A Birthday Celebration Post for Joe Bonamassa

May 8th is Robert Johnson’s birthday. And it’s another big blues birthday too: none other than one Blues-Rock Titan extraordinaire, Joe Bonamassa. So what does one get Joe Bonamassa for his birthday, anyway? Another 1959 Gibson Les Paul? A vintage Fender Tweed? A new pair of shades? No, shopping for Joe Bonamassa is not so easy. But I had a fun idea the other day. What if we essentially had unlimited cash and could literally buy Joe anything – what would he want then? Well, guitars of course! You may have noticed that he is a pretty big guitar nerd, after all. But what guitars? He already has so many of them. Well after thinking about it for a few minutes, I had an idea. What if we could get Joe some of the most sought after, legendary guitars ever played by famous musicians? Which ones would he want? What makes them so special? After pondering this for a few minutes, I decided to write a list of the guitars I wish we could all buy Joe. Joe’s collection of axes and amps is already unique and special, but adding these guitars might make it even a little but more unique and special, if that’s possible:

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  1. Keith Richards’ 1959 Les Paul StandardYou already know that the 1959 Gibson Les Paul is pretty much the holy grail of guitar collecting. That’s why Joe Bonamassa already has so many of them. But being owned by Keith Richards makes this guitar even just a little more special. The guitar has also been nicknamed the “Keithburst”. The guitar was originally purchased as a new guitar in March of 1961 by John Bowen of Mike Dean & the Kinsmen. Outfitted with a Bigsby vibrato, Bowen traded in the ’59 Gibson Les Paul Standard in the later part of 1962. Later, it was purchased by Keith Richards, member of a not-yet-so-famous band called The Rolling Stones. Keith gave it a lot of attention, using it throughout The Rolling Stones’ U.S. tours of 1964. It was used on their legendary performance on the Ed Sullivan show. Keith also used the instrument to record hits such as “Little Red Rooster”, “Get Off of My Cloud”, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, and “Time Is On My Side”. “Satisfaction” saw performances on this guitar as well. In 1966, Keith Richards began to prefer using a Les Paul Custom, so the ’59 Les Paul Standard started to receive much less use. It is worth noting that Keith Richards was the first major rock star to use a ‘burst and it helped to popularize the Les Paul model.
    Bob Dylan’s Newport Folk Festival ’64 Stratocaster

    Bob Dylan’s Newport Folk Festival ’64 Stratocaster

2. Bob Dylan’s Newport Folk Festival ’64 StratocasterThe story of Bob Dylan plugging in at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and nearly causing a riot is as legendary as rock and roll lore comes. The guitar Bob Dylan used during that legendary performance was a 1964 Fender Stratocaster. Dylan also used the guitar a few weeks later when he made his debut playing with future members of The Band in Forest Hills, Queens. This occurred shortly after the Newport breakthrough / fiasco. Dylan also utilized the instrument during the recording sessions for his legendary album Bringing It All Back Home. The guitar was still with its original Fender case when it was auctioned by Christie’s in 2013. The sale by Christie’s broke a guitar record, fetching $965,000 from an unidentified bidder at the time. Amazingly, in the intervening time between 1965 and 2013, the mythical guitar was lost for 47 years. Tucked away inside the guitar case were also handwritten Bob Dylan lyrics – quite a find! Another amazing fact: 50 years to the day after Dylan plugged in at Newport Folk, the 1964 Fender sunburst Strat made its grand return to Newport Folk! This would make an amazing addition to Joe Bonamassa’s bona-seum for sure.

3. Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster Hybrid “Blackie” – Once upon a time, a young and incredible guitarist named Eric Clapton walked into a guitar shop in Texas. He wound up purchasing six vintage Strats. Each cost him $100. Not bad! Three of the guitars were distributed to friends of his – Steve Winwood, Pete Townshend, and George Harrison, but out of the other three he made magic happen. By taking parts and bits from each of the three vintage Strats, he constructed a new “Super-Strat” that he would dub “Blackie”. Clapton debuted Blackie at the Rainbow Theatre in London on January 13, 1973. He also recorded many of his most classic solo albums with it, including 61 Ocean Boulevard and Slowhand. In 2004, Clapton auctioned off the guitar for a whopping $959,500. I guess whoever bought it didn’t think it was a million dollar guitar after all. But I do. And I think Joe Bonamassa would too.

Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster Hybrid “Blackie”

Eric Clapton with Blackie

John Lennon & George Harrison 1964 Gibson SG

John Lennon & George Harrison’s 1964 Gibson SG

4. John Lennon & George Harrison 1964 Gibson SG – Well, The Beatles were not really blues guys, British or otherwise, but they are still probably the most legendary band of all time so owning this guitar would have to be pretty damn cool. The Beatles used it between 1966 and 1969. George used it for the Revolver album and supporting tour, and it was played by John while recording for The White Album. This SG Standard has serial number 227666 and a gorgeous cherry finish. After The Beatles, it was owned by Badfinger’s Pete Ham and eventually wound up on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for many years. Can’t buy Joe Bonamassa love, but we wish we could buy him this rad guitar!

Eric Clapton album cover with Brownie

Eric Clapton album cover with Brownie

5. Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster “Brownie” – You can never have too many guitars that were made famous by Eric Clapton, right? Right! Clapton bought Brownie in 1967 during his Cream days, second hand for $300. In addition to using the guitar on his debut album Clapton, Brownie was used often during the late 1960s and early 1970s days of Eric Clapton – and it’s the guitar with which he recorded the Derek and the Dominos smash hit and Clapton signature song “Layla”. Yes sir, that’s Brownie you hear locking horns in a furious duel with Duane Allman’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul on the famous Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs track. However, once Blackie came on the scene, Brownie was downgraded to back up duty. Still, Brownie remains a legendary guitar to this day and it fetched $497,500 at auction in 1999. Not bad! It would look pretty sweet next to Blackie in Joe Bonamassa’s make believe birthday collection.

And there you have it. Unfortunately I can’t really get any of these guitars for Joe Bonamassa for his birthday since I’m kind of broke. But it’s the though that counts, right??

-Brian Reiser
J&R Adventures

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