John 5 on Playing Telecaster as a Metal Guitarist: ’It’s Like Wearing a Cowboy Hat to a Slayer Concert’

Now officially with Mötley Crüe, John 5 is one of few guitarists in the metal genre known for playing a Telecaster. Speaking to Kenny Aronoff for “The Kenny Aronoff Sessions,” John recalled how he ended up using the classic Fender single-cutaway guitar. Asked how he started playing in the first place, the guitarist replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I loved music just like any kid, and I loved TV. I would see clips of bands playing on TV, and I was really drawn to it, for some reason. You know, it kind of picks you.”

John 5 | #019 The Kenny Aronoff Sessions

“So I was watching ‘Hee Haw’, that show back in the ’70s — I loved it, and the whole family would watch it — and this little kid got up there and played. He was a banjo champion.”

John 5 isn’t the only one who was inspired by “Hee Haw.” And this is probably why he often adds a few country-inspired licks to his works. Reflecting on this old show, he added:

“I don’t know why that impressed me so much, but it literally changed my life. It was an epiphany. I was so young, but I knew that banjo wasn’t super cool, [and] I was like, ‘I want to play guitar.'”

Exploring the Limited Edition John 5 Ghost Telecaster | Fender Artist Signature | Fender

And that’s exactly how he found out about the Telecaster. Since he was a kid, he thought this was the only shape an electric guitar can have:

“I was so little — I had to be six — and I was like, and ‘I want to play electric guitar,’ and they all were playing Telecasters, so I thought that the only shape was a Telecaster.”

When further asked if he listened to any rock bands at that point, John replied:

“It was just that in the beginning, and I was like, ‘Wow!’ My sister had Beatles records and Stones [records], but for some reason, this really made a connection to me. I asked for a guitar for Christmas, I got a guitar, and I started taking lessons right away.”

John 5 - Strung Out (Official Play Through Video)

As John further adds, this obsession with guitar still persists to this day. So much that he’ll stay up super late just so he could play guitar. He continued:

“And I was so obsessed for some reason, it was just more important than food or anything, or sleep or anything, I was just so obsessed with it. And it’s kind of what it’s like today still — if I’m busy, like doing this, I will stay up really late tonight because my wife, you know, we spend time together at night.”

“So I’ll wait ’till she goes to sleep and I’ll stay up super, super late to play tonight, you know, [laughs] but that’s just how still obsessed I am — that hunger has never gone away, which is strange.”

John 5 Can Play Anything

During the chat, John also reflected on his guitars, particularly singling out his so-called “Ghost” as the instrument that he uses the most:

“I have this new guitar — the Ghost, because the pickguard is chromed — and there’s an indent in the chrome. That’s how much I play it.”

This is a newly released model that he worked on with Fender that’s now also available for wider audiences.

Fender John 5 'Ghost' Telecaster! - The Most Awesome Telecaster Ever Made?!

When Kenny Aronoff reminded him how not a lot of guitar players in rock and metal music play a Telecaster, John replied:

“That’s because of the ‘Hee Haw’ thing,” he explained, “because I thought that was the only electric guitar.”

He also added:

“It’s like wearing a cowboy hat to a Slayer concert. It’s just weird, and I wasn’t trying to be weird. It’s just what I’ve always played.”

John 5 Live Full Set in Austin, TX, 4/28/22!

Going more into the matter, John 5 also explained that he has a fairly simple setup when going out on the road with Mötley Crüe:

“When I joined Mötley Crüe, I was like, ‘I don’t bring a lot of stuff, I just have a couple of pedals and a couple of amps.’ So I just don’t have a lot of stuff because I don’t like things to go wrong, I just like to have it very simple.”

“And even when I was rehearsing with The Creatures [his band], my tech was like, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to bring your pedal board, but I didn’t bring the backup one’. And I said, ‘It’s okay.’ So I just plugged the guitar into the head. There wasn’t one pedal, and I did it. But none of the amps are stock. I always wanted to use things that I could go to a music store, buy and play and plug in.”

"John 5 Guitar Solo & Smokin/Helter Skelter/Bop Medley" Motley Crue@Atlantic City 2/11/23

So, did the guys in Mötley Crüe fine with him using a simple setup?

“Oh, they loved it,” John explains. “They liked that I was just very simple and things like that.”

But despite that, he was still keen on giving these songs proper treatment and respecting what Mick Mars originally did. He continued:

“But with the Crüe, I was like, ‘These songs are so important to me and to millions and millions of other people, so I want to play them exactly how they were recorded’ — because people have been listening to these songs, they love these solos and these parts, and they’re so important to them.”

MÖTLEY CRÜE “Dr. Feelgood” With JOHN 5

“They’re important to me, just like you, the amazing drum parts that you wrote — not played but wrote — are so important to me and millions of other people, I think, and that’s what I wanted to — I wanted to play it just like the record.”

Photo: Tyrel Snowden (John 5)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.