Brian May (born July 19, 1947), the lead guitarist and occasional singer of the rock band, Queen, is undoubtedly one of the greatest guitarists in the world. Anyone who is a fan of him may also be familiar with his signature piece, The Red Special, which he has referred to as the “Fireplace” or the “Old Lady.” Apart from the RS, he has also used plenty of other guitars including Fenders, Gibsons and Les Pauls during his glittering career.
Today, we are here with a list of 10 guitars May has turned to.
1. The Red Special
This is May’s most iconic guitar that he and his father designed and built while he was a teenager. He used the guitar throughout his Queens era. He has used the guitar on almost all Queen albums and in live performances since the band’s formation in the early 70s. Detailing its construction & history, he released a book, Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-Made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World, on its 50th anniversary in 2014.
2. John Birch RS Special
It is the replica of the Red Special, which was made by John Birch in 1975 and was used in the famous We Will Rock You music video. The guitar had the same pickups as the RS, but it didn’t sound like the original one, and he didn’t like it. May used the guitar until he smashed it during a 1982 concert in the US and sent it to John Page. Page kept the guitar for over two decades and send it back to May. Then, he had the guitar restored by Andrew Guyton and still owns it.
3. Gibson Flying V
May started using the Flying V as a backup for his RS after he smashed up John Birch RS Replica in 1982. The guitar had tobacco sunburst finish with white binding and two exposed humbuckers.
4. Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
May isn’t satisfied with any guitars other than his RS special. He started using Gibson Les Paul Deluxe during the 1974-75 tour. However, the guitar, which he used in replacement of Stratocaster/Vox AC30 combo, also led him to disappointment, and he ordered John Birch replica as a backup.
5. 1978 Fender Telecaster
May used this Telecaster to play the solo on Queen’s 1979 song, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. He performed with this guitar for the first time at the RDS Arena in Dublin on the Crazy Tour in November 1979.
6. Ovation Pacemaker 1615
It’s the main acoustic guitar used for studio recording and live. He owns a couple of them, he and Freddie played one each live for Crazy Little Things Called Love. He also used the guitars on Love of my Life and ’39.’
7. Guild 12-Spring
He currently has a Guild 12-String as a replacement for the Ovation. Most notably, he used it while touring with Paul Rodgers in 2004.
8. 1950s Fender Stratocaster
May carried it as a backup on tour between 1972 and 1973.
9. Hairfed Acoustic
May used this in his very early days around the late 60s and early 70s. It was one of the very first acoustics he owned. Dave Dilloway, who played the bass in May’s first band, 1984, from 1964 to 1968, and gave the guitar to May in the exchange of his Egmond Student, the guitar he learned to play on.
10. Brian May Skull Guitar
You can see him using this guitar in Queen’s music video, It’s A Hard Life. It was made for him by a films prop company. Throughout the years, there have been a multitude of replicas of his “Old Lady” built by both professionals and amateurs. As of 2004, the commercial Red Special replicas are available at shop.brianmayguitars.co.uk.