It might be that many of us could admit, perhaps after many beers, that
sometimes we have allowed ourselves to be more influenced by the legend or
history of one or another model or aesthetic of a guitar before its sound at
the moment of taking one home with us… Well, fine; this is something that has
never happened to this week’s hero: Ry Cooder.
We say this because while investigating a little the equipment that the Californian has used for decades it is very difficult to see a single guitar that he has not changed - or changed almost completely - to find what he has been looking for, and perfecting all these decades what has made Ry Cooder the legend that he is: his tone. We may find in this article a guitar that is more or less recurrent, but believe me if I assure you that it would not sound anything like it did the day it left the factory.
Let's start with what was probably his first electric guitar, a beautiful 1967 Fender Stratocaster in blue daphne ... So far everything seems normal, right? Well, let's start: he installed a Bigsby, modified its bridge, removed the middle pickups, changed the neck pickup for a Guyatone from the 60s, and the bridge for a pickup from a steel guitar – just to mention a few of the modifications. And we may think that maybe he chose this Strat out of pure necessity, since he completely transformed it into a new guitar but it is not like that. Something he must have liked about the Stratocaster furniture because he has another, also from the 60's, which he has even transformed aesthetically; not to mention that it does not retain any of its original pickups, which he replaced by one from a lap-steel on the bridge and a Teisco on the neck.
But let's not forget that Ry Cooder is almost better known for his acoustic facet than for his work with the electric and here we do find a pair of guitars in the same state in which his factories brought them to the world, specifically a Martin 000-18, with which according to his luthier he recorded Paris, Texas and a Gibson SJ200 that we see in the Buena Vista Social Club documentary.
But it should also be noted before finishing that the guitarist behind Willin' by Little Feat, Sister Morphine by the Rolling Stones and Chan, chan by Compay Segundo, to name three of his innumerable contributions to the music of the Twentieth century, probably feels as happy today with a mandolin or a lute in his hands as with a guitar of only six strings. That is the product of so many years looking for new experiences through music, whether it has been interpreting it, composing it, producing it or simply enjoying it.