In the sixties, Italy was home to many guitar makers who were trying to copy the big US brands that were so rare in Europe back then while still using parts and build techniques from the world of accordion making. The resulting instruments were extremely cool, vibey and wacky, so much so that brands like Eko and Crucianelli command high prices on the vintage market of today.
The only problem is that those guitars were not made by real luthiers. Therefore, they usually don’t sound as good as they look, they can be very unreliable, and can be a nightmare to play with weirdly shaped necks. This is why British designer Trevor Wilkinson has launched the Italia brand, with some seriously cool looking guitars that clearly reference Italy’s glorious pawn shop prizes but are built in Korea by factories that really know how to make a guitar play and sound great.
The Modena model is the coolest of the bunch: with a name referring to the birthplace of Ferrari and Lamborghini, it had to be. It sports three mini-humbuckers and a very musical vintage-style vibrato (in this case the famous Wigsby, Wilkinson’s version of you-know-what), and that particular Modena has its whole body covered in mother-of-toilet-seat for a two color effect with the green back, instead of a simple flashy pickguard like that of the regular Modenas.
This one had to be extra cool, since it used to belong to none other than Billy Gibbons himself, a man who appreciates wacky and untypical guitars as much as anyone.
Like all the guitars from the Billy Gibbons collection sold by Matt’s Guitar Shop and bought straight from the man himself, this quirky Italia has been signed by the Reverend at the back of the headstock and it comes with a signed certificate of authenticity, a picture of Billy holding the guitar, a picture of Billy signing the guitar and a picture of Billy signing the certificate. This is your way of knowing you’re buying the real deal.
Group : ZZ Top
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Just Got Paid
Billy Gibbons is the boss. The boss of guitarists with his sensual tremolo and the fat sound like a burrito he gets from his Les Paul. The boss of singers with his rocky and twangy sound. The boss of bandleaders with ZZ Top, his trio whose lineup has remained the same since 1969. The boss of engineers, with an impeccable sense of staging. And finally the boss of collectors, with several hangars filled with several thousand guitars that he has acquired over the years. Legend has it that he would have a copy from every year of every model from the major brands, and that may not be just a legend... In any case, the guitars that we know he has are enough to turn heads. From “Mistress Pearly Gates”, the famous Les Paul 59 that has always been with him, to his 54 hardtail Strat that we often hear in addition to Pearly Gates, along with his many custom hotrod guitars.
His career began in 1967 with The Moving Sidewalks, one of the few psychedelic Texas rock bands inspired by the 13th Floor Elevators. They opened for Jimi Hendrix before breaking up in 1969, when Gibbons founded ZZ Top.
The trio began with rich and traditional blues rock before going in a more electronic direction, starting with Degüello in 1979. That direction was confirmed with the Eliminator/Afterburner/Recycler trilogy. Three albums where the blend of Gibbons’ blues with the synthesisers and drum machines of the time produced a result that won over many fans, whether they came to trio’s music through singles like Gimme All Your Loving and Rough Boy, or through the band’s excellent videos that were often played on MTV. Since then, ZZ Top has reinvented its music once again with a fatter, more organic, and fuzzy sound. Gibbons has made multiple appearances as a guest star on other musicians’ albums. He has also released two albums under his own name: Perfectamundo, which explores Cuban music, and Big Bad Blues, which returns to his first loves, between Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. The circle is complete.