Like most longtime guitarists, my axes all come with a story. Well, most of them. I’ve got some expensive ones and some cheap ones, some new and some fairly old. In terms of electrics, I’ve generally been a Strat guy, but I’ve diversified over the years. Hope you enjoy the pics and descriptions!
2008 Epiphone Sheration
For when I’m kickin’ it John Lee Hooker style. It’s a sort of poor man’s Gibson ES-335, but actually this guitar sounds great on all styles, whether straight ahead jazz, rock, blues, pop – you name it.
Early-70’s Gibson SG
Relatively rare model with Bigsby vibrato, Les Paul-style pickguard and half-moon guard for volume/tone controls, rectangular inlays, and the old school “Gibson” on the headstock. Bought it from my neighbor, whose brother owned it, original case and all. Still smelled like 1972! When his brother unfortunately passed away, my neighbor offered me first chance at buying the guitar. I was never an SG guy until I started playing this one.
2006 Gretsch 6120 Nashville
My 40th birthday present and the object of my guitar lust for years, also courtesy of Mrs. Bowley! Beautiful and uncommon “Blue Burst”. Ebony fingerboard. Bigsby vibrato, ‘natch. Guitar perfection. I don’t take it on gigs, ’cause I don’t trust anyone around it! For recording and beautification purposes only.
1986-87 MIJ Fender Squier Stratocaster w/DiMarzio Area 61/Pro 54/Heavy Blues pickups
One of the last “Made in Japan” Squiers and my main axe for two decades. It’s been all over the country and smells almost smoky (in a good way). Bought from Jeff Miller at the old Gordon Miller Music for a tidy $200, give or take. It’s a Squier, but it’s awesome. So no apologies. The future Mrs. Bowley bought it for me when I got my first paying gig.
2001 Fender Squier Telecaster w/Duncan Vintage Stack pickups
A Father’s Day present! This is a Mexican model and my lone guitar with a maple fretboard. Bright and spankin’ like a Tele should!
1987-88 Fender Stratocaster (Strat Plus) w/DiMarzio Area 58/58/61 pickups
The first generation of the Strat Plus, basically the Jeff Beck model without the uber-thick neck. Has the original split Wilkinson Roller Nut. Another gift from the wife and my second favorite axe. I think it was supposed to be Fiesta Red, but the color is more a cross between red and orange (like salmon, which Fender never made). People ask me about the color all the time!
1983 Ibanez Artist w/Seymour Duncan ’59 and Custom pickups, also early 80’s
My very first good electric, courtesy of Mom. This guitar screams, but unfortunately it’s just too heavy to gig with, hence the Strats. This guitar is also a bit of a contradiction. It has a beautiful arched top and headstock, but unfortunately is also equipped with the most uncooperative and awkward strap buttons known to man (they are shaped like a boomerang, which is supposed to be helpful, but really isn’t) and a gaudy, cheap-looking bridge. It also never stayed in tune quite as well as I would have liked, which is another reason why it wasn’t used more on gigs. You gotta trust your guitars.
1997 Takamine Santa Fe
The Nils Lofgren model (he played one for years) in chocolate brown. This was my main (read: only) acoustic for years until the Gibson came along. It has seen a ton of action and it looks it. Currently in retirement with serious fret wear and some nasty pick scratches (no pickguard!) on the face. Bright-ish tone, a la Taylors, and thin-ish neck, for folks who are used to playing electric as well. Great pickup as well!
A soft-shouldered classic with a beautiful, woody sound. Great recording acoustic; heck, great everything acoustic. Lots of people play ’em, but I always have the picture in my mind from Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love”: Bruce sitting in his tiny home studio with a harp around his neck, wearing a white beater and holding a J-45. I bought this guitar without consulting my wife first and she didn’t talk to me for a few days. She eventually came around, but lesson learned: Always have the wife sign off on your new guitar!
2009 Larrivee LV-05
This beauty was bought used here in Maryland, where Larrivees are not typically sold at retail. Not a scratch on it, perfect in my hands, and at a great price to boot – what a find! Consulted the wife on this one, so no silent treatment. This guitar responds to a light touch; it’s meant more for fingerstyle than heavy strumming. Ebony fingerboard, cutaway. Yum.
2011 Wechter Nashville
This parlor-sized model is the newest addition to the family. If I’m not mistaken, this is the only guitar on the market that is purpose-built to be high-strung. Before this, I outfitted an old Yamaha acoustic to do the high-strung thing for recording. I’m a sucker for that sparkly sound, so I went and got one just for that job!
Dauphin nylon string (year unknown)
I discovered this guitar in my attic years ago. The story of how it came into my possession is fairly well known throughout my inner circle. I decline to elaborate here for fear of prosecution. But suffice it to say, it still plays great, it’s made its way onto numerous recordings, and nobody misses it! And I’ve never, ever changed the strings, mainly ’cause I don’t know how…
Circa-1930’s Hawaiian guitar
A no-name, department store model that originally belonged to my grandmother. Don’t know if she ever actually played it, but it’s a cool conversation piece. It’s got a nifty “country-western” style lasso graphic on the body, and it’s outfitted with a metal extender nut for playing with a slide. It’s pretty fragile and doesn’t stay in tune very well, but I’ve recorded with it a few times. Fun fact: Leo Heppner’s photo of this guitar became the cover image for my first CD, “Vox Americana!”
2009 Epiphone banjo, 2008 Epiphone mandolin, 2007 Fender resonator
I’m not really great on any of these instruments, but I can play well enough to fake you out. Strictly for adding different textures to recordings; I wouldn’t embarrass myself playing them live!
Circa-1970 Kay and 1997 Yamaha basses
The Kay is crazy heavy and thumps like an old P-bass, while the Yamaha is lighter, with a Jazz bass pickup array and a more modern sound. If I couldn’t play guitar anymore, I could be almost as happy holding down the low end.
2001 Danelectro baritone – Groovy Seafoam Green, lipstick tube pickups, made of some type of fiberglass, I think. Used on the occasional recording with a healthy dose of tremolo-o-o-o..
I’m not an amp connoisseur by any means, but I like ’em just fine. Mostly I like smaller amps, usually combos, which are much easier to deal with on small stages and in recording situations. Soundmen don’t tell you to turn down as much and recording engineers like to turn you up! Bonus fact: I’ve never owned a Marshall. But I’ve had my eye on one of those Vintage Moderns…
1964 Fender Deluxe (pre-CBS blackface)
I found this baby in a pawn shop back in the late 80s-early 90s. Some moron took out the tremolo section and had an effects loop installed. Basically sacrilege. I did, however, have the AC cable changed from two prongs to three so I’d stop getting zapped. Twenty-two watts of classic Fender chime!
2009 Egnater Rebel 20
Great sounding, “boutique”-style amp at an affordable price. It’s butt simple to use, but because of the variable wattage (5-20) and blendable tubes (6V6 or EL34) it is highly versatile and highly recommended!
2005 Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special
My first “expensive” amp. I lusted after this amp for months before buying it, and it has glorious tone, but…it’s not very reliable. Boogies are generally thought of as reliable, I think, but this particular one has been trouble for me from the start. When it’s working well, the clean sound is creamy and sparkly, not harsh like some amps. Proceed with caution.
1997 Fender Hot Rod Deville 212 (NOT PICTURED)
My workhouse amp for the last 15 years. It’s seen much of the US and it’s been thrown into the back of more cars and vans than you can count. It’s had beer spilled into it, rain pour down on it, and been dropped off the side of a stage. And it’s never, ever failed to power up and put out sound. Ever. Boogie should take notes, especially since this amp was half the price of the Mesa.
PEDALBOARD AND ACCESSORIES
I’m a pedal junkie with too many to put on one board, so different pedals make the cut on different days. Meet the family!
Pedaltrain Pro board, Boss TU-2 tuner, Keeley compressor, Vox wah, Boss GE-7 eq (late 80s), Fulltone Fulldrive 2, Fulltone OCD, Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi and Little Big Muff, Ernie Ball volume pedal, MXR Stereo Chorus, Boss DD3 digital delay (late 80s), Line 6 Delay modeler, Dunlop Fuzz Face (reissue), Voodoo Labs Pedal Power, Boss CE-2 chorus (1980 black label, silver screw), Xotic EP Booster, Barber Direct Drive, Electro-Harmonix Small Clone chorus, Boss TR-2 Tremolo.
Strings are typically D’Addario XL125 (.009-.046, skinny top, regular bottom) for electric or D’Addario EJ16 (.012-.053 lights) for acoustic.
Picks are usually Dunlop medium-lights (green for acoustic), heavies (red for general use) or extra-heavies (yellow for jazz).
Cables are either Mogami or Monster.