Gibson.com is pleased to present “The Gibson Classic Interview,” where we open our archives and share with you interviews we’ve done over the years with some of the world’s biggest artists. This week, we revisit Gabriel J. Hernandez’s 2009 interview with Doors legend Robby Krieger.
Artists of the 1950s and early ’60s — like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley — inspired an entirely new generation of rock and rollers who would go on to leave their own mark on the magical music scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
As the main songwriter and guitarist with The Doors, Robby Krieger’s legacy from this unprecedented period in music history remains profoundly intact. Krieger penned some of the most timeless songs of the era, including “Light My Fire,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Touch Me” and “Love Her Madly.” His distinct guitar sound on nearly all of these songs comes from his beloved crop of Gibson SGs.
Gibson Custom is proud to honor Krieger’s legacy with the introduction of the new Inspired By Robby Krieger SG, which combines features from Krieger’s most cherished SGs into one outstanding new model.
In this exclusive interview with Gibson.com, Krieger discusses his new Gibson Custom model and his genuine love of Gibson guitars.
In The Doors’ early days you played an SG Special. Was that your first guitar?
Back in the days of The Doors I probably had four or five different SG Standards, but my very first guitar was an SG Special with P-90s. Unfortunately, that guitar was stolen. I don’t even remember what actually happened to it, but it either got stolen from our rehearsal place or at a gig somewhere. But you know it really didn’t bother me at the time because nobody knew that those guitars would end up being so collectable. It was like, ‘Oh well, I’ll just get another one … no big deal.’
Of course, if somebody does have that guitar out there today I’d love to get it back. I’m sure that whoever has it probably doesn’t even realize what he’s got. I’m not sure if maybe one of our roadies ever wrote down those serial numbers, but I’m sure I never did.
What other SGs did you own back then?
I remember I had a black one, a white one and lots of red ones. I also had a white one with three pickups for a while. I think that was an SG Custom.
For a period right after The Doors you switched to hollow-body guitars, correct?
I always played the SG in the days of the Doors, but after The Doors ended and I was doing my solo stuff, I actually switched to the ES-355. I actually played many of those types of hollowbodies during most of the ’80s and ’90s and didn’t really use the SG for about 20 years. I was more into the semi-hollowbodies for live because I loved the way they sounded, and the way I was able to use the feedback. But all that changed about 10 years ago when Marco found the SG that I own today.
Who is Marco? What did he find?
Marco Moir is my roadie and he’s always been a huge Doors fan and has always been after me to use the old stuff. He was also always after Ray [Manzarek] to use the old Vox organ and stuff like that. So he told me about this really nice SG in this pawnshop and I said ‘OK, pick it up.’ It’s a 1967 SG, and after trying it at a few gigs I ended up really liking it. I was able to get pretty much the same type of sound I was getting from my other hollowbodies, but it was much lighter. It also looked really cool so I continued to use it.
Around that same time I was also starting to do more Doors songs with my own group, and then Ray and I got back together to do all The Doors stuff and I’ve been using it ever since.
Tell us more about that SG. What parts of it were used to recreate your new Inspired By model?
It’s a 1967 Gibson SG Standard with the Maestro tremolo on it. And basically this is what we copied for the body of my new Inspired By model. The neck is from a 1961 SG Standard that belongs to a producer friend of mine. It’s a little wider and flatter up around the first few frets than most SG necks, which is the way I like the neck. We actually made a hybrid of this neck and the one on my ’67 SG and it really turned out perfect. The body, though, is exactly like my ’67; it’s got all the belt scratches and everything else that mine has.
What was it that first drew you to the SG so long ago?
I really didn’t know a lot about electric guitars, and the SG Special was the cheapest one. I really liked the look of it. For some reason it looked very psychedelic to me. Also, the fact that there were so many frets available really appealed to me, too. Compared to a lot of guitars, it’s just very easy to play up high. It’s also very light, which I like as well. When The Doors got going, of course, I could’ve had any pick of many guitars, and I tried them all. But I stuck with the SG because I really loved the way it sounded. There was never any problem with feedback or anything like that. It’s a very good working man’s guitar.
Do you still own any guitars from your time with The Doors?
Back then I really never had more than three or four at any one time, and many times they’d get misplaced or I’d give one away and I’d just go out and get another one. To me they were all the same. I didn’t really know that much about guitars, or necks, or anything about them until much later. To me they were a means to an end. I didn’t know anything about vintage guitars or anything like that. Back then there really weren’t any vintage guitars unless you were talking about a ’45 Martin or something like that. If I needed another guitar I’d simply go out and buy one. It wasn’t until the mid ’70s when I got more into fusion that I became more aware of guitars and vintage guitars and how they were made and all that. I did start collecting them around the late ’70s.
What’s in your collection today?
Well, I’ve always loved Gibson over Fenders, and I’ve always been drawn mainly to them. I’ve always liked jazz guitars, and I’ve got a couple of old Johnny Smith guitars. I’ve got four or five ES-355s, ES-345s, a blonde dot-neck ES-335. I’ve also got a blonde Wes Montgomery; I just love that thing.
And the SG is still your No. 1 guitar today?
Oh yeah. And I think I’ll also be incorporating my new signature model into the live set as well. I really like the neck on it more than my other ones.
Why do you continue to gravitate toward Gibsons?
I’ve always liked the way they look over any other guitar. I love how they all play, and of course the sound. That’s how I like a guitar to sound. Fenders are too tinny to me — I just don’t like that sound. I like that fat sound that a Gibson has. I always use the bass pickup because I like that low, bassy sound, and Gibsons give that to me.
On the stuff you recorded with the Doors, how much of it was done on an SG?
Almost everything I recorded with the Doors was recorded using an SG.