What’s one guitar or piece of equipment that you wish you owned that you don’t?
We’re about to swan dive into the arena of heartbreak. My very first Byrdland I bought in 1965 from Lyle Gillman at the Roselle School of Music, whom I continue to keep in touch with to this day. It was a $1,000 when I didn’t have a pot to piss in. We didn’t make any money playing and I only got $5 to cut the damn lawn. But he let me take it with the down payment of my Epiphone Casino and $100 and pay it off somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 a month for the next few years. So we were at the Detroit Rock Festival at the Detroit State Fair Grounds with Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad and Johnny and Edgar Winter and The MC5 and The Rationals and The Scott Richards Case and Iggy and the James Gang, all the best bands that ever lived. I used to wear these long-fringe suits with The Amboy Dukes with these wild-ass headdresses and polar bear hats — those big, white, furry hats—and I would find myself at these multiple crescendos every night, especially toward the last song where I’d whip my guitar and I’d bow to my guitar and I’d fling my guitar and I’d catch my guitar and I’d hump my guitar and I’d eat my guitar. And the Gibson Byrdland made these howling, tortured guitar, animal dying sounds, and I’d lean it against the wall of six Fender Twins and six Dual Showmans and the noises that came out of it were just beautiful. I could hardly stand myself. And of course it just shocked and stunned and amazed all the people in the audience. And I was an athletic son of a bitch back then, and I would literally charge my amps and do a high jump over them, head first. Well, the fringe got caught and curtailed my jumping abilities at that moment and I crashed into the amps and they all came tumbling down and destroyed my original Byrdland. I took it to (famed guitar repairman) Danny Erlewine and I brought it to him in a box because it was just crushed. And of course it was a tender guitar anyhow with a hand-carved arch and spruce top—it’s not very formidable. And I was shattered. I mean, it was in pieces. And he said, “I don’t think so.” And I go, “Well, do what you can.” And then I went out and got another Byrdland, thank God, from Joe Massimino from Massimino Music—a sunburst, a beautiful guitar. The reason this is the answer to your question is because that original Byrdland, like a complete, deranged, brain-dead fool, I gave it to the Hard Rock Café because it didn’t play anymore and I wasn’t into nostalgia. I am a pragmatic, utilitarian guy. And if I got a gun and it doesn’t work, why should I keep it? What an idiotic mistake that was.
And I’m not done yet. I designed a Byrdland for Gibson in Kalamazoo in ’72 or ’73 and they built me a white Byrdland with 3 pick-ups and a varia-tone. And because of their abandonment of quality control, it played like dog sh**. Just sounded terrible. The pick-ups sucked. The neck was bad. The paint job was like Earl Scheib. I was like, “What is this? Why won’t it make the sounds? Why would it do this?” But that thing is worth a half a million dollars today and I gave it to a German radio station for a giveaway contest.
And then, I’m not done yet—I had Gibson Kalamazoo make me another one in a walnut finish with my name in pearl on the neck. And then because it didn’t play for shit, I traded it in for a machine gun. Now some would say that’s not that dumb of an idea. But not for that guitar. There’s no machine gun in the world worth that guitar. So there’s 3 Byrdlands that I don’t have anymore.
And I ain’t f**king done yet. My Byrdland that I played on so many of my masterpieces—a dear friend’s wife wanted to give it to him. He’s a huge music fan, a guitar playing maniac—his dream was to get a Ted Nugent Byrdland. And because the pickups were corroded and I was now getting into the Les Pauls PRSs more, and I had all the Byrdlands I wanted and I was not aware of the value of some of these vintage instruments, much less Ted Nugent’s vintage instruments with the wood-burning name on the back and the number, I sold it to him for $2,500. Are you kidding me? Luckily I know this young man and we revitalized it and I had it on tour with me the last couple of years. He needed some money and I gave him a loan, and talk about a man of honesty, I actually gave it back to him when he gave me back the loan. I should have just kept the little f**ker. And he’s got it and he loves it. So there’s four Byrdlands and the fact that I don’t have them is an indictment that in this otherwise brilliant, smart, street-savvy American, is an idiot.