In The Style of Robbie Robertson

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

Very few guitarists have been able to go down in history either because of their own work fronting their own band or for their session work in the studio and tours with other artists. Today we come across one of the clearest examples of this race of musicians, Mr. Robbie Robertson, who deserves a spot on our pedestal just for accompanying Bob Dylan at the height of his career, and that’s saying a lot, but besides that, we must add his own career together with The Band, one of the most significant groups at the end of the 60s and 70s in the U.S.A., and a band who created that sound we like so much, labelled back in the day as ‘Americana’.

In addition, and greatly appreciated, very few times throughout all the weeks we have been looking at the gear of some of our heroes in this section “In the style of…” has it been so easy to find information as on today’s protagonist, on whose webpage can we find details and photos of the guitars, amps, pedals he has used throughout his extensive career, and is currently using.

So, we can begin by talking about his Martin D28 from 1951, with which he recorded perhaps his most representative song The Weight, and by the way, it’s not the only D28 he has, since he added another to his collection from 1971. Of course it’s not the only model from this brand nor the oldest now that he has in his possession a 000 45 from 1928, a 0042 from 1901, and a 0045 from 1919, a model that just happens to have a ‘signature’ series with this American brand.  

But as you all know, Robertson wasn’t just about acoustic guitars, but also more pointedly his electric rock sound that earned him jeers after jeers in his first concerts with Bob Dylan when many folk fans still hadn’t understood that “the times they were a changin’”. In fact, one of the guitars that make up his collection is a ‘65 Fender Telecaster that Dylan himself used on the Going Electric tour, and which Robertson used live and in the studio on countless occasions. And beyond the Fender sound so characteristic of The Band’s lead guitarist, we must add the sounds of his Gibson ES 335 or his 1959 Danelectro. However, if there is a guitar that we can link to this player it’s the Fender Stratocaster, of course greatly modified, yet always with respect to the original model. So we arrive to his most legendary model, the ‘54 Stratocaster without a middle pickup, and with a Humbucker in the bridge position as well as replacing the original volume/tone controls for Telecaster ones.   

Regarding his amps, it’s also clear about his fondness for the Fender brand, those being models like the Harvard, the Twin or the Fender Champ as his chosen few.

And to get the best performance from these amps he used many Lovetone pedals but also there are many classics on his pedalboard such as the Fat Boost or the Supra Trem by Fulltone, the Ibanez Tubescreamer, and some lesser known pedals like the Electro Harmonix Freeze and one of the best wahs we have ever tried: the Buddah Wah.   

This is a short list of Robbie Robertson’s gear, a guitarist who would have been big on his own, but had the luck to become Dylan’s lead guitarist which ended up making him a legend in another much better dimension and as we highlighted at the start, he gives us a detailed spread of all his gear on his webpage, something we greatly appreciate in this section.

Find you own way to the tone of Robbie Robertson