112 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2009 www.premierguitar.com
for me. He taught me how to play initially, and
then I took lessons.
One of the reasons we wanted to feature
you in Premier Guitar is because you’re a
self-admitted “Gear Hound.” What were
your first instruments?
I had a Sears Silvertone my grandfather
gave me, then a Sekova ES-335 copy. I
didn’t have a high-quality instrument until
I got a Tokai electric. You know how it
is—you want a guitar that’s different, one
your friend doesn’t have, so you buy it.
Then your friend gets something really cool
and you have to have one like that, so you
buy one. Next thing you know, you have a
house full of guitars.
It’s Teles in the studio and onstage, of
course, but do you use any other acoustics
and electrics either live or in the studio?
I’m identified with that Tele sound, but I use
lots of stuff. I use an old Gretsch. I have a
Gibson ES-335 that I use in the studio. I have
a Music Man Albert Lee model that’s like
a Strat. I love Gibson hollowbody guitars:
ES-335s, Byrdlands, and those later Chet
Atkins models that Gibson made. It makes
me look like I have some class! For acoustics,
I like older Gibsons and Martins, as well some
newer handmade guitars.
I have a ‘70s Les Paul, but I have never felt
comfortable with it for some reason. It’s
never felt right to me. It isn’t nimble, if that’s
the right word.
It’s been said you were responsible for
bringing the Telecaster back to country
music after it seemed to disappear. Do you
think that’s true?
Is it back? I don’t think it’s really back. I don’t
hear a lot of Tele-heavy stuff going on. I was
a big fan of Buck Owens and Don Rich, and
most of my heroes play Teles, so it was natural for me. I was just hoping they didn’t laugh
me out of town! Country music runs such a
wide gamut these days, from stuff like mine
to harder-edged music, so you have guys
using different guitars.
Keith Urban plays a Les Paul Junior; that’s
never been considered a country guitar.
That’s right, but it works for him. I can’t take
credit for bringing the Tele back.
I saw the photo of you with an old non-reverse
Firebird in the booklet of Play. Was that the
guitar you borrowed for that track with Steve
Wariner, “More Than Just This Song?”
Yes, that Firebird belonged to my guitar
teacher, Hank Goddard, from Wheeling, WV.
He was a fantastic jazz player and a great
teacher. Had he gone to Nashville at the
right time, I’m sure he would have done very
well, made a lot of money, and would have
provided a better life for himself and his
family. But he wouldn’t leave West Virginia.
He had this idea that Nashville musicians
were always on tour, but session musicians
do their playing like a normal job and go
home and have dinner with their families.
Can you run down your main stage
guitars for us?
I use my ’ 68 Paisley Telecaster, and the rest of
What is it about Bill’s guitars you like?
them are custom made for me by Bill Crook,
except for my “mutt” Tele that has a ’ 52 refin-
ished body with a ’ 56 neck. The ones Bill has
made for me include a black paisley Tele, a
blue paisley Esquire, and a new blue sparkle
paisley Esquire. I also use a Gibson Country
Gentleman and a Music Man Albert Lee.
Bill makes guitars the way you want them.
You might wait eight months for one, but if
you’re willing to spend two to three grand for
one of his guitars, you’ll get one exactly the
way you want it. I’ve known Bill since I was
eight years old. He worked in a music store
in West Virginia. That was a nice write-up you
did in your magazine on Bill a while ago.
Thank you. You’ve mentioned that you
prefer using a G-Bender versus a B-Bender.
Why is that?
I just like the sound better. It’s less piercing
and trebly—more subtle and again, different. I wanted to sound like myself and not
be compared to Steve Wariner or Clarence
White. People think I thought up the
G-Bender, but it was Joe Glaser who came
up with the idea of a double bender years
ago. My G-Bender guitar pretty much stays at
Was that the guitar you used on “Waitin’
On A Woman?”
Yes, that was the one.
I knew it had to have been the G-Bender. Let’s
discuss your amplification. You used to rely on
Vox AC30s, now you’re using Dr. Z amps.
I always loved the sound of AC30s, but after
my first major tour and a few good falls down
the steps, I decided I should find something
with that British sound that could withstand
the road. I tried a Dr. Z with 10” speakers,
and it sounded like my old AC30. Mike Zaite
has a philosophy: make world-class amps and
make them affordable. I think they’re just
about the least expensive of all the boutique
amps out there. I’ve used Mike’s amps on TV
and on tour, and he sends me amps to try at
home, things he’s working on. It’s been fun to
watch the company grow.
Live, I use the Dr. Z Remedy and a special
Z-Wreck that was made for me. Mike, Ken
Fischer and I collaborated on that. I actually
use all kinds of amps in the studio, including
old Marshalls with 6V6s. I always am on the
lookout for something that’s different. I’m
Photo by Ben Enos, 2008