Snowy White Explains What He Disliked About Fender Stratocasters and Why He Preferred Gibson Les Pauls

Legendary rock guitar player Snowy White spoke up on his preferences for Gibson Les Paul guitars and why he wasn’t always fond of Fender Stratocasters. Best known for his work with Thin Lizzy, Roger Waters, and occasional session gigs with Pink Floyd and the band’s individual members, White sat down with Guitar World to discuss the specifics of his 6-string tastes. When asked about his famous Goldtop Les Paul and how he got it, White replied:

“I came upon the Goldtop while I was in Sweden with my first band, Train. I’d moved there when I was just 17, and at the time, I’d been playing a Strat that my parents had given me when I was 10. Anyway, we were rehearsing, and the drummer in Train knew that I’d been yearning for a Les Paul and that I didn’t like the Strat.

Snowy White talks about his iconic 1957 Goldtop Standard Les Paul guitar

“So, he said, ‘Listen, I’ve got a friend who has had this Les Paul under his bed for ages, and he’s thinking of selling it. Shall I put you in touch?’ I was quite excited to hear this, and I said, ‘Go on then, let’s have a look.’ So, I did, and this guy pulled the guitar out from under his bed, and as fate would have it, there was my Les Paul.”

So what was it about the legendary single-cutaway body shape and other features of Les Pauls that made him become one of their most famous users? He says:

“Now, I have to say, I don’t really know anything about guitars [laughs]. All I knew then is what I know now – I wanted a Les Paul. I loved how they looked and thought they sounded much better than my Strat. When I picked it up, as I suspected, it sounded alright, so I swapped him my Strat and £120 for the Les Paul.

Snowy’s Note – Snowy White Teaches His Guitar Who’s Boss // On The Wall Tour With Roger Waters

“I think I borrowed some money from my dad when I was last in England, and my Swedish girlfriend put some money towards it, too. I was lucky because it turned out to be a fantastic guitar. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time… For all I knew, it could have been rubbish [laughs].”

Another thing Snowy White was known for is that he wasn’t particularly fond of Fender Stratocasters. When asked what was it about them that he didn’t like, he simply said “Everything” and then added:

“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.”

Snowy White Another Brick in the Wall, Part II awesome Guitar Solo

As young White’s career progressed, he got more and more into Les Pauls. But how did they end up shaping his tone overall? It may not be the simplest question to answer but he offered:

“That’s hard to say because all I did was fiddle with the amplifier until I got a sound I liked. But I knew that Peter Green had his pickups installed incorrectly, giving him a special sound. I liked that, but Pete’s guitar was sort of permanently like that, and I didn’t want that all the time, so I added a switch on mine that would put it out of phase. So, I had a whole range of nice, subtle changes of time to play with.”

“The sounds I was after were warm and not too distorted. I wanted that nice, warm tone, but it had to be fairly clean. I also wanted it to stay in the middle range, with just a touch of reverb to sweeten it up as I wanted.

Snowy White and Friends - Slabo Day (2012) / official live video

“I guess I was always searching for what I’ll call a ‘sweet tone,’ which is not always so obvious or easy to describe. It’s a sound with just the right amount of treble and reverb, and not very distorted at all.”

And what was the earliest recording with his trusty 1957 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul? White recalls:

“Oh, that’s a good question. Nobody’s ever asked me that before. I did a session for a singer called Linda Lewis; the girlfriend of a friend called Jim Cregan. She was doing a recording and asked me if I would come in and play on a few things.

Thin Lizzy Rockpalast with Snowy White

“Not too long after I arrived in Sweden, it became apparent that I needed to be in London if I wanted to do anything. So, I went to London, and soon after that – in 1969 – I met Jim and his girlfriend, Linda Lewis. And several years later, Linda was recording her album, ‘Not a Little Girl Anymore‘ – that was the first session I used the Goldtop on.”

Over the years, White had some of the most impressive collaborations in the world of rock music. It’s pretty safe to say that he’s one of the most underrated greats within the genre.

Two studio albums with Thin Lizzy and a single appearance on Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album — although just on a special 8-track cartridge release — are more than enough to refer to him as “legendary.” However, White also played with Roger Waters’ live band, Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright, and even as a live member for Pink Floyd.

Photos: Adrian Buss (Snowy White), Martin Taylor (Fender Highway 1 Stratocaster)

  • 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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