Billie Joe Armstrong’s Guitars and GearPublished : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
Billie’s Bio and Short Gear Summary
Billie Joe Armstrong was born on February 17, 1972, in Oakland, California. He is an American rock musician and occasional actor, best known as the lead vocalist, chief songwriter, and lead guitarist for the American punk rock band Green Day.
He is also a guitarist and vocalist for the rock band Pinhead Gunpowder and sings for garage rock band Foxboro Hot Tubs when not working with Green Day.
Billie’s favorite guitar is a Fernandes Stratocaster which he nicknamed “Blue”. It is the first guitar he ever bought, and over the years he decorated it with various stickers and equipped it with a couple of different pickups.
He also uses a number of different Gibson Les Paul Junior guitars. Among the more important ones are the one nicknamed “Floyd”, a black one with a Mary sticker, and his own signature LP Junior produced by Gibson since 2018.
As for the acoustics, Billie mostly uses a Gibson J-180 in full black color. In the past, he occasionally picked a Guitar or a Taylor and didn’t seem to have a set preference.
For amps, Billie relied on quite a few different models, but the most important to mention here is the Marshall Plexi 1959SLP nicknamed “Pete”. This amp had the famous Bradshaw Gain Mod, and Billie used it during the “Dookie” era (1994), and most of the studio sessions with the band.
List of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Billie Joe Armstrong
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Electric Guitars
Fernandes RST-50 Stratocaster “Blue”
This was Billie’s first electric guitar. He got it as a present for his 11th birthday from his mother who bought it from George Cole (Beatnik Beatch).
Before Billie got his hands on it, the guitar belonged to David Margen who played with Santana.
Billie’s Stratocaster is not an actual Fender, but a Fernandes. It is finished in what appears to be a similar finish to Fender’s Daphne Blue.
Over the years, Billie decorated the guitar with various stickers, which became its most distinguishing feature.
In the early years, the Strat had a Bill Lawrence humbucking pickup in the bridge position, but that one was replaced by a white Seymour Duncan JB after it was damaged at Woodstock ’94.
In the most recent years, Billie most likely switched to a Duncan JB SH-4 – since that’s what he uses in a lot of his guitars.
1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior “Floyd”
This is Billie’s main and favorite LP Junior, which he nicknamed “Floyd”. He bought this guitar in 2000 just before recording the album Warning.
I bought my 1956 Jr. Floyd in 2000 right before we started recording Warning. I picked it up at a guitar show in San Rafael. I could tell right away it was special. At the time I was playing mostly Fenders and this Jr. was a completely different guitar from anything I had played before.Billie Joe Armstrong – Gibson.com Interview
The guitar features a dark sunburst single-cutaway body and a single vintage P-90 pickup in the bridge position.
As of the most recent years, the Floyd is officially retired, and Billie never uses it for live performances. He considers the guitar to be too precious for stage use.
1959 Gibson Les Paul Junior
Based on the frequency of use, this is Billie’s second favorite Les Paul Junior, and perhaps the most recognizable one.
This one too features a single Antiquity P-90 pickup in a bridge position, fitted into a black-colored body.
Over the years, Billie put a significant wear patch above the pickguard and added a Mary sticker just behind the bridge.
Gibson Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior Doublecut
Billie apparently has more than 20 Les Paul Juniors, most of them from the 50s, either black or of TV-cream – with double and single cutaway bodies.
So it’s hard to sometimes tell whether the guitar he is playing is a special one, that he keeps using, or whether they are a couple of different guitars, all looking the same.
I just love that guitar, they are so fu*king cool man. And all of them have great quality.The Official Reverb Green Day Garage Sale
However, one Les Paul Junior that is important to mention here is the first version of the Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior, produced only for a year, between 2012 and 2013.
This guitar featured a glossy yellow finish on a double-cutaway Les Paul Junior body. The body and neck were made of Mahogany, while the fretboard itself was Rosewood.
As far as unique features, it had a black pickguard with a skull design embedded into it, and a specially designed pickup called the H-90, which Gibson designed just for Billie’s taste.
Fender Telecaster Custom
This guitar is a custom-made model assembled by Billie’s technician as a backup guitar for the “Blue” Strat.
It features a black Telecaster body, Flat Mount bridge, white WD pickguard, Duncan JB SH-4, and simplified controls (volume only).
Billie has a bunch of these ready to use and often gives them away to fans and friends.
Billie can be seen using this guitar in the music video for the song “Redundant”. Interesting to note that in the video, it appears that Billie had issues with the strap button, so he just taped the guitar strap directly to the guitar.
The guitar is likely an early 90s model. It is finished in red, and it features two P-100 pickups.
Also worth mentioning here is that in more recent years, Billie has seen using a completely white ES-135. According to his guitar tech, this guitar was custom-made by Gibson for Billie and is one of a kind.
Gibson ES-335 (Black, Dot)
Billie was seen using this guitar live around 2009.
From the looks of it, the guitar appears to be just a regular ES-335 finished in black, with two of the tone knobs removed.
Also, Billie added two stickers on it – one of a clown and the other simply reading “9”.
Fender Stratocaster (Class 13)
This is another guitar that Billie was seen playing around 2009. From the looks of it, it appears to be just a basic Fender Stratocaster with some modifications.
Billie added a humbucker pickup in the bridge position, similar to what he did on his main guitar – the blue Fernandes Stratocaster, and removed the lacquer from the fretboard.
He also possibly replaced the original bridge saddles with the more modern, blocky ones, and added a sticker reading “Class 13” behind the bridge.
Most likely, Billie acquired this guitar as a backup for his main Strat.
Gibson Les Paul Special DC (White, Skull)
This was one of Billie’s main touring guitars in 2010, but according to Billie’s tech, the guitar was with them since 2005.
This guitar was originally issued in 2005 and it took Billie and I almost two years of prototyping to get Gibson to make a Jr just like they used to make them back in the 50’s.Gibson BJA Signature Les Paul Special Electric Guitar Owned By Billie Joe Armstrong Of Green Day
The guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Special double-cutaway model finished in white, featuring a tortoise pickguard, and a skull design spray-painted behind the bridge.
According to the auction page from the 2017 Green Day sale on Reverb (see the source to the quote above), this was actually sort of a prototype for the 2012 Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Jr. model.
Maton 1958 MS500 50th Anniversary
Billie was seen touring with this guitar around 2013.
Based on what can be concluded from photos, Billie’s Maton is the MS500 50th Anniversary model, since it has a custom inlay on the 12th fret. This is a model released by Maton to celebrate 50 years from when the MS500 first became available.
The guitar features a solid quandong wood body, which is a type of wood native to Australia where Maton is based. The neck is made of Queensland maple, while the fretboard is Indian rosewood.
The pickups in the guitar are Maton’s Vintage Humbucker in the bridge, and Vintage Single Coil in the neck position.
Billie acquired this guitar around 2013, and since then has often used it on stage.
The guitar is mostly stock, with two “Hi-Gain” single-coil pickups. The only thing that Billie had modified on the guitar are the controls – he had all of them removed aside from the main volume knob.
At first, he had the holes that were left over covered with black tape, but it seems that in the more recent years he had someone make a custom pickguard for the guitar, which solved this problem.
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Acoustic Guitars
Gibson Billie Joe Armstrong J-180
This is Billie’s main acoustic guitar, widely used ever since its release in 2011.
The guitar is styled after the J-180 Everly Brothers model. As opposed to that guitar, in terms of visual differences, the BJA J-180 has a normal-shaped bridge and slightly different fretboard inlays. Also, the pickguards are not black but feature a tortoiseshell pattern.
In terms of woods used, the guitar has Sitka spruce top with Eastern maple back and sides, and a mahogany neck with an Indian rosewood fingerboard.
The J-180 is amplified with the Fishman Matrix VT preamp and piezo pickup system.
1970 Martin D-41
Billie purchased this guitar in Hollywood while recording the 21st Century Breakdown album in 2008/09. The guitar ended up being used on the track “21 Guns”.
In 2017, Billie put this guitar on auction through Reverb, and it ended up selling for $5,950. You can check out the auction page here – Martin D041 Acoustic Guitar Owned By Billie Joe Armstrong Of Green Day
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Guitar Amps:
Peavey Musician 400 Series
Seen on a photo featured on the vinyl edition of the 39/Smooth album. Presumably used prior to recording.
Gallien Krueger 250RL
Used on the early gigs, and most likely during the recording of Green Day’s debut album, 39/Smooth.
Marshall JCM 900
Sometime in 1992 around the time of recording the Kerplunk album, Billie started using a Marshall JCM900 model. He continued using it throughout the next album occasionally, and it can be seen in the Basket Case music video.
Marshall Plexi 1959SLP “Pete” w/ Bradshaw Gain Mod
During the “Dookie” era (1994) Billie started using a Marshall 1959 reissue amp with the word “PETE” sprayed on the front. This amp was modded by Martin Goulub (LA Sound Design) who replaced one of the master volumes with a gain knob.
Billie recorded with this amp on most of the GD albums and still plays it live as one of his two main amps. It’s now coated in pink color.
Marshall Plexi 1959SLP #2 “Meat”
This is Billy’s second amp. He uses it on stage paired up with PETE. This one is painted silver and has the SE Lead mod.
1958 Fender Twin
Used on “Nimrod”.
Divided by 13 Combo amp
Used on “21st Century Breakdown”.
For cabinets, Billie usually uses two Marshall 1960Bs equipped with Celestion Vintage 30s.
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Guitar Effects
Billie rarely uses any effects, but here are some that had their place in his rig at some point:
– Boss TR-2 Tremolo
– Ibanez CF7 Chorus Flanger
– Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
– Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Overdrive
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Guitar Strings
Billie uses Ernie Ball Super Slinky .010 – .046 strings in his most recent setup. The strings that he used in the earlier years might’ve been something completely different though.
Billie Joe Armstrong Guitar Picks
According to Billie’s tech, he nowadays uses Dunlop .73mm Tortex picks with custom designs. In the older days, he seemed to have preferred the .88mm Dunlop Tortex green picks, as they could often be spotted tucked into the microphone stand.
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update this with his 2018 gibson model
I’ve got this Les Paul…its been reworked, and has “Armstrong ’96” on the back of the head. Any chance it was once his?
Any idea how I can find out for sure?
search the model number maybe, and send a few pictures here
I have contacted Gibson about the authenticity of the guitar. They said it appears to be genuine.
Looks genuine seems to be a really nice guitar too
Thanks…It was a little rough when I bought it. It needed strings, screws, just a general cleanup. It sounds good too. Several people want me to sell it, LOL…I don’t think so.
Keep that shit forever!
Woah, I envy you!