Sporting a design developed by automotive visionary Ray Dietrich, the original Gibson Firebird literally reversed conventional guitar concepts with regard to body and headstock. Tailfin-style curves, neck-through-body construction, and a hot new mini-humbucker design helped make the instrument something new under the sun.

The 2017 lineup of Firebirds includes three models, each building on the original archetype’s innovative features. As its name implies, the “Firebird 2017 T model will appeal to guitarists enamored with the model’s history – albeit with player-friendly improvements such as polished frets and rolled binding. The “Firebird 2017 HP, on the other hand, is geared toward the modern player who values contemporary enhancements like Gibson’s “Soloist” neck and upgraded electronics.

Gibson Firebird
Firebird 2017 HP
 

And lastly, the “Firebird Studio 2017 T” offers an economical instrument that’s light, nimble, and crafted in a way that ensures both impeccable tone and maximum playability. Below, we take a quick look at 10 guitar greats who turned to Firebirds both on-stage and in the studio.

Gibson Firebird
Firebird 2017 T
 

Gibson Firebird
Firebird 2017 Studio HP
 

Gibson Firebird
Firebird 2017 Studio T
 

Allen Collins

The late Lynyrd Skynyrd six-stringer non only recorded the iconic solo for “Freebird” on his original reverse-body Firebird -- he used that same guitar on the bulk of all his greatest work. Sporting a modified model with two pot holes plugged, Collins achieved a classic burly tone that was every bit as distinctive as Ronnie Van Zant’s vocals.

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

Favoring a non-reverse mid’ 60s Firebird V with mini-humbuckers, Brown brought a wealth of versatility to his distinctive style. Equally capable of sophisticated instrumentals and fiery, no-nonsense blues excursions, he zigzagged with ease across musical landscapes redolent of Texas blues and Louisiana swamp tunes.

Eric Clapton

While Clapton is better known for making history with a Les Paul, an SG and an ES-335, the legendary guitarist often turned to an early ‘60s Firebird during his tenures with Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and even Cream. Clapton also took the stage with a 1990 Firebird reissue during his 1994/95 tour in support of his blues covers album, From the Cradle.

Phil Manzanera

An exceptionally sophisticated and melodic player, Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera has never gotten his proper due. Often sporting a cardinal red ’64 Firebird VII, Manzanera sometimes brought subtle shades to Roxy Music’s material -- other times, he sprayed the musical canvas with shards of rainbow brilliance.

Gary Moore

Shortly after the release of his 2008 blues album, Bad for You Baby, the late great Gary Moore talked about the exquisite tone of a Firebird he picked up the previous year. “That very thin, hard sound [on the song “Preacher Man Blues”] is a red Gibson Firebird I picked up in Finland last year. That guitar has a nice twang to it, and it really brings out the twang from the spring reverb.”

Brian Jones

The late Rolling Stones guitarist loved quirky guitars, and perhaps none more than his small cache of Firebirds. Photos from the Beggars Banquet period feature Jones holding a reverse-body Firebird V; similarly, during the Stones’ first performance of “Satisfaction” on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he famously played a Firebird VII.

Warren Haynes

While he’s often associated with Les Pauls and ES-335s, Haynes has frequently turned to Firebirds in his work with both the Allman Brothers Band and in Gov’t Mule. Using both reverse- and non-reverse-body models, Haynes created tones notably thicker than the bright, cutting sound for which the Firebird is generally known.

Dave Grohl

One has to wonder sometimes if there’s a Gibson electric model that Dave Grohl has yet to play. Along with Les Pauls, Explorers, and his beautiful Trini Lopez model (based on the ES-335), the Foo Fighters leader has been spotted from time to time with a white reissue Firebird V.

Paul McCartney

Unbeknownst to many, the Beatles’ “leftie” bassist often played a right-handed Firebird during the early phase of his post-Fab-Four career. Indeed, for his beautiful, emotive solo on 1970’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” he turned to – you guessed it – a Firebird.

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

It’s hardly an exaggeration to call Johnny Winter the poster child for the Firebird. In photo after photo, the late great Texas blues legend is seen cradling his beloved ‘Bird. To hear a Firebird “sing,” one only has to listen to Winter’s searing, beautiful slide work.