Rarely will we have the opportunity in this section to talk about
such a special relationship between a guitar and the man who plays it. Mainly
because in this particular case the man who plays it is the same man who
designed and built it at the tender age of 17.
That's what a young musician named Brian May and his father did in the free time they both shared, and with a single purpose: to create an instrument that would at least be the equal of all those guitars from renowned brands that neither father nor son could afford to buy.
The entire career of a band called Queen is the answer to the question of whether they managed to achieve that goal.
To talk about Brian May's equipment is to talk about an artisan guitar called the 'Red Special'. Father and son not only sought excellence in the materials they used but their design is still innovative today, more than 50 years after its construction.
Those quality materials were not purchased but recycled from old woods about to be discarded: like the frame of a 100 year old chimney to make the neck, or the parts salvaged from old oak tables to make the body. Apart from that, the May's made use of almost anything that was around the house and whose price was zero or close to nothing, such as the mother-of-pearl buttons of his wife and mother that ended up embedded as dots on the fretboard.
Once the ‘furniture’ was assembled they had to get some microphones to get all the juice out of those woods and Brian opted for some Burns Tri sonics, which he probably tweaked to his liking. With those three pickups and the innovative system he created for them, with an on/off button for each one and another to change their phase, he managed to extract from that guitar - 'similar' in composition to a Stratocaster - many more possibilities than the three sounds that could be taken out of the Fender series at that time.
Once finished and tuned the final sound of Brian May’s guitar was thanks to Rory Gallagher who suggested the addition of two other elements that have accompanied May throughout his career to this day. The first of them is the Vox AC30, through which the sound of his guitar has always emerged, and the second the Dallas RangeMaster, a pedal that leaving aside Chorus and delays effects, became everything he needed to create the whole palette of sounds of the early Queen and that later was replaced by other versions of the same type of pedal such as the KAT STB, which hangs on each of his bandanas, a piece of equipment that is very similar to the Greg Fryer Trebble Booster.
Whoever has been a faithful follower of this section will know that the RangeMaster and AC30 were the hallmark of Rory Gallagher on his time with Taste, a band and especially a guitarist that Brian May has never stopped admiring and claiming as one of his greatest influences. May has stated that it was Rory Gallagher himself who advised him to get his hands on all this equipment to make the most of his 'Red Special'.
So this is the story of a guitar that has recorded each and every one of Queen's albums and virtually all of their ‘live’ recordings and live performances and that, today with the band experiencing a rebirth of their legacy, is still the main guitar of the man who used just ‘the leftovers’ of everything around him because he had no money for anything else.
It cost him about ten pounds to create that instrument. Partly thanks to it, and above all to his talent, he is one of the greatest legends in our world and currently has a personal fortune estimated at more than 200 million dollars...What he doesn't want to do is to change his guitar.