According to Gov’t Mule frontman and leader Warren Haynes, there’s one guitar model that does a great job at combining classic Fender and Gibson qualities. As he told Dean Delray in a recent interview, Gibson Firebird is the way to go if you want a “compromise” of sorts.
The talk about this came up while Warren was chatting about P-90 pickups and his new plans with Gibson. He’s already done one guitar model with them a while back, the Custom Shop replica of one of his most prized Les Pauls. But it seems that we’ll see some more collaborations in years to come.
“One of the things we’re working on now is a signature Firebird with three P-90s,” Haynes said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar). “And I have one that Gibson gave me years ago that was like a prototype.”
“And back then, I was scared of the third pickup because it was always in the way,” he continued. “But once you get used to that, the tone possibilities is so crazy.”
“And the P-90s sound great. There’s something about that combination of Firebird with P-90s that is really unique and special,” Haynes said, adding that this makes them “fierce” and “ferocious.”
Firebirds, however, aren’t as simple as other models. There are the regular and “reversed” options. But there seems to be no real consensus on which one is the “traditional” option.
“I think the traditional Firebird is reverse, and the non-traditional is non-reverse,” Haynes said. “It’s very confusing. But I have some of both.”
But as far as these two versions go, Warren says that there are noticeable differences that go beyond the superficial aesthetic aspect. He added:
“I think the non-reverses stay in tune better and, in some ways, play better.”
One Firebird, however, stands out to him. And he’s done an interesting modification to it:
“I have a ’64 traditional Firebird with two pickups. I have a ’64 that sounds fantastic. But I don’t carry it on the road.”
“And I also have this purple custom paint job that Allen Woody [former bassist of The Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule] talked me into putting banjo tuners — real banjo tuners — on.”
“And it does make it sound better,” Warren explained. “There’s something about it that affects the sound. It’s hard to keep in tune or hard to getting in tune, but it’s worth it. Once you do get in tune, it sounds really great.”
“That’s the guitar that I played on ‘Endless Parade,’ on ‘High & Mighty.’ [Brian] Farmer [Warren’s former tech] dubbed it Barney. He called it Barney because it was purple. But that’s a beautiful-sounding guitar as well.”
And making his Fender and Gibson balance point, Haynes said:
“Firebirds, for me, were the opportunity to get a little closer to a Fender but still have the Gibson meat.”
Fender vs. Gibson
During the interview, he was also asked about whether he ever actually played Fenders. Well, it seems that he did back when he joined The Allman Brothers Band back in the late 1980s. It was an odd choice for a southern rock band that’s associated with Gibsons. But Warren did this on purpose. Unfortunately, the Stratocaster that he played ended up being stolen:
“I did in the ’80s. I had this great red Stratocaster that I played as my main guitar for several years. And it got stolen in New York City in the early ’90s. And I never replaced it.”
“And it was kind of coinciding with the time period when I just joined the Allman Brothers in ’89 and I was playing Les Paul more and the Strat less and less.”
“But there’s a lot of video footage from ’89 and early ’90s where I even was playing that Strat in The Allman Brothers, which was it me trying to bring a different sound into that band at the time. And I miss that guitar, but I never have replaced it.”
You can see him playing the said guitar in some parts of the video embedded below.
Of course, Warren has absolutely nothing against Fender guitars. But for him and his playing style, Gibsons just made more sense. He’s fond of hearing people play whatever suits them better.
“I love hearing other people play Fenders,” he said. “But I’m not as good at it. I guess because I grew up on Gibsons. People that grew up playing Stratocasters aren’t as comfortable on a Les Paul or an SG or something.”
The Gibson vs. Fender debate might seem outdated. But even to this day, many decades after Telecasters, Stratocasters, and Les Pauls were originally introduced, most guitar companies base their models on either Fender-oriented or Gibson-oriented ones.
Photo: pitpony.photography (Warren Haynes 2016 (14 von 14))