The History of Buckethead's Gibson Guitars
Good evening everybody, whilst guitar hero Buckethead has gone through a range of guitars over the years from ESP's to Jacksons and more, there's one brand that's been a mainstay for Buckethead for over 20 years and counting. Gibson. And today we're gonna take a look back at the many variations and modifications made to Buckethead's Gibson used guitars. So, let's begin. Woo!!
Although Buckethead briefly used a Gibson SG in 1997, the first variant of the white Gibson that fans would come to know and love debuted in January 2001 in Las Vegas, at the very first show of the new Guns N Roses line-up.
The all white, Whitewash guitar, initially had the standard 22 frets, later changing to a 24 fret model a year or so later. With an ebony fretboard with no front fret markers (but on the top), black binding, covered pickups that were likely Dimarzios and had it's neck pick up tone knob replaced with a black (sometimes red) push button killswitch.
Buckethead would use the guitar throughout his days in GnR highly likely using it for the Chinese Democracy album, several solo projects, as well as recording John Carpenters 'Ghosts of Mars' soundtrack.
2003 saw either a new Gibson or a modified version of the 24 fret model, with the pickup selector being moved to the bridges tone knob. The necks volume being left blank and knob-less, although it did briefly get a star wars storm trooper knob. And the pickups were now uncovered.
Buckethead would use the guitar throughout 2003, later adding a black knob to the necks volume and adding a thicker more prominent red killswitch in 2004, which he would replace in 2005 with a smaller square killswitch.
2006 again saw either a new or modified Gibson, with the pickups being replaced, the bridge going from white to gold, and the bridges volume knob going from the standard white to black. Certainly looking a bit more professional than previous versions.
After a year away from touring in 2007, Buckethead returned to the road in 2008 and a few weeks into the tour, unveiled a brand spanking new look Gibson. With a black headstock, black pickups, two black bridge and neck knobs, gold tuners, gold truss rod cover and a gold bridge and tailpiece.
Also for the first time ever, a 2nd square killswitch button was added to the unused pickup selector slot at the top. Because 2 killswitches are better than one.
This was certainly one of bucketheads best looking Gibson variants, it might even be the best, but unfortunately (or fortunately) depending how you look at it, it would only ever be seen for his 2008 tour.
(2009) Signature Gibson
Buckethead went back on the road in 2009, again unveiling another brand new customized Gibson, reverting back to a white headstock, white pickups, white neck and bridge volume knobs and the square killswitch buttons were now replaced with the cooler looking Atari style round buttons.
Buckethead would tour from May to September that year, and one month after the tours completion Gibson announced the upcoming release of that very same guitar.
Released November 2009 the Buckethead signature series Gibson was released at a suggested retail price of $4311.
With an alpine white glossy finish, 27 inch scale instead of Gibsons usual 24.5, the pickups are Gibsons ceramic 496r for the neck and 500t for the bridge. It has a platinum tailpiece, chrome bridge, ebony fretboard with 24 frets and no front fret markings, all completed with poke your eyes out uncut guitar strings. Is it better than the previous years black and gold version, I dunno, but it is pretty damn glorious.
As a side note, when Gibson announced the release, it was noted as having a white toggle switch, which Buckethead used in 2009 and later in 2011 & 2012, however when the guitars were sent out for sale in 2009, they came with a red toggle switch. Last minute changes.
And whilst many have been critical of Gibson over the last few years and their bankruptcy and so on, they do deserve a lot of credit for their recognition of Buckethead and the release of the guitar. Well done, Gibson.
(2011) Studio Gibson
After taking a year off touring in 2010, Buckethead toured from May to October of 2011 using the signature guitar, and one month into the tour and a year and a half after the release of the Buckethead Gibson signature, Gibson released the Buckethead Studio guitar at a recommended retail price $1900, almost $2500 cheaper than the signature. Good luck finding one for that price now,
For the most part the size, scale, pickups, knobs, bridge and tailpiece were almost identical to the signature. With the main differences being the fretboard on the studio is made from maple rather than the signature's ebony. Which, personally I prefer the darker ebony look of the signature.
And the body has a satin finish rather than the signatures glossy finish, which I prefer, as the glossy tends to look more like plastic, which to me kinda make its look cheaper, even though its way more expensive.
The main difference is that over time the signature guitars with almost certainly yellow, whereas the studio satin finish with likely chip in places if played enough. Which again, I'd take a few chips and dents over a yellowed guitar.
So overall, looks wise, other than the maple fretboard, I think I prefer the cheaper studio guitar. What about you guys. Either way, both are glorious.
Throughout Buckethead's 2012 tour, he continued to use his signature Gibson, alternating between 2 signatures, with the 2nd signature having a bronze knob you'd normal see on a sunburst Gibson. Nice.
And if you're trying to spot the difference between the studio and signature live, look out for the signatures glossy shiny finish, black fretboard and the blackish-grey binding.
After almost a 4 year hiatus from touring due to ongoing back issues, Buckethead returned to touring in 2016 and for the most part opted to use the more affordable studio guitar for one of his longest tours to date, playing almost 80 shows. With a 2nd studio guitar on standby ready just in case.
Throughout Buckethead's 2017 tour with Bryan 'Brain' Mantia and Dan Monti, Buckethead continued to use the studio version Gibson, this time with the bridge's volume knob noticeably missing for the entire tour. And would continue to use the same guitar with the missing knob for two thirds of his 2018 solo tour.
Buckethead would later sell the studio guitar with the missing knob in March of 2022, which we covered in a previous video, with the guitar proven to have been used at the very least throughout 2017 and 2018 thanks to the missing knob and numerous distinct markings and dents.
For his 2019 tour, which to date is his final tour, Buckethead used another battle damaged studio Gibson that was also used toward the tail end of 2018. With the sides worn out, a scrape out of the front of the body and a very distinctive pick shaped marking or dent right above the killswitch, which is visible for almost the entire tour and parts of 2018. Play em to death.
So whatever Gibson variant Buckethead unveils next or if we see the return of a Jackson or ESP, remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, whatever guitar Buckethead plays, he'll make it sound bloody glorious.