock Star Guitars, Johnson’s goal was “to show these guitars as true works of art, because that’s what they are, sometimes in spite of all they’ve been through.”
The lineup of guitarists whose instruments are represented in 108 Rock Star Guitars is astonishing: Beginning with her first subject, Les Paul (who write the book’s foreward before he passed in 2009), Johnson managed to photograph the guitars of Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Lou Reed, Carlos Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Nancy Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Rick Nielsen, Slash, Jack White, Billy Gibbons, Ace Frehley and many others.
Most of the guitarists whom Johnson contacted agreed to participate in the book project – some faster than others. However, there have been some key holdouts. “More than anyone else, I really wanted Angus Young,” she says, “but I couldn’t get my calls or e-mails returned.” Mark Knopfler, Pete Townshend, The Edge and Joan Jett have also eluded Johnson’s overtures. “Some people or their handlers just didn’t seem to get it,” she says. “Still, I managed to work with most of the people I wanted.”
Johnson says that she has already photographed 25 additional guitars for an eventual second edition. “Hopefully, the next one won’t take 17 years to put together,” she says with a laugh.
108 Rock Star Guitars will be published on October 8th by Glitterati Incorporated. The 396-page hardcover book (SRP: $108) is available for pre-order now at 108RockStarGuitars.com. You can also order the book at Amazon.
In addition, Glitterati will issue a deluxe, limited edition of 540 signed and numbered copies, packaged in a die-cut collector’s box (SRP: $540). Those books will include a hand-woven, silk chiffon scarf in deep purple, featuring the book cover design. Both editions will include a 16-page booklet, “The Inspiration Behind 108 Rock Star Guitars,” with additional behind-the-scenes photos and stories as well as a guitar pick printed with one of three custom holographic foil designs. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Les Paul Foundation.
A generous selection of shots from 108 Rock Star Guitars can be viewed on the following pages, along with text from the book and Johnson's own observations to MusicRadar.
Text and images Lisa S. Johnson from the book 108 Rock Star Guitars by Lisa S. Johnson. © 2013 108 RockGuitars.com.