Rock and Roll's history has walked hand in hand with electric guitars. The most popular music genre from the 1950s to the late 1990s impacted the world in multiple ways, and consequently, brought fame to various musicians and their beloved instruments. This list’s goal is to compile the most iconic guitars according to myself and explain their stories. This is not an objectively correct list, but rather a personal tribute to Rock and Roll History. The only rule taken into consideration when choosing the list’s picks is that no individual should appear twice.
10 - Chris Squires’ Cream-colored 4001cs Rickenbacker bass
Chris Squire is widely regarded as one of the greatest bassists to ever live. Inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 2017, he is known for his melodic basslines and long-lasting impact on the music industry. As one of the founding members of the progressive rock band Yes, he also performed as a backing vocalist and took part in the production of their songs.
Rickenbacker is known for its expertise when creating bass guitars, and the 4001cs is no exception. The instrument was part of Chris Squire’s signature line (cs) and will forever stand as an iconic electric bass.
9 - Eric Clapton's 'Blackie'
Eric Clapton, also known as Slow Hand, ranked second in Rolling Stone’s list of top 100 guitar players. A legendary career accompanied by major Blues and Rock & Roll hits managed to get him added to the Rock & Roll hall of fame three times. His Fender ‘Blackie’ Stratocaster accompanied him since the 1970s when he selected the best parts from six 1950s Stratocasters and sent them to his luthier, Ted Newman Jones, who ensembled Blackie. After more than 3 decades as his prized possession, it got auctioned in 2004 for 959,500 USD. The dark Stratocaster may not be as visually appealing as other instruments on the list, however, it is without a doubt extremely iconic.
8 - Keith Richards’ Fender Telecaster, ‘Micawber’
The Rolling Stones star has played various guitars throughout his career, dating to 1962. The most memorable one, however, is without a doubt Micawber, a battered Telecaster from the fifties. Keith modified the instrument to fit his preferences and named it after a character from Charles Dickens's David Copperfield.
After an illustrious career, and a vast number of hits, Richards cemented himself into music history and took together with him Micawber.
7 - Paul McCartney's Hofner 'Violin' Bass
Paul McCartney is one of the greatest musicians to ever live. The Beatles’ bassist is known for doing it all; producing tracks, singing, and playing over 40 instruments. Like other artists on this list, Paul has been through a fair share of go-to bass guitars, the most notable one being the Hofner ‘Violin’. It was present throughout the first years of his career, being played in hits such as, And I love her and Help!.
The Hofner bass has an extremely elegant design, which perfectly contrasts Paul McCartney’s style. A match made in heaven, deserving of the 7th spot on the list.
6 - Prince’s “Cloud”
The most flamboyant guitar on the list belongs to Prince, a surprise to absolutely no one. The self-entitled monarch was a master of his craft and provided us with displays of entertainment never seen before. Cloud, a custom-made guitar, perfectly represented his energy. The ethereal shape was designed by Dave Rusan, Prince’s luthier, and he used it during live performances from 1984 to 1993.
Cloud is one of the most recognizable guitars ever created and has helped Prince establish his unforgettable status, earning him the 6th spot on the list.
5 - Angus Young’s Jaydee SG
Angus Young, the star of ACDC, has left an indelible mark on Rock and Roll history. Also known as the A-bomb, his explosive persona couldn't be satisfied without the Jaydee SG. The 5’1” guitarist created iconic such as those from Thunderstruck and Back in Black using the SG.
One of the most popular guitars in the current market, the SG has lasted the tests of time, and like its owner, has aged like fine wine. It sounds extremely powerful and produces incredible sustain. This list would not be complete without the addition of Angus Young’s prized possession.
4 - Gibson Les Paul
To understand the history of the electric guitar as a whole, it is necessary to cite Les Paul’s name. The American jazz guitarist was one of the pioneers responsible for the invention of the solid-body electric guitar. Gibson designers consulted the artist to develop the Les Paul model, which to this day remains one of the most important guitars to ever exist.
Legends such as Jimmy Page, Slash, and Pete Townshend also play the Les Paul. It is also one of the most versatile guitars, being played in genres like classic jazz to hard rock. During the process of organizing the rankings, it was extremely difficult to have the Les Paul out of the top 3, however, the 4th spot is nothing to be ashamed of.
3 - Eddie Van Halen's 'Frankenstrat'
Eddie Van Halen is considered by many to be the greatest guitarist of all time. He was known for mastering the two-handed tapping technique and bringing the virtuosic rock guitar solo back into the popular music mainstream. The Frankenstrat was an experiment of Eddie’s. He painted the guitar black, and when it was dry he put strips of gaffer's tape on the body and repainted it white, creating the classic guitar. Van Halen put a Gibson decal on the headstock, emphasizing the cross-pollination between Gibson and Fender.
Frankenstrat’s decal has been integrated deep into pop culture. The iconic solos sounded by the guitar will forever mark its name on history, deeming it a truly iconic monster.
2 - Jimmy Page's double-neck Gibson EDS-1275
Jimmy Page is the founder and guitarist of the legendary band Led Zeppelin. He is rightfully considered one of the greatest songwriters and musicians to ever grace the earth. If it wasn’t for the rules of not adding more than a single guitar from the same artist, Jimmy could’ve appeared twice, with his double-neck Gibson EDS-1275 or the classic Les Paul. He is the definition of an iconic being, wearing fashionable outfits, rocking a stone-cold look, and performing the most remarkable riffs known to man.
The EDS-1275 contains one neck with 12 strings and another with 6. This made it possible for Jimmy to play diaphanous chords and impactful solos. It is more than clear that the second spot is more than well-deserved, and if it wasn’t for the odd mind of Jimi Hendrix.
1 - Jimi Hendrix's Monterey Stratocaster
To the surprise of few, Jimi Hendrix’s Monterey Stratocaster occupies the first spot on the list. He took the world by storm with his astounding Monterey Pop Festival performance, which he concluded with the sacrificial burning of his iconic hand-painted Stratocaster. This one-of-a-kind guitar was destroyed during the ferocious conclusion of his set, and only photos and film survived.
The image above still lives as a memoir of Jimi’s greatness, and perfectly depicts what a curious character he was. He remarked, "This is for everyone," as he sprayed a liquid on the instrument. Jimi kissed the electric guitar and then tossed a lit match at it, causing the Strat to erupt in flames. Hendrix knelt before the scorching guitar like a disciple at an altar, and the audience gaped as they watched him smash it to bits.