Lita got her start at the age of 16 with groundbreaking all-female hard rock group The Runaways which set the stage for her ‘80s career as a platinum-selling solo artist. Watch Lita walk us through her set up, talk about her love of Black Sabbath and share amazing stories about touring with the Ramones and how Deep Purple and Rainbow guitar god Ritchie Blackmore forever influenced her playing!
VH1: What was your first guitar and where did you get it?
Lita Ford: The first guitar I ever had was a Gibson, a chocolate Gibson SG. I got a job working at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach, California. I was 14-years-old. I lied about my age and got away with it. My mother helped. And I was able to save up $350 and bought a chocolate Gibson SG because I wanted to sound like Black Sabbath.
Who was the last guitar player you saw that blew you away?
The last guitar player that I saw was on That Metal Show and that was Gary Hoey. He’s an amazing guitar player. Sometimes I think he’s underrated and people that don’t know him don’t realize how amazing he is. I think Gary Hoey would be my first choice.
What’s your favorite song to play live and why?
I just love playing live. I like to jam. I don’t have any particular favorites. But when we do do a live show, I like the part where me and my other guitar player, Mitch Perry, the two of us do a dueling guitar. That was one of my favorite things that Alice Cooper used to do in the Welcome to My Nightmare tour was where the guitar players used to come down off the top ramp and do a dueling guitar solo. So that’s probably my favorite part of the show. Although I don’t have a favorite song, just a favorite part.
Lita_Ford7[Photo Credit: Colin Douglas Gray]
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Lita_Ford8[Photo Credit: Colin Douglas Gray]
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Lita_Ford9[Photo Credit: Colin Douglas Gray]
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What gear you playing these days?
Well, I’ve got a lot of different gear that I’ve gone through. Because I started in 1975 in The Runaways, I’ve tried pretty much every amp that’s out there. I’ve tried different wah-wah pedals. I like, particularly, the Jerry Cantrell (Signature Cry Baby by Dunlop). I like it because it has a deep swoop. It doesn’t have a lot of effects. It doesn’t have a distortion—where some pedals they add different effects and they add different distortions. This pedal just gives you that really deep wah. I like the (Boss) Digital Delay 3, which is just a really basic delay. Like I said, I like the basic stuff and this is a basic delay pedal.
When I started playing in The Runaways, I didn’t have pedals. I didn’t have delays. I didn’t have wah-wahs. We didn’t have wireless units. I had to plug into the amp and learn how to actually play the guitar without stepping on pedals. So for me, I think a lot of the playing and a lot of the sound and a lot of the feel comes from the guitar player and not from the equipment so much. I like the (Marshall) JCM 800s. They’re my favorite heads. The early ‘80s I think were the best models. Kinda like a car, you know, you have your favorite car model? My favorite model for the JCM 800s were the early ‘80s. I just have those amps. I still use them today. My guitars—the (B.C. Rich) Black Widow Warlock. This one actually has a pre-amp in it. It adds distortion and it adds boost. So if you want a clean sound, I turn it off. If you want some gain and sustain, I turn it on and it makes those notes sing loud and clear. You can hold on to them for a week.
Also, when I was a kid, I met Ritchie Blackmore, and he gave me these guitar picks that not a lot of people use. This one is shaped like…we call it the home plate. And for me, I can’t play with a normal pick. These help me with the double-picking, harmonics, the little squeaks. That kind of stuff I find it difficult to do with a normal pick. When he gave me the first pick I ever owned, I kept it for an entire tour. We toured for three months with The Ramones, and I kept one pick that he gave me. I used it for the entire tour. By the time the tour was over, that pick was round. It was amazing. But it was something that stayed with me for the rest of my life. So now I’m stuck with these picks.
Is the B.C. Rich Warlock you’re playing tonight on That Metal Show your favorite guitar or do o you have a favorite guitar?
Well, this Warlock is a signature model guitar that I’ve used since the early ‘80s. This one is the original. You can buy them now. I call him Maurice. Maurice was the warlock on Bewitched (television show). It was Samantha’s father, he was a warlock, and his name was Maurice. So I named my Warlock Maurice. And this is the original; this is the one from the early ‘80s. But you can buy them through B.C. Rich or Guitar Center or your favorite guitar shop. They do sell them. Or through my website litafordonline.com.