Thanks for reading the Guitar Sun, Sunfield Music Store’s weekly take on gear, music history, tone tips, and more.
At Sunfield, we take pride in producing instruments that keep the spirit of the electric guitar alive. For us, that means making high-quality instruments. Our core customers want gig-quality electric guitars. You could call them “cheap electric guitars,” but Sunfields aren’t just beginner’s guitars. They’re simply priced differently—for parts and labor—in a bloated instrument market that caters to prestige and huge marketing budgets (all paid for with musicians’ dollars).
Today, we wrap up our series on the workingman’s approach as revealed by some of the great all-time players.
While strongly associated with his work in Led Zeppelin today, Page was already a renowned session player in the UK by the time he helped form the band (and had featured in the Yardbirds). He experimented with many many guitars over the years, so we’ll confine our focus to some of the most iconic here.
He also happened to partially inspire one of our best selling custom shop models.
A Look at the Guitars of Jimmy Page
We may as well start with the “Number One,” truly one of the iconic guitars in rock history. Page has called the guitar his "mistress and wife...except it doesn't ask for alimony.” Like many famous guitars, every part of its story feels steeped in legend: Page bought this Les Paul off of American rocker Joe Walsh.
Walsh, still in the James Gang, personally delivered the guitar to Page in the UK. Page had tried Walsh’s guitar out while on one of Zeppelin’s earliest US tours and loved the sound. Walsh decided that Page “deserved” a Les Paul for his rock tone (he’d chiefly used Telecasters with the Yardbirds, and even laid down the Zeppelin I and Zeppelin II albums with them), and the rest is history.
This point is obviously debatable, but many collectors consider this guitar a true holy grail: the most valuable Les Paul in history. It was heavily modified—refinished, with the thick Gibson style neck sanded down to be much thinner. A true tinkerer, Page has swapped out the pickups many times over the decades. By the 2000’s, he ended where he started with 1960’s PAF pickups. This guitar is believed to be a 1959, but we’ll never be certain: the special finish job rubbed off the serial number.
While legendary, the guitar wasn’t actually Page’s first Les Paul. He had previously owned this “Black Beauty.” It featured prominently in Page’s earlier studio work and a few early Zeppelin recordings (even as he used a Tele live—the LP was too beautiful to risk in live performances, he thought). Sure enough, when he finally brought his beloved Black Beauty on their first American tour, it disappeared at the airport.
Speaking of those Telecasters, Page’s go-to instrument sported a beautiful custom paint job. Page considered dragons his personal symbol, and he painted this one personally:
Tragically, however, this guitar was later lost to history. A friend of Page “surprised” him with a new paint job on the instrument that rendered it inoperable. At least it had its share of glory: even after he’d generally moved on to Les Pauls, Page busted the Tele back out to record the Stairway to Heaven solo.
While these three guitars are behind Page’s most iconic recorded tones, he enjoyed experimenting with gear, like all of us. He continued to use some of his earlier guitars for their unique tonal properties when a song called for them.
For instance, this 1961 Danelectro 3021/DC59 was a staple of Page’s early session work. He’d later break it out to record “When the Levee Breaks.”
Live, he’d keep it in alternate tunings for tunes like “Kashmir,” where it can be seen in countless live clips. He also brought it along to play Kashmir with Jack White and U2’s the Edge for the documentary “It Might Get Loud:”
This next guitar could have appeared in either of our last two posts. First, we looked at guitars of the Soviet Union. These “Futuramas,” a popular beginner’s guitar in Europe at the time, were made in the Eastern Bloc country of Czechoslovakia and exported to the West. Last week, we looked at the guitars of the Beatles, and a young George Harrison sported one in Hamburg:
Page had a Futurama of his own, and used it frequently in his earliest session work (it was his first upgrade from the acoustic guitar). While collectible today, players of the time didn’t seem to prize them: both Harrison and Page moved as soon as they had the chance.If it's hard to imagine Page as a "beginner guitarist," check out this photo of Page with his Futurama:
Still, this communist-made beast provides yet another reminder that the greats didn’t need special brands or headstocks to learn how to rock. And that’s the spirit we try to keep alive today.