Guitars Used by Famous Musicians Instrument

The stars understand the value of a great instrument. But when you make it to the top of the industry and have the cash to spare, what’s your guitar of choice? Whether acoustic, classical or electric, there’s the perfect model out there for everyone.


And most major musicians will have a whole collection. Although one usually stands out as their favourite stalwart piece.

Most iconic guitar models

The big factors considered by music icons when choosing a guitar are the functionality, sound and look of the instrument. The latter is probably the least impactful, as it can be hacked and customised to suit. Often the brand that is chosen just comes down to a personal preference.

What are the most famous guitars?

How do you know which guitar is right for you? Should it be electric or acoustic? What size and what budget?  Here are some iconic guitars as listed by Rolling

  • Eric Clapton’s customised Fifties Fender Stratocaster was assembled from parts of three Strats bought in Nashville in the 1970s.
  • The Canadian musician Neil Young, had a 1950s vintage Gibson Les Paul Goldtop.
  • Bruce Springsteen’s Fender Esquire was sometimes identified as a Telecaster – yet another creation from the mid-century era renowned for great design.
  • US band frontwoman Joan Jett has a beaten up Gibson Melody Maker with a single Red Rhodes Velvet Hammer humbucker. It’s covered in stickers and survived decades of music-making.
  • Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page played a double-neck Gibson with 12 strings on top and six on the bottom.
  • The Beatles’ legendary guitarist and sometime solo artist George Harrison, played a Gretsch. However, his most iconic guitar was probably a 1963 Rickenbacker 12 string.
  • Jimi Hendrix is often named the finest guitarist who ever lived. But his Stratocaster had a short life when he famously set it on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival.

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What guitars do rock stars use?

It’s been said that the electric guitar has been the soul of rock and roll. Over the years certain guitars have become legendary and almost have a mythical quality. Here is a list of some of the best rock guitars:

  • The Fender Stratocaster. Among its most famous players are Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen.
  • The Fender Telecaster. Rock stars who used this guitar include Chrissie Hynde (who has recently had a cool new Telecaster named after her) Noel Gallagher, Muddy Waters, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Strummer.
  • The Fender Jaguar. This was popular with Kurt Cobain, Elvis Costello and Johnny Marr.
  • The Gibson Flying V. The solid body shaped like a V made this popular with Eddie Van Halen, Lenny Kravitz and Jimmy Hendrix.
  • The Gibson SG. Angus Young of AC/DC was one of the most notable players of the SG, as well as The Who’s Pete Townsend and Thom Yorke.
  • The Ibanez RG550. Popular with many hard rockers and metallers since the late 1980s, this is a modern classic.
  • The Gibson Les Paul. This was a favourite with Jimmy Page, Slash, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton and Billy Gibbons.

Which players use Martin guitars?

Martin guitars and strings have been among the top choices for musicians due to their quality, craftsmanship and tone. Top musicians worldwide from all genres, classical and country to blues, folk and acoustic rock have played from their range.

  • Elvis Presley had the acoustic Martin D model which he played in the early days of his career.
  • Beatle Paul McCartney used a D-28.
  • Eric Clapton has used a number of Martin guitars.
  • John Mayer – who has owned hundreds of guitars including his main acoustic through the years – has a Martin own signature model.

Although these are top artists with big budgets, the guitars are also suitable for those beginning their careers. And the smaller models can be well suited to students, as well as those instrumentalists or singers who frequently have to travel about to gigs and lessons.

Guitars given nicknames by famous musicians

Once in possession of the perfect strings, many of the stars have chosen to given their instrument a pet name. Here are some famous examples.

  • George Harrison was given a unique red Gibson Les Paul guitar which he named Lucy. It is one of the most famous electric guitars in the world.
  • Eric Clapton’s nickname for his Fender Stratocaster is Blackie. He played Blackie on stage and in the studio from 74-85, recording some of his biggest hits such as Layla, Wonderful Tonight and I Shot the Sheriff.
  • A Telecaster used by both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in both The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin was named The Dragon for its green, yellow and red paint. It was used to record the famous Stairway to Heaven.
  • Nile Rodgers’ white Fender Stratocaster was called The Hitmaker.
  • Bob Marley had a favourite guitar during the 1970s which he affectionately christened Old Faithful.
  • Brian May’s Red Special has been with him through thirty years of live concerts and studio work with Queen.
  • Billy Gibbons of American rock band ZZ Top calls his guitar Pearly Gates.
  • Prince had a custom-built guitar which had an asymmetric cloud-shaped body, which was given the name The Cloud.

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Famous acoustic guitar players

An acoustic guitar can be funky, soulful and raw, whether you’re strumming, picking or tapping. Many well-known musicians have chosen acoustic guitars. In a Music Radar poll, readers voted for their favourites guitar players – among them the dynamic acoustic player Stephen Stills who transitioned from rock to folk. Another favourite was Bob Dylan, who made it look so easy with elaborate fingerpicking, perfect sense of rhythm and amazing runs.

From the classical world, Andres Segovia made the top 20 poll – a genuine classical legend with stunning tone and delivery. Singer/songwriter James Taylor had a sensitive and emotional touch to his songs and playing. Top place in the poll went to Tommy Emmanuel. Described as having fingers blessed with the tone of gods, it’s said he could make wire stretched across a plank of wood sound good.

Celebrity guitars

Top guitarists have often owned or played hundreds of guitars but usually started out with a fairly simple instrument, often second hand or a humble barely playable guitar.

  • Ed Sheeran has long been a fan of the Lowden. So much so, there’s now an entire range named after him – Sheeran Guitars. Irish made, these are great for aspiring music makers who need something affordable, but high quality.
  • Ed’s not the only artists to have had an entire range named after him. Alternative songstress and guitarist St Vincent also has a collection (albeit smaller). The St Vincent Collection is eclectic and funky, like the star herself
  • Slash, lead guitarist of hard rock band Guns N’ Roses received a one-string Spanish style acoustic from his grandmother for his 15th birthday.
  • Award-winning Joe Satriani decided to be a guitarist after hearing Hendrix had died. He saw a white Hagstrom in the local music shop and thought it looked like the one Hendrix played, and with help from his sister he bought it, knowing little about guitars.
  • Todd Rundgren, a pioneer in the fields of electronic music and progressive rock, was seven when he signed up for lessons at the local music store and with it came a steel-string acoustic.
  • Aerosmith’s Joe Perry used to play around on his uncle’s homemade guitar but he got his own Silvertone which he said was difficult to play because of the heavy strings, however, he fell in love with the guitar and knew it was his calling.

From these humble beginnings, many fledgeling musicians have learned and practised and progressed to become top guitarists. Every guitar has a story and every player remembers his first guitar.