Robin Trower Explains Why He Switched from Gibson to Fender

Robin Trower, blues rock guitar legend, looked back on his early career days and explained how he ended up abandoning Gibson guitars for Fenders. As Trower recalled in a recently published interview with the Guitarist magazine, this decision was actually impacted by Jethro Tull legend Martin Barre.

It was when his band Procol Harum was opening for Tull that he saw Barre use a Fender Strat. Although these were the early 1970s, Trower never really got the chance to play one of these. He remembered the occasion and said:

“I discovered them when I was in Procol Harum when we were opening up on a UK tour for Jethro Tull. Their guitarist, Martin Barre, had a Strat as his second guitar and it was on the stage one day when we were getting ready to soundcheck and I picked it up and plugged it into my amp.”

Rig Rundown - Robin Trower

As Robin also added, he felt like it was “very rude” to do this because he didn’t ask Barre first and just plugged his guitar anyway. But rude or not, Trower found a guitar model that he eventually stuck with for many years to come. He added:

“Immediately, I thought, ‘I like the voicing of that…’ It had such a different voice to the Gibson I was using at the time.”

But what about his Gibson guitars? Well, you’ll rarely ever find a photo of him playing one but he was known for his ’68 SG and a Les Paul Special from the 1960s. But up until this point, SG has been his main axe.

ROBIN TROWER - Bridge Of Sighs (1974 UK TV Appearance) ~ HIGH QUALITY HQ ~

As Trower then recalls, he abandoned his Gibson and just went on to become one of the most famous Stratocaster players in the genre:

“Once I had the Strat, even though I still had the Gibson I’d been using, I only used the Strat. I think I left the Gibson at home.”

Even after all these decades, Gibson and Fender debates are still more than present among guitar players. However, these days, there’s an abundance of brands so there are always alternatives to choose from.

Robin Trower guitars and gear

Back in Procol Harum’s heyday, this wasn’t really the case. You were stuck with either Gibson or Fender guitars and you could occasionally stumble upon a Gretsch or a Rickenbacker as they weren’t all that present on the market.

Back in those days, we could safely say that active guitar players were split evenly into Fender and Gibson “camps,” so to speak. And, interestingly enough, you’d hear favorable arguments going both ways. Some were swearing by Gibson guitars while others just couldn’t help but go with Fenders instead.

For instance, Snowy White, a guitar legend known for his work with Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, and many others, always preferred Gibson Les Paul guitars over Fender Stratocasters. In an interview from earlier this year, White discussed his famous Goldtop Les Paul and also recalled his impressions of Fender Strats. When asked what he didn’t like about Fender’s legendary dual-cutaway model, he replied:

“Everything. I didn’t like the weight of it. I didn’t like the sound – I couldn’t get the sounds I wanted out of it. Plus, I felt it felt it was a bit flimsy. I started hitting my guitar pretty hard, and I didn’t think the Strat could handle it. I also liked that warm Les Paul sound, which is the main reason I wanted the thing. So, it was an easy decision for all those reasons.”

Robin Trower - Big Voice Sound

But then there’s a guy like Michael Landau who always preferred Stratocasters over anything else. In his interview from earlier this year, he praised Strats by saying:

“It just comes down to *that* body and *those* contours. Strats are like the ultimate couch guitar and that’s probably where I’ve done most of my playing over the years! They just seem to fit. I love the balance, too.”

On the other hand, was never that happy about Gibsons. Landau added:

“Sometimes a Gibson can get a little top or bottom heavy. I find Fenders always play great if you get them set up right.”

ROBIN TROWER - Alathea (1975 UK TV Performance) ~ HIGH QULAITY HQ ~

As we said, to this day, you’ll have people praising one or the other and there still seem to be very few of those who are undecided or just think that both options have their advantages. Fortunately, we have so many alternatives these days that utilize the advantages of both Fenders and Gibsons and even take them to a whole new level.

Photo: Sardognunu (Robin Trower Liri Blues 2005)

  • 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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