Among the many guitars played on stage by Joe Bonamassa, that one can be spotted from a mile away. It is a double neck, and contrary to what could be expected of a vintage fanatic like Joe, it is not a Gibson EDS-1275, but rather a Music Man custom made for the blues prodigy.
The point of that guitar was to play The Ballad Of John Henry, the title song for his 2009 album. Indeed, that song has a huge low-tuned riff in B which made a baritone with a longer scale length guitar necessary. This is the upper neck, whereas the lower neck is tuned to standard with a regular scale length.
The design was inspired by the Steve Morse Music Man signature model with its shape and the single coil pickup right next to the bridge pickup on both necks. There are also a few reminders of Joe's fascination for Les Paul Bursts in his choice of a two-part flamed maple top (with matching headstocks) as well as the covered humbuckers with cream rings. The Ball Family Reserve logo is inlaid at the twelfth fret, the unmistakable sign that the best woods have been used to create this monster.
Joe Bonamassa has had this guitar built in 2009, and took it around the world only to play the song The Ballad Of John Henry. One night in St Petersburg, part of his rig didn't show up on time for the concert so he had to play the song in E on a regular guitar. This is when he decided that it was much simpler to play in E and not having to haul a double neck around the world. That is why Joe decided to sell that stunning guitar which has joined Matt's Guitar Shop's collection.
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Sloe Gin
It is not easy to invent yourself as an adult artist when you have been a child prodigy. Joe was Danny Gatton’s student and protégé to B.B. King before he was even old enough to drive a car, and was touring with the band Bloodline (with other child prodigies, the sons of stars like Miles Davis and Robby Krieger) before he could vote. But it all could have ended there. Indeed, the other members of Bloodline have all disappeared into the ether of show business. But Bonamassa has always had an unstoppable work ethic, and by dint of touring he ended up imposing his own sound and solo discography.
It all began in 2000 with A New Day Yesterday, a completely honest blues album on which guests like Leslie West, Greg Allman, and Rick Derringer accompanied the young musician. At the time, Bonamassa played Strats and Telecasters, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence could still be in much of his phrasing. But little by little he found his own voice when he switched to a Les Paul and combined his Marshall Silver Jubilee with a few other boutique heads for a result as bluesy as it is fat and organic. It was also the time when producer Kevin Shirley began collaborating with Bonamassa. They first worked together on You & Me (2006) and still do to this day. Sloe Gin (2007) and Ballad Of John Henry (2009) are tracks that established Joe’s reputation as the saviour of the blues, the future of a style that was thought to be reserved for baby boomers on the eve of retirement.
Since then, Bonamassa has never slowed his touring pace. In fact, he has redoubled his inventiveness to vary his shows, whether in a tribute concert to Muddy Waters and Holwin’ Wolf, a tribute tour to the three Kings of Blues, or to the British Blues Boom. He also plays on the albums of singer Beth Hart as well as with the bands Black Country Communion (alongside bassist and singer Glenn Hughes) and Rock Candy Funk Party. At the same time, the collector’s instinct of the man who was born with a guitar in his hands (his father owns a store) has only intensified, to the point where he owns about ten sunbursts, two korina Flying Vs, and a staggering number of rare instruments. However, those guitars are not just stowed away in a safe place. They go on the road with Joe. After all, that’s what they were made for.