Solid Body Guitars for Blues

A solid body electric guitar in theory isn’t much more than a slab of wood and some hardware. Solid body guitars tend to have longer sustain than hollow bodies but their big advantage is they are less prone to feedback.
My favorite jazz guitarists mostly play hollow body, archtop electric guitars. Many of my favorite blues and rock guitarists play semi-hollow electrics. But most blues and blues rock guitarists embraced solid body guitars.

There are many makers and models of solid body guitars but the list of guitars played by famous blues or blues rock guitarists is much smaller.


Telecaster

The Fender Telecaster wasn’t the first solid body electric but it was the first commercially successful model. The first models were named Esquire in 1950 but the name had to be changed to Broadcaster in 1951. The Telecaster was the two-pickup model which eventually became the standard. (History of telecaster)

It became Muddy Waters‘ guitar when he came to Chicago and went electric.


Stratocaster

The Stratocaster came after the Telecaster from Leo Fender. You can almost ask, who hasn’t played a Strat? Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton were/are all Stratocaster players.


Flying V

Gibson Guitars went through an experimental phase when competing against Fender. How many useful shapes can you design for a solid body guitar once you have the Telecaster and Stratocaster? Is the Les Paul really a significantly different shape that a Fender Telecaster? (Yes it’s different but it’s still a single cutaway with traditional curves). It turns out that Gibson found new designs that were different than the two or three originals. These included the Flying V, the Firebird, the Explorer and the SG. Of these, the only ones that caught on with blues oriented guitarists were the Firebird and the SG.

Albert King chose the Flying V as his guitar. The symmetry made it easy for him to play it left handed.


Firebird

The Gibson Firebird has been used by many, if not for their main axe, at least for occastional use, e.g., for slide work. Johnny Winters often plays a Firebird. It was introduced in 1963 in the reverse configuration. Some years later Gibson came out with non-reversed models.


SG

The Gibson SG double cutaway was supposed to be the next iteration of the Les Paul which  did not sell well at first. The SG stands for “Solid Guitar.” The design was lighter in weight than a Les Paul and gave unrestricted access to the upper frets. It was introduced in 1961.

Although there have been a few famous players who used an SG, it never caught on the same as the Les Paul finally did after Clapton and Page used them. Angus Young plays an SG. But among current blues guitarists the most famous for me is Derek Trucks.


Les Paul

The two most famous and most popular solid guitars are probably the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul. Like the Strat, it’s probably better to ask, Who hasn’t played a Les Paul. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman all have played Les Pauls. That’s obviously the short list.

3 comments

  1. Just a small note, no need to post. I think it was Albert King who played the flying v, not Collins. I could certainly be wrong, but I think I remember that correctly.

  2. Never mind. My bad. I should have done a simple search before sounding off. He indeed played a V, too.

    1. Collins may have also played a Flying V but I meant to write Albert King, just as you suggested. Sorry, it was a brain blip on my part. I associate Albert Collins with Telecasters. I also remember seeing him play with a thumb pick which is unusual for electric players.

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