The History of Buckethead’s Guitars
Good evening everybody, today we’ll take an extensive look at Buckethead’s glorious collection of electric guitars, acoustics and bass, covering a span of over 3 decades. We’ll find out what he used, when he used them, who he used them with and what the hell happened to them. So, let’s begin. Woo.
Buckethead has stated that he began playing guitar at aged 12 in 1981. And whilst he no doubt had an array of guitars at the time, his first visually documented guitar is the Kramer.
Which shouldn’t come as a surprise because if you were flicking through guitar magazines in the 1980’s and saw this guy with a Kramer, well, you probably would’ve bought one too.
Yep, if Edward Van Halen says it was “the best guitar you can buy today” then it probably was.
Buckethead can be seen using the guitar in February 89 during his secret recipe dvd and during Deli Creeps shows from late 1989 to 1991. Customizing it with an orange sticker with a skull on and an NFL Pittsburgh Steelers Logo.
He can also be seen holding the Kramer in the now famous December 89 issue of guitar player magazine.
And speaking of pre-bucket buckethead, there’s also footage of a certain someone using a certain Kramer guitar in 1988.
(1988 Footage Clip)
And let’s never speak of this footage again!
Buckethead almost certainly used his modified Kramer in October of 1988 when recording his first full length demo cassettes. Which would later be released in 2008 as ‘From the Coop’.
(Heartfield Talon 2)
Whilst touring as the Deli Creeps in 1991, Buckethead phased out the use of his Kramer guitar for his new Midnight Blue Heartfield Talon 2. Which was first manufactured in December 1990 for the bargain price $929.99.
And just like his Kramer guitar, Buckethead would customize his Talon 2 replacing the regular dimarzio pick-ups with pink ones.
Buckethead can be seen using the Talon 2 on the Young Buckethead DVD, notably with the Deli Creeps and during his backyard solo, where he played the song ‘I Love My Parents’ for the first time in front of his family.
(Steinberger GS – Kaisers Gift)
That same year Buckethead made a guest appearance on the album ‘Hope you like our new direction’ by musician Henry Kaiser.
When speaking about Buckethead, who was credited on the album as Brian “Buckethead” Carroll, Henry Kaiser said “I’m sure he’ll be mega famous in a few years”. Fuck yeah!
Henry Kaiser was so taken by Buckethead’s guitar super powers, that he gave Buckethead a special gift. A custom Steinberger GS guitar. Now commonly known as ‘Kaiser’s gift’.
Whilst there seems be no actual footage of Buckethead performing with the guitar, it can be seen on the back cover and booklet of the 1992 classic album ‘Transmutation’ and can also be seen in clips from his Secret Recipe DVD.
It was also later used in 2002 promotional shots for his ‘Bermuda Triangle’ album.
That same year in August, Buckethead’s website held a contest where the winner would receive the Steinberger GS guitar. The winner of the contest can be seen using the guitar on the now defunct youtube channel ‘Oriongenocide’.
(Black ESP – Skulls)
After Kaisers Gift, Buckethead’s guitar of choice, according to a June 1994 article in guitar player magazine, was a “Skull emblazoned, ESP Strat”.
Buckethead appears with the guitar in the Binge Clips VHS footage, alongside Bill ‘Choptop’ Moseley.
And whether Buckethead knew it or not, the Skulls ESP was used in the same time period by guitarist Michael Wilton of the band Queensrhyche. So much so, that ESP would eventually make a Michael Wilton signature series in 2004.
Buckethead can also be seen with the Skulls ESP during a guest spot for Bill Laswell’s band ‘Painkiller’ in 1993.
Also in 1993 Buckethead could be seen using this unidentified emerald green guitar, which as far as I’m aware, he never played live. So, what guitar is it?
The shape and 2 dots on the 24th fret looks somewhat like an Ibanez.
The truss rod on the headstock looks like the exclusive ones Gibson uses, although the body is far from a Gibson.
And ESP almost always have the ESP logo on the 12th fret, which this guitar doesn’t.
In the early 2000’s Buckethead’s website listed him as owning a Parker Fly guitar, which looks similar, although the Parker Fly never had the dots on the fretboard, unless Buckethead customized it. So, is it one of the models mentioned or something else?
From 1994 to late 95, Buckethead seemingly replaced his Skulls ESP with a plain black ESP. However, upon closer inspection, it appears that he just scrubbed or bleached the Skulls off the ESP, possibly realizing that it was also being used by a fellow guitarist.
(Ibanez X-Series Rocket Roll 550 Flying V)
Towards the end of 1995, Buckethead would begin to use one of his most beloved guitars, the Ibanez X-Series Rocket Roll 550. He used the Rocket Roll on and off from late 95 to 1999. And can be seen with the guitar during both QBerts and Primus’s DVD’s and extensively during his 97/98 live shows.
In 1996 Buckethead can be seen using a white strat in the Bootsy Collins video ‘If 6 was 9’ which Buckethead also performs on. Originally written by Jimi Hendrix, Buckethead is paying tribute to Hendrix by using a left handed strat, upside down. Because Hendrix famously used a regular right handed strat, upside down. Ya know?
And while Buckethead never used the white strat from ‘If 6 was 9’ he did use a sunburst strat for a handful of shows in mid-1997.
Also in 1997 Buckethead used an Angus Young style Gibson SG, which just like the Sunburst Strat was short lived, possibly only used for one show, of which there is seemingly no footage, only audio.
In early1996 Buckethead debuted his purple ESP MV. Using it for Deli Creeps shows and some spectacular Giant Robot shows.
Unfortunately the purple ESP MV was short lived, only lasting around 4 months, and that was not by choice.
In April of 96, Buckethead made a 2 night guest appearance for the aforementioned Henry Kaiser and guitarist Mike Keneally. According to Keneally, backstage on the second night, Buckethead was showing off his ESP MV, saying how he was excited about using the guitar on an upcoming project with the late great, Shawn Lane. And then later that night..
(Buckethead Breaks guitar)
Yep, Buckethead broke the headstock off his new guitar. Fuck.
Accordingly to Keneally Buckethead was inconsolable backstage, slowly shaking his head and saying “no..no” over and over. Poor Buckethead.
And in an ironic twist of fate, the name of the band that Henry Kaiser and Mike Keneally performed under that night was called, ‘The Mistakes’. Sigh, Mistakes indeed.
Shortly after breaking his guitar, Buckethead replaced his ESP MV with a similar looking ESP M2. Using it throughout the remainder or 1996 and 1997.
(ESP M2-Air Jordan)
In 1998, just like many of his previous guitars Buckethead modified his ESP M2 adding stickers, tags and colored pickups. Turning the ESP M2 into the epic ESP ‘Air Jordan’.
The Air Jordan would become one of Bucketheads most recognizable guitars, and in the mid 2000’s was given to the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood, Florida. As of 2018 the guitar was still at the hard rock, however, the resort was recently remodeled into a guitar shaped hotel & casino. So, hopefully Buckethead’s Air Jordan still remains.
(Unknown Devil Dub Green)
In January of 1999, Buckethead performed a handful of shows with the band Ben Wa, who’s excellent album Devil Dub Buckethead performs on. During the shows Buckethead used what appears to be a green Strat, which he never used again.
(Jackson Coopwood Y2KV)
In mid 1999 Buckethead began using the gloriously looking Jackson Coopwood Y2KV. Using it throughout his 99 tour with Primus, notably during the Ozzfest festival.
He also used it for ‘The Ballad of Buckethead’ music video, as well on front cover and promotional material for his classic album ‘Monsters & Robots’.
The Jackson Coopwood also appears to be the first guitar that Buckethead had the now famous killswitch installed. Before this, Buckethead would often toggle the on/off swich to get the now distinct sound.
Just like the Air Jordan ESP, the Coopwood guitar was given to a hard rock café in Palm Springs, California in the mid 2000’s. Then, in 2018 that same hard rock café shut down and was replaced by the Hotel Zoso. So whether Hard Rock moved the guitar to another venue or Zoso bought it is sadly unknown.
(Jackson Double Neck)
To go along with his Jackson Coopwood, Buckethead also had a custom Jackson Double Neck made. Half bass, half guitar. He can be seen using the double neck one time during a December 2000 show with Faith No More’s Mike Patton.
16 years later in March 2016, the double neck was put up for sale by Buckethead for $16,500. It’s unclear whether the guitar actually sold as nobody has ever claimed it, so more than likely it’s still in the possession of its master.
(Jackson KV2 KFC Custom)
Another Jackson that Buckethead acquired in 1999 was the iconic looking Jackson KV2 KFC custom. Buckethead used the KFC custom extensively from 2000 to 2002, including reunion shows with Maximum Bob, Solo shows, Bonnaroo with Les Claypool and of course the majority of his shows with Guns N Roses.
Long time Buckethead producer Travis Dickerson has stated that the KFC and Coopwood guitars were used during recording, including both Cobra Strike and Chicken Noodles albums.
Travis also stated that Buckethead used his brothers 1969 Les Paul and his Black Telecaster during recording.
As well as using the KFC guitar during his Guns N Roses stint, Buckethead also used a Yamaha AES920 for a number of GNR shows.
There’s also this photo which appears to show Buckethead using the Yamaha backstage during the GNR days. Where the photo is from, I don’t know and could only trace it back to 2007, so if anyone knows, let us know.
(Sunburst Les Paul)
Another rarely used guitar that Buckethead broke out during his GNR days, was the Sunburst Les Paul with no fret markings. Used during GnR’s appearance at the 2002 VMA awards, 3 days after I’d seen Buckethead live for the first time in London.
Buckethead’s website has also previously stated that he owns a 1959 Les Paul custom which he “used on several Bill Laswell projects”.
On January 1st 2001 during the New Guns N Roses first show, Buckethead debuted what would be a familiar site for years to come, a white Gibson Les Paul.
Buckethead would use this guitar almost exclusively right up to 2009, replacing it occasionally in 2008 with a black headstock model with 2 square killswitches.
Then in November 2009 Gibson released their 27 inch scale Buckethead Les Paul signature series. Complete with red arcade style killswitches. Fucking glorious.
Buckethead would use the Signature Series guitar on tour up until 2012.
In June of 2011 Gibson also released the Buckethead Les Paul Studio guitar, which Buckethead has used on tour from 2016 to the present.
The majority of people who have tested and compared the two guitars seem to agree that other than the neck colour and price difference, they pretty much sound the same.
Of all his guitars, the Gibson Les Paul has been used for the longest time period, and it’s almost certain that he used it to record the majority of his albums from the early 2000’s to the present.
Next up is Bucketheads acoustic guitars, and because acoustics just aren’t as cool as electric I’m gonna give these a brief overview.
His 90’s acoustic of choice was the Gibson Chet Atkins with nylon strings. He used it on tour in the late 90’s and more than likely used it to record his classic album ‘Colma’ . He also used this model in the late 2000’s for several shows.
Buckethead also used a Takamine EAN40C which he purchased whilst on tour in Japan in early 1999.
Then there’s the Crafter D8 that Buckethead used as practice for sets, which was auctioned off for $1700 after his 2008 tour.
There’s also the Yamaha CPX Compass Series which he used on tour in 2005, and famously used in the guitar one lesson DVD.
(1996 model Vigier Excess Bass)
And then there’s Buckethead bass guitars, which there’s really only one worth mentioning, the 1996 Vigier Excess. Buckethead has used this bass for well over a decade, starting in the late 1990’s. He even has the same piece of tape stuck on the body. Excellent.
And last but not least, now and then Buckethead has been known to rock the Banjo. Playing it during live shows and releasing the somewhat haunting Banjo album ‘Spinal Cracker’. And because Banjo is not my forte, if you know any of the Banjo he used or can read what the hell this brand name is, then feel free to list them below.
As you’ve seen in this video, Buckethead has used a vast amount of guitars throughout his illustrious career, so, which guitar is your personal favourite? For me, I’m gonna have to go with the obvious, the KFC KV2. Woo!