The term jamband can be a dirty word. Yet for all the fuss, downplaying, and shirking, at its heart it means one thing: improvisation. And guess what? We like improvisation. Here we take a look at some of the genre's finest practitioners and what Gibson equipment they're utilizing to help them on their improvised journeys.

John Bell (Widespread Panic): As the growling frontman for Georgia-based Widespread Panic, Bell has helped the group evolve into one of the largest drawing jambands playing today. Bell’s role as a guitar player has always seen him vacillate between being a primary rhythm player to taking extended excursions over the frets, especially after the death of his compatriot Michael Hauser. His brevity and precocious southern charm are perfectly matched to his Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen Electric Guitar.

Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers Band, Great Southern): A pioneer in defining the modern Les Paul sound during his tenure with the Allman Brothers, that’s him turning out those melodic lines on such classics as “Ramblin’ Man,” “Blue Sky” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” While he’s been out of the Allman Brothers band since 2000, he still delivers top quality playing with his new band Great Southern. In ABB’s early days, he used a Gibson SG which he eventually gave to Duane Allman followed by a ’57 Les Paul Goldtop which he nicknamed “Goldie.” He now routinely uses his own signature model Les Paul.

Tea Leaf Green

Josh Clark (Tea Leaf Green): San Francisco’s improv-based music scene is experiencing a renaissance and at its heart is Tea Leaf Green. At the band’s center is the Gibson Firebird wielding Josh Clark, a young gun who can belt out lyrics and licks with a tenacity that recalls the hunger of the area’s artists from the late ‘60s.

Jon Gutwillig (The Disco Biscuits): Part of the vanguard that became known as “livetronica”- a mix of traditional jamband-improv and electronic music- Gutwillig’s hyper kinetic playing and soloing have always been a centerpiece for the Disco Biscuits’ sound. For years he’s used a Gibson ES-135 to deliver the sounds that keep the kids dancing till dawn.

Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers Band): Perhaps no other working guitar player utilizes as many different Gibson models as the venerable Haynes does (once dubbed “the hardest working white man in rock ‘n’ roll”). A ripping blues and rock player, Haynes is lauded for his impeccable showmanship and encouraging camaraderie with other players. With 10 to12 Les Pauls in his arsenal, his favorite to play live is a ’59 reissue. For recording, he loves the ‘59 plus a non-reverse Firebird and ’61 ES-335. He also uses an Explorer for slide, SGs and a Korina Les Paul for more Dead-like sounds, and is the proud owner of one of only two Les Paul 12-strings in the world. Gov't Mule

Jeff Raines (Galactic): Brought up on the D.C.’s Go Go movement, Raines moved to New Orleans and soon fell in with a few other transplants to form the funk rock quintet Galactic. As such, it necessitates Raines’ phrasing be pithy and chunky when he’s not soloing as his rhythmic chop provides much of the group’s backbone the way Steve Cropper’s did with Booker T and the MGs. He’s always favored a Gibson ES-335 for his needs.

John Scofield: Having played alongside Miles Davis in his electric heyday, Scofield now bides his time with his own projects, jazz-jammers Medeski, Martin and Wood and occasionally with Phil Lesh and his ever-rotating “friends.” It’s always been said that imitation is a form of flattery. If that’s the case, then we’ve been paid high compliment with Scofield’s copy of our Gibson ES-335, a guitar he’s played for just over two decades.

Derek Trucks (Derek Trucks Band, Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton): A child prodigy, Trucks has been turning heads since he was teenager with a playing that picks up where Duane Allman left off (he also happens to be ABB drummer Butch Trucks’ nephew). What’s more he’s taken those southern roots and grafted them onto a myriad of different styles, from his love of jazz to a deep reverence for Indian classical music, to deliver a 20th century sound that has been virtually unmatched (to such a degree that Clapton recently tapped him to join his touring band as if two other bands wasn’t keeping him busy enough). He uses a Gibson SG custom 1962 reissue to get the job done.
The Grateful Dead

Bob Weir (Grateful Dead, RatDog): As the fabled rhythm guitarist to Jerry Garcia’s lead, Weir and his Dead brethren were always known for their polyrhythmic explorations that were rooted as much in jazz and rock as they were bluegrass and country. As the Dead’s sound morphed and evolved, so too did Weir’s choice of guitar. During the band’s creative heights in the early to mid-‘70s, Weir played a variety of Gibsons, most commonly an ES-335, though he also strapped on an ES-345, a Les Paul and an SG. Though he typically does not play a Gibson anymore, this past April saw the return of the ES-335 at RatDog’s Earth Day gig in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. We certainly hope to see more of it in the future.

Keller Williams: A veritable one-man show, Williams strings together quirky, heartfelt originals, traditional bluegrass and Dead classics like few others. While Williams doesn’t use a Gibson guitar, it’s the company’s Echoplex Digital Pro that lies at the center of his artistry. A high-tech looping machine, it allows him to lay down bass, drums, vocals and whatever else he happens to grab to create a full-band sound from just one person.