BB King and Guitar Genders

justin hayward bb king

Like you, and all of the guitar players in the world, I was so very sad to hear of the passing of B.B.King.  While he was still with us, and on the road until not so long ago, I found it comforting, and it was always a thrill (never gone) to see his photo on the wall backstage at the gigs and to be on the stage that he had graced. I did have the joy of seeing him play many years ago and I loved that slight jerk he would sometimes throw his fingers and body into at the end of a short guitar phrase. He was the master of understated playing, and proof that less is often more. Like so many guitar players he accepted that his guitars were female and the story of his Lucille’s are told best elsewhere.

Some guitars players would not dream of giving their guitars a gender – but my guitars, with just a couple of exceptions, have always been male.They are my true friends, and sometimes, in my darker moments, I come to believe they are my only true friends. Every guitar tech I have worked with, including David (who incidentally is the best I have known) has assumed that my guitars are female, kinda like boats, which I don’t see as female either. I can understand it, but to me women are much more complex, sexy and fascinating than woody instruments, not straightforward at all, and sometimes not faithful either.  I hope it doesn’t disillusion any fans of my guitars, but there it is.

So what were my exceptions? For some reason my Danelecto Sitar guitar is female. You absolutely have to coax it into sounding lovely.  And a Martin 12 string that I have had since the sixties. It has silk and steel strings and is gentle and delicate. You can hear that on ‘Nostradamus’.

Now – when it comes to keyboards, that’s a different matter. For some reason, which I tend not to try and analyse or think about too much, I assume my keyboards are female. It’s natural to caress a keyboard, and a strong, and sometimes gentle touch is needed. I have a huge old Yamaha controller keyboard that I write on and that has always been a delightful lady, and my 1980’s DX7, still featured on most of my recordings, and sampled now for stage sounds, is still my light, flighty girlfriend.