Having recently demonstrated the tonal potential of a 1954 Blackguard Tele, Joe Bonamassa has now turned his attention to another two electric guitars from his collection at Nerdville, with the blues-rock superstar sitting down with Guitarist magazine to showcase a pair of Hendrix-era guitars – one a very cool Flying V, the other a holy grail Stratocaster named after a chest infection
More on the latter shortly. First up we have a 1967 Gibson Flying V in Sparkling Burgundy, mahogany bodied, making it “a little thicker sounding” than the korina Vs that preceded it. “Hendrix had one. Wishbone Ash made the ’67 very famous. It’s a real rock guitar,” says Bonamassa.
Intriguingly, there is an unfinished neck on the Sparkling Burgundy models, which sounds good by us. They also have a stinger and, weirdly, the serial numbers are upside down. “It’s a very, very cool guitar, and they all came with tremolos. There’s not a stop-tail version of this; it’s all just Maestro tailpiece.”
Everything else is as you would expect, with each humbucker having its own independent volume and tone controls. To Bonamassa’s ear, there is a Fender quality owing to the V-shaped body.
It sounds pretty good in this video shoot from Nerdville. It sounds even better on You Sure Drive A Hard Bargain, the Albert King cover on Bonamassa’s new studio album, Blues Deluxe Vol. 2. King “allegedly” used a Cherry ’67 V on Born Under A Bad Sign.
“I mean, Albert could play a 2X4 and with strings and it would be fine,” says Bonamassa. “He was one of the greatest of all time, and one of the most immaculate players.”
Now for the Strat. It looks just like the Strat from the archive footage of Hendrix at Woodstock but it is mint. It's beautiful. And yet it surely has the least flattering nickname of any guitar in his collection.
“I call this 'The Bronchitiscaster' because when I bought it I should have postponed the gig,” he says. “I has bronchitis so bad on the road, 2017, really one of the hardest tours of my life. I almost pulled the plug. It was enough. But my tech at the time, Mike Hickey, sent me a photo of this... The thought of missing out on this guitar gave me the strength to do the gig.”
By the sounds of things it was all worth the effort. As Bonamassa notes, you could go two lifetimes and not see a ’69 Strat in this condition, and with the tags. And he has a message for the cork sniffers who let the hallowed spec lists and received wisdom of vintage guitar shopping cloud their judgement over an instrument’s musical worth; you have to listen to them and play them.
The humbuckers on the V do the job. They don’t need to be PAFs. The Strat is a CBS era, a dark time for the Fender brand, so the prevailing wisdom goes. But it's a great Strat nonetheless
“A lot of the narrative is like, ‘Oh, too bad it’s a CBS guitar,’” says Bonamassa. “It’s like, ‘Listen. Good enough for Hendrix, good enough for me.’”
And don’t even think about making Bonamassa an offer for it; you can’t put a price on that Hendrix at Woodstock mojo. “I will never sell this guitar,” he promises. “It’s too damn rare and too damn cool.”
But maybe Fender should give Bonamassa a call. There would be something very cool about making 'The Bronchitiscaster' a signature guitar.
We can see it now: the replica spec, certificate of authenticity, the JB guitar strap, and a bottle of Robitusson cough syrup in the case.