Rock News

Rock News

Rock News

Guitars with names are a unique phenomenon in the rock world. No, we’re not talking about brands and models; we’re talking about actual names players call their beloved guitars.

The topic of guitars with names came up after Wolfgang Van Halen made an appearance on the podcast Shred with Shifty. The podcast is hosted by Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett.

During the podcast recording, Shiflett asks about Wolfgang’s father, Eddie Van Halen, and his famous red, white and black-striped guitar. Shiflett called the guitar “Frankenstrat,” but Wolfgang referred to it as “Frankenstein.” Seemingly, the guitar has been referred to by both names.

However, when Shiflett asked if the iconic guitar had an official name, Wolfgang said, “Officially, on the case, it says Frankenstein, but people call it whatever they want … But officially on the case, for the nerds that really want to know, it says ‘Frankenstein,’ so that’s what I say.”

Wolfgang also noted his father didn’t have a name for the red, white and black-striped guitar, but “Frankenstein” is just what people started calling it. The EVH Gear website confirms this, too, stating, “Indeed, it’s worth noting that it was never Eddie who called the guitar by that name; it was his legions of devoted fans … To Eddie, it was simply ‘My baby.'”

 

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So, with all of this in mind, let’s take a dive into some of rock’s most iconic guitars with names.

Each of these guitars is closely tied to the guitarist and has usually been used on some of the most influential recordings in rock history. They are truly extensions of the guitarists themselves. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine these guitars and guitarists not together. They’re practically like a beloved married couple who’s been together for decades and were truly made for each other.

  • Frankenstein (Eddie Van Halen)

    Before the release of Mammoth WVH’s self-titled debut, Wolfgang shared a funny story about the iconic Frankenstein, which he actually played on Mammoth WVH.

    In a May 2021 interview with Total Guitar, Wolfgang recalled a time when Frankenstein was taken out of its safe. He said his Dad picked up the guitar, played it a bit, said it “feels about the same” and then just tossed the historic guitar on a nearby couch.

    “Everyone just gasped when he did that, ” said Wolfgang. “To Dad, it’s just a little piece of junk that he built himself, but to us, it’s the most famous thing in the world.”

    A Eddie Van Halen guitar on display as part of Julian Auctions Presents Icons And Idols: Rock 'N' Roll, Hollywood and Sports at Julien's Auctions on November 23, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.

    An Eddie Van Halen guitar on display as part of Julian Auctions Presents Icons And Idols: Rock ‘N’ Roll, Hollywood and Sports at Julien’s Auctions on November 23, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • Blackie (Eric Clapton)

    Blackie is the beloved 1956 Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Eric Clapton. According to Fender, Clapton acquired Blackie in 1970. He purchased the guitar from a shop in Nashville. In fact, he came across a rack of six 1950s-era Stratocasters. Clapton recalled in 2004’s The Stratocaster Chronicles, “They were so out of fashion you could pick up a perfectly genuine Strat for two hundred or three hundred dollars—even less! So I bought all of them.”

    In 2004, Blackie went up for auction at Christie’s. It was estimated to sell for between $100,000-$150,000. The final selling price was $959,500.

    Eric Clapton performs at The Forum on September 18, 2017 in Inglewood, California.

    Eric Clapton performs at The Forum on September 18, 2017 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • Red Special (Brian May)

    Red Special is truly…well…special. The guitar was built by Brian May and his father in 1963, when the future guitar icon was just a teenager. May has played Red Special on every Queen album.

    In 2014, he released the book Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-Made Guitar That Rocked Queen and the World. In the synopsis of the book, May writes, ” … I designed an instrument from scratch, with the intention that it would have a capability beyond anything that was out there, more tunable, with a greater range of pitches and sounds, with a better tremolo, and with a capability of feeding back through the air in a ‘good’ way.'”

  • Tiger (Jerry Garcia)

    Tiger was commissioned by Jerry Garcia to luthier Doug Irwin. The request came after Irwin made Garcia another one of his popular guitars with a name: Wolf. According to the Irwin Guitars website, Garcia told Irwin “to make the most extravagant instrument he was capable of.”

    The guitar took Irwin about 2,000 hours and over six years to produce. Notably, Tiger was the last guitar Garcia played in public with the Grateful Dead. When Tiger was sold at auction in 2002, the winning bid was $850,000. Factoring in commission, the price was $957,500.

  • Micawber (Keith Richards)

    Micawber is a 1953 Fender Telecaster that was gifted to Keith Richards by Eric Clapton. According to Fender, Clapton gave Richards this classic guitar for his 27th birthday. Ever since, it’s been used a many iconic recordings, from “Start Me Up” to “Brown Sugar.” To this day, Micawber is part of Richards’ rotation of guitars when the Rolling Stones are on tour.

    Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones performs on the Pyramid Stage during day 3 of the 2013 Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 29, 2013 in Glastonbury, England.

    Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones performs on the Pyramid Stage during day 3 of the 2013 Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 29, 2013 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

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