Next up are single-cut and double-cut Les Paul Juniors, loaded with another of Gwyn’s favourites, the P90. ‘Oh yeah, P90s are awesome,’ he asserts. ‘I have a trio of Juniors that just scream. I’m not that subtle with the single-cut sunburst and the TV double-cutaway, it’s full-on overdrive… and like the Strats and Teles, these sound awesome through my threadbare Fender tweed amps. My mahogany double-cut is a fairly new Gibson VOS ’59 reissue with a huge neck. I prefer this one out of the three. I played the single-cut a lot on Prohibition, tuned for slide.
‘I bought this ’68 non-reverse Firebird for peanuts in Black Market Music, LA. For some reason the original owner had drilled holes to modify the headstock tuners to a three-a-side format. I’ve since had the English luthier Roger Giffin perform a stunning repair, and fit a third P90. This is a guitar that I’m not too fussed about if it gains a ding or two.
‘My ’98 Firebird is stock, and it was a great deal from Germany back in the pre-Euro days of the Deutschmark. I really like the mini humbucker as an alternative to a thinner single coil or a midrangey humbucker. It’s a great option to have.
‘I was looking to get a kind of Billy Gibbons or Mike Bloomfield vibe, and I feel I’ve pretty much nailed that with these two 1990s Les Pauls which I picked while touring in Russia. The one on the right with the darker cherry sunburst looks a little like Billy’s Pearly Gates, and it’s fitted with a pair of Bare Knuckle TG Blues humbuckers, while the other one has a Seymour Duncan Antiquity set.
‘Both these sound stunning cranked up through the tweed amps, but I feel this ’61 Les Paul SG is the best humbucking guitar I have. It’s got high end sparkle with a big fat bottom end as well. I don’t play humbuckers all night, but I can’t put this guitar down. I did Little Girl, the opening track on Radiogram, more or less in one take on this.’
Gwyn finds himself playing a lot more electric and acoustic slide both live and in the studio these days. ‘Lots of players have influenced me, including the Australian Kevin Borich – who I feel is still one of the best slide players in the world – and Chris Finnen, who I used to go and see as a kid. He was one of the many British immigrants to Adelaide who became great guitar players.’
In our main picture on the first page of this month’s feature you can see Gwyn’s resonator guitars. ‘The one I’m playing is my favourite – it’s a ’36 National Duolian. I found it in Queensland and it’s fitted with a Barcus-Berry Hi Tech pickup, as used by two more slide heroes of mine, the late Chris Whitley and John Campbell. This guitar says it all… the sound, the nostalgia. I’m very attached to it. It’s all over Radiogram and it’s my first choice as live slide guitar.
‘I’ve upgraded my Johnson Triolian with National cones. I got this in Germany. It has a Lace Ultra Slim pickup at the neck and a gorgeous Lily Of The Valley engraving on the back.
‘I’ve also got a pair of black semi-acoustic Johnson resonators, and with one of them I asked Tim Mills of Bare Knuckle to rewind the pickup. They sound really good, although I met the Johnson rep in Germany and I felt he was rather rude to me so I taped over the name on the headstock!’
For those rare quieter moments Gwyn has some cool acoustics. ‘I have a ’68 Martin D-35 which is such a sweet-sounding acoustic. This was the last year they built them using solid Brazilian rosewood. I bought this on tour in New South Wales in 1995 for a thousand Australian dollars. I used it on tour with Band Of Friends, which was a tribute to Rory Gallagher with Rory’s bassist Gerry McAvoy, amongst others – and typically, good old EasyJet smashed it.
I was at the gate at Belfast airport and pleaded with them to let me take it on the plane, but they made a big fuss. When we finally landed I opened the case and the Martin was cracked around the body and the neck… they must have thrown it so hard. I’ve actually taken videos on my phone out of the plane window of handlers throwing my guitars in the hold.
3. Have Guitar Will Travel