Rock Star Guitars

Rock Star Guitars

Before we talk guitars, let’s go a few octaves lower and talk about our current special exhibition, Low: The Power and Beauty of Bass. The exhibition, and the related concert series, have been received with great enthusiasm by the Museum’s visitors. This is the first time the Museum has taken a broader look at a topic—in this case, a whole sonic palette rather than just a single instrument or instrument family. So come and discover the world of bass—the resonance, rhythm, size, power and harmony—of low sounds. The exhibition continues through July 31, 2016… and it’s full of “good, good, good, good vibrations…”

Now about those guitars… Do you know that Eric Clapton had a guitar nicknamed "Brownie""? Or that Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin played his 1968 Gibson EDS 1275 double neck on “Stairway to Heaven?” Lisa Johnson knows…because for many years, armed with a macro lens on her camera and an incredible eye for detail, she has been photographing the instruments of many of our most noted rock star guitarists and bassists. Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones). Michael Anthony (Van Halen). Robbie Robertson (The Band). Glenn Tipton (Judas Priest). Rock stars indeed!

Johnson’s stunning photographs make these guitars look like works of fine art—“still lifes” in effect—and yet upon seeing the wear and tear on the instruments, we realize that these are, in fact, working instruments. From these guitars and basses came the memorable notes of “Layla” and “Satisfaction.” In the hands of brilliant musicians like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Chris Squire of Yes and Rick Savage of Def Leppard, these instruments are tools to make music magic. 

Fifty photographs by Johnson (culled from her 2013 publication, 108 Rock Star Guitars) are now on display in the Museum, installed in galleries three, four and five of our permanent exhibition display. The exhibition continues through the end of September, but don’t delay; we think you’ll want to see this special exhibition more than once!