You played a lot of acoustic
guitar on Guitar Man.
Yeah, we used two different kinds
of acoustics—a Yamaha and a
Cordoba. They aren’t very expensive, but they sounded good.
Did you use any of your
Oh yeah, definitely. I used
the Ibanez GB30 and also a
D’Angelico that I had in the
closet. I only take that out on
special occasions. I got a lot of
my hit records with that guitar.
Do you roll the tone knob
down or do you keep it all
the way up?
I have both the tone and volume controls basically all the
way up. Something happens to
the tone when I back up off the
volume—I like to feel the bite
of the guitar. Y’know, feel all
Some jazz cats feel like a lot
of that bite has to do with
strings. Are you pretty particular about yours?
If I’m on the road, I like to use
.012s. If I’m recording, I like to
use .014s—I can hear more and
dig in more with the .014s. On
the road, I can’t really hear all
that because it goes past me and
out into the audience.
I think people like the fact that I keep coming up
with new ideas—and they don’t have to be big
ideas. Guitar players, they know. Once they hear
you, they know your sound. When you play a lick,
they know it’s you.“Man this sounds like George
Benson, but I’ve never heard him play that before.”
Can you play as fast on the
.014s as you do on the .012s?
Yeah, I think so. I never
thought about that. I better
put that to the test before I say
feeding back. My GB10 is
unique because it has a smaller
body, which takes care of a lot
of the feedback issues.
You recently auctioned off
some instruments you owned
that originally belonged to
some pretty famous people.
Yes. Pat Metheny bought Wes
Montgomery’s L5 at auction. I
didn’t know it until I ran into
him in Europe and he said,
“George, I got the Wes guitar.”
And I’m happy, because now
I know it’s in good hands.
I worried about it when I
auctioned it off. Also, Grant
Green’s guitar. That’s one of
the best-sounding instruments
I’ve ever heard, but it was in
my closet and I was afraid the
termites were going to eat it up.
Considering the times being
what they were, we did very
well and got a lot of money.
playing all this stuff and those
cats went berserk. They said,
“George I didn’t know you
could play like that.”
Have you tried any other
Ibanez jazz guitars, like the
Pat Metheny model?
I’ve tried a couple of those and
some of them were good, but
mine is designed with my needs
in mind. I don’t like feedback,
and I don’t like thin sounds. I
want a full sound but I don’t
want to worry about muting the strings because they’re
Do you ever play with distortion?
I was thinking about trying
some things out with distortion, just to see what happens.
I did it with Billy Cobham
and George Duke one day, and
they were shocked. They had a
guitar player in their band, and
I didn’t want to mess with his
pedals. He said, “Just press that
one over there for volume.” I
hit that button and it was like
a rocket ship, man! I started
How about amps?
I use two Fender Twins. I used
to use Polytone Mini-Brutes.
Although I love the tone—it’s
one of my favorite sounds for
guitar and works great in the studio—I found that, in big places,
it wasn’t fast enough. It didn’t
give me instant sound. Now I’m
working with Fender and we’re
designing a new amplifier.
When is this coming out?
It’ll be out next year. We’re still
working on it now.