10 Champions of the Gibson SG
It’s no surprise that through the years countless guitar legends have settled on the Gibson SG as their instrument of choice. With its classic looks, exquisite tone and exceptional playability, the SG is conducive to a vast array of styles. Moreover, the SG’s sleek, lightweight design and subtle beauty make it a much-favored instrument for live performance.
At various points in their careers, such noteworthy players as Todd Rundgren, Elliot Easton and –more recently—Gary Clark Jr. have all been smitten with the SG. Versatile beyond measure, the SG is the perfect vehicle for searing solos, chunky rhythm work and transcendent riff-making. Below are 10 rock and roll giants who used an SG to craft some of their best work. Be sure to check out the 2017 lineup of SGs, and see how Gibson has enriched this classic instrument with exciting new features.
Many Rolling Stones fans regard the band’s “Mick Taylor era” as the group’s finest. On such albums as Sticky Fingers, Goat’s Head Soup and Exile on Main Street, Taylor elevated the Stone’s blues-rock aesthetic to the level of genius. “My playing relationship with Mick Taylor was always very good…,” Keith Richards once said. “I learned a lot from Mick Taylor, because he is such a beautiful musician.”
Jazz, flamenco, blues and Indian music all figured into the unique style that Robby Krieger showcased on The Doors’ albums and beyond. “When I first started playing guitar, everyone was playing Chuck Berry and B.B. King licks,” he once said. “I decided I was going to find other avenues of expression.” On such songs as “Light My Fire,” “Touch Me” and “Love Me Two Times”—all of which he wrote—Krieger used his beloved SG Special to craft some of the most exquisite guitar work of that era.
AC/DC’s Angus Young has used his SG Standard to craft some of the most memorable riffs in rock history. As demonstrated on such classics as “Highway to Hell,” “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long,” the diminutive guitarist seems to find countless ways to construct great riffs using just a handful of notes. “I’ve always found it a challenge to come up with something that’s nice and simple,” he once told Guitar World. “Our riffs transport you—although to where, I don’t know.”
The continuing vitality of improvisational, blues-based guitar rock is in safe hands with Derek Trucks. Taking up the guitar at age 11, Trucks honed his skills as an on-stage presence in The Allman Brothers Band, and has since become a pioneering artist in his own right. “The SG was the first guitar I felt great about, and it’s become second nature to me,” he once told M Music & Musicians. “Once you get comfortable with a guitar, and you know where the sweet spots are, it almost disappears from your mind and becomes part of you.”
Not only is Tony Iommi the architect of some of rock’s most memorable riffs—he’s also one of the first rock guitarists to conjure up a monumental sense of musical foreboding. “Iron Man,” “War Pig” and “Children of the Grave” are among the enduring classics that Iommi helped craft with his ever-present SG. “You could get to the top frets easily on an SG, and it was light,” he told Gibson.com, in 2012. “The SG was just ideal for me. Once I’d recorded the Black Sabbath debut album, I never went back.”
Who knows how many guitarists were inspired to pick up SGs after being dazzled by Eric Clapton’s famous “woman tone” in Cream? During Cream’s all-too-brief existence, Clapton helped establish the power of the instrument on classics like “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” Slowhand’s “psychedelicised” SG went on to become one of rock’s most iconic guitars, falling into the hands of Todd Rundgren in 1972, selling at auction in 2000 for $150,000, and eventually being bought by a private collector for $500,000.
Glen Buxton/Michael Bruce (Alice Cooper)
Original Alice Cooper guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce helped shape some of the most enduring rock classics of the early ‘70s. “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Be My Lover” and “I’m Eighteen” merely skim the surface of the group’s spectacular catalog, powered in large part by Buxton’s and Bruce’s dual-SG approach. “Michael had a clean, cutting sound, and distinct notes, whereas Glen was more about feel, and was more edgy and loose,” bassist Dennis Dunaway once told Gibson.com.
Townshend first played a SG Special—purchased from the Manny’s Music store in New York—in July 1968. For the next four years his main combo was an SG plugged into colossal Hiwatt amps, yielding an explosive tone that culminated in the legendary live set, Live at Leeds. “They had just brought out a new model and this was in 1968 and it had a slightly larger wound pickup and it really suited my amplifiers,” Townshend told Sound International, in 1980. “It fitted my sound and had a lyrical quality to it because the neck was so uncluttered at the top you could play high.”
Pete Ham/Joey Molland (Badfinger)
From “Come and Get It” to “Baby Blue” to “Day After Day,” Badfinger’s classic power pop derived its strength from the dual-SG sound of Ham and Molland. “We played them on everything we did for a couple of years,” Molland told Gibson.com, in 2012. “I loved the meatiness of them; I thought they were a lot fatter sounding than other guitars. And they were very comfortable to play. They also look totally cool. Even today, if you plug an SG into an AC-30, you get a sound as good as anything you can find on an electric guitar.”
Jimi Hendrix played a variety of guitar models, but the sight of him with his famous white SG Custom is particularly striking. Some have reported that Hendrix was leaning more toward Gibsons in the weeks before he died, his love of the thick tones of the SG and the Les Paul having been rekindled. His performance on TV’s “The Dick Cavett Show” in September 1969—as well as his performance that same year in Stockholm, Sweden--showed just how powerful the combination of Hendrix and an SG could be.
Click on the links below to check out the 2017 Lineup of Gibson SGs:
SG Faded 2017 T
SG Faded 2017 HP
SG Special 2017 T
SG Special 2017 HP
SG Standard 2017 T
SG Standard 2017 HP