Jeff Buckley was born on November 17, 1966 in Anaheim, California. As a child, Buckley was known as Scott “Scotty” Moorhead based on his middle name and his stepfather’s surname. His biological father, Tim Buckley, was also a singer and songwriter. Jeff released his first EP Live At Sin-é in December 1993 for Columbia Records. The EP featured live recording of Jeff in a coffeehouse in Manhattan’s East Village. His first and only complete studio album “Grace” was released on 23 August 1994. His second album “My Sweetheart the Drunk” was supposed to be recorded in 1997 (it was later released as collection of demo recordings named “Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk”)
On the evening of May 29, 1997, Buckley’s band flew to Memphis intending to join him in his studio there to work on the newly written material. That same evening, Jeff went to swim in the Wolf River, a slack-water channel of the Mississippi River, while wearing boots, all of his clothing, and singing the chorus of the song “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. His body was found on June 4, 1997. The cause of the death was an accidental drowning.
Jeff Buckley’s Electric Guitars:
1976 Gibson Les Paul Custom
When Jeff was 14 years old, he received a Gibson Les Paul guitar as a birthday present from his mother and his stepfather [Jeff Buckley – Everybody Here Wants You; 5:30]. He can be seen holding the guitar in a recent issue of the Guitar World magazine [Guitar World, June 2016]. It is assumed that he used the guitar up until he moved to Hollywood to attend the Musicians Institute in 1986, and switched to an Ovation electric.
This is the point of time where the story gets confusing. If Jeff already owned a Gibson Les Paul, it would be reasonable to assume that he would take that guitar with him to the Musicians Institute, but for one reason or another he didn’t appear to do so. As a matter of fact, the guitar wasn’t seen again until 1995, meaning that it likely remained at his mother’s house during all those years during which Jeff didn’t even use a guitar of his own (remember – the Telecaster was borrowed from Janine Nichols).
In 1995 Jeff again started using a black Les Paul Custom, which appeared to be the exact same guitar he used in his teen years. Some sources indicate that this guitar was purchased that same year in Wisconsin [Intimate Audio – Jeff Buckley Tribute], but there’s strong suspicion that this is really the one same exact guitar. After all, it is possible that the Jeff simply picked up the guitar from his mother’s place and started using it again during the Grace tour. From the photographic evidence alone, the two guitars appear to be identical, so unless we find a statement from a source close to Jeff Buckley, it is somewhat safe to assume that those photos show one same guitar.
Jeff used this Les Paul couple of times live mostly in 1995. It was seen during a concert played at the Asbury Park, New Jersey, and during the Glastonbury Festival in Britain.
Just recently, this guitar was seen on display at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum during an exhibit which also included Jeff’s black wool coat, jodhpurs, white V-neck T-shirt and handwritten lyrics and poems. The Les Paul seems to be a permanent donation to the Museum from the Jeff Buckley Estate.
1980s Ovation Viper
This Ovation was used by Jeff sometime in the early to mid 80s. There’s a photo of him with the guitar, which seems to have been taken prior to his college days.
Jeff’s band-mate at the time, John Lindsey, who contacted us via email, noted that Jeff played the guitar through a Roland JC-120 during their time together. Jeff played and recorded with John, Tim Marse and Dan Roth, and the band did a number of Genesis covers, The Police, U2, but mostly were working on original music. As John noted, at the time Jeff wasn’t really interested in singing much. He was more into playing his guitar and stretching what he could do on it. (thanks John!)
1980s Ovation Breadwinner
According to his (at the time) classmate, Jimmy Herring of Widespread Panic, Jeff used this guitar at the Guitar Institute of Technology circa 1986.
He had this electric Ovation guitar. One of the rare ones, I think it was called the Breadwinner. It looked like a broken egg. It wasn’t a great guitar, but it was what he had and he made it work. [Jimmy Herring Talks to Alex Skolnick: Widespread Talent]
The backstory about this guitar is unfortunately unknown still. It is possible that the guitar overlaps with the previous guitar on this list, and that Jimmy simply identified it wrong. If that’s the case, Jeff actually used an Ovation Viper prior to, and during his collage years. All things considered, that would make most sense. If you had to choose which guitar resembles a “broken egg” most, between the Breadwinner and the Viper, Viper would surely win.
Jeff was first seen using the guitar circa 1985. At that time he was in Los Angeles and playing in a band called Group Therapy. He continued using the guitar until around 1989, when he was seen playing it with The Wild Blue Yonder. [The Wild Blue Yonder 1989-1991]
This guitar is unfortunately a mystery. We haven’t been successful in identifying the exact model, and until we do, all further research is on halt. The body does seem to resemble some Ovation models from the 80s, like the Viper, but the headstock is where it gets confusing. For any feedback, please be sure to send us a message using a contact form at the bottom of this list. Images of the guitar are available here: Jeff Buckley with an unknown guitar.
1983 Fender Telecaster “Top-loader”
This is without a doubt Jeff’s most known guitar, but a little less known fact is that the guitar didn’t actually belong to him but to Janine Nichols, Arts at St. Ann’s Program Director, from whom he borrowed it in 1991. This happened just a couple of days after all of Jeff valuables have been stolen from his apartment in Los Angeles, and following a Tim Buckley Tribute concert at which Jeff was invited to perform and was given the opportunity to meet Janine.
The guitar originally featured a white pickguard, but Janine changed it with a mirror one – allegedly inspired by Chrissie Hynde who played a similar guitar back in the day. The second modification included replacing the original bridge pickup with what seems to be a Seymour Duncan Hot Lead Stack. This was most likely done by Jeff sometime after receiving the guitar, and prior to Grace studio sessions.
Jeff used this guitar as his main from the point he received up until his untimely death. It can be seen and heard on Jeff’s only studio album released in his lifetime “Grace”, as well as on most of the live gigs, including Live at Sin-é and Live In Chicago 1995.
The Telecaster was returned to Janine after Buckley’s memorial service on August 1, 1997. In 2011 it was put for auction, and reached the price over $50,000. The buyer’s identity is unknown, but there’s a short video from Dan´s Chelsea Guitars featuring Jeff’s Tele: Jeff Buckley´s Fender Telecaster 1983
There’s some talk about whether Jeff actually used the Telecaster specifically on “Hallelujah” or some other guitar. The source of these doubts seems to be a post over at GearSlutz forums which quotes Bryant W. Jackson (assistant engineer for the Soundtrack sessions), in which Jackson claims that he was present during the sessions and that Jeff used “Gibson Semi-Hollowbody” on Hali (Hallelujah). He also points out in a different post that this was during the over dub sessions at Soundtrack, and that he was not present at the earlier sessions which produced most of the album (VintageGuitar forums – Jeff Buckley’s Grace).
We did some digging and found out that Jeff did indeed record a bunch of different versions of “Hallelujah”, more than thirty during the first sessions at the Bearsville studio (MojoPin – When I Met Jeff Buckley), and at least one more at a later session done at Sony’s studios during which “So Real” was recorded (Jeff Buckley – MTV Outtakes 1-15-95). However, this still leaves us clueless about the overdub sessions, and how much was done there to change to initial recordings. Is it possible that Jeff dumped all the tapes he did previously of “Hallelujah”, and started from scratch using a semi-hollow Gibson (likely an ES-175 as Jackson pointed out)? Sure, but we wouldn’t bet on it. Without knowing anything about it, Hallelujah really does sound like a single-coil Telecaster topped off with some reverb, and it’s just hard to imagine him playing anything else but that.
Rickenbacker 360/12 Fireglo
This was Jeff’s second most used guitar, perhaps best known for occasionally being used to play “Last Goodbye” live. There’s some debate on the exact model of this guitar, but the round edges on the body and neck inlays are all the clues you need to figure out it’s a 360 model.
The guitar first appeared in mid to late 1994, or around the time album Grace was released. It is therefore somewhat safe to guess that Jeff bought it in preparation for the tour, and that the guitar wasn’t used during the studio session. If you happen to know more please be sure to tell us using the form at the bottom of this list.
As far as the specs, the guitar featured maple carved body finished in red sunburst (therefore it’s nickname – Fireglo), three-ply maple/walnut neck with rosewood fretboard, a pair of Hi-Gain single-coil pickups, and an adjustable bridge. It was one of the earliest 12-string electric guitars, and was hugely popularized by George Harrison of The Beatles. Jeff’s guitar for some reason had a black masking tape rolled over the upper horn, possibly to help support a strap-lock.
After Buckley’s passing, Jeff’s mother gave this guitar to Chris Cornell as a gift for his work on “Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk“- a posthumous album featuring a collection of polished studio tracks and four-track demos recorded by Jeff.
Series 10 Professional “Flower” Telecaster
According to a post made over at JBCommunity forums, Jeff got this guitar as a gift after a gig played in Lyon, France in October 1994, from a guy called Jean-Marc who worked at the avenue. For the full story refer to: The Story of the “Flower” Guitar.
The guitar was apparently a cheap Korean knock-off that didn’t play too well, but it attracted Jeff’s attention anyways, mostly because of the groovy flower finish on the body. He used the guitar couple of times, most notably during a gig played at MTV London on March 3, 1995.
Jeff Buckley’s Acoustic Guitars:
1967 Guild F-50
Jeff used this guitar quite often live for the acoustic bits, most notably during the Chicago Concert in 1995. During that gig the guitar had a black tape covering the sound hole, which is basically a cheap way or an alternative to sound hole covers that serve the purpose of preventing feedback. The guitar was also most likely used on the studio recording of “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”.
As far as how Buckley acquired the guitar in the first place, the recent issue of the Guitar World Magazine (June, 2016), notes that Steve Addabbo borrowed his own 1967 Guild F-50 to Jeff in 1993. According to the article, the two met at the Shelter Island Sound Studios in New York in February, 1993, and recorded a couple of songs that became available to the public with the release on the compilation album “You and I” (released on March 11, 2016).
It is not known for sure whether the guitar Jeff used in his career is the same one that Steve let him use during those early session, but the possibility is obviously high.
The Guild F-50 features solid sitka spruce top finished in dark burst, and figured maple back and sides. It is a jumbo-sized guitar, meaning that it is more suited for strumming – when compared to Jeff’s other acoustic, the Gibson L-1, which is more of a finger-picker.
Jeff was often photographed playing this guitar in 1994 and early 1995, giving us an approximation of when he acquired it. Allegedly, the owner of the blonde Telecaster that Jeff played thought that Jeff should keep that guitar since he loved it so much, and agreed she’ll give it away in exchange for a Gibson L-1 acoustic.
After Buckley bought the L-1, he happened to enjoy it too much to give it away, so he agreed he’d give the Telecaster back instead. He supposedly had some custom guitar ordered to replace the Telecaster, but it arrived only couple of weeks prior to his death. (MojoPin.org)
This guitar was listed on JeffBuckley.com as part of the guitars owned and used by Jeff, but it most likely belonged to Michael Tighe, who played rhythm guitar for Buckley.
Jeff Buckley’s Guitar Amps:
– Fender Twin Reverb
John Lindsey, Jeff’s former band mate, who contacted us via email, recalls Jeff having this amp when the two first met, and that Jeff probably used it for Jazz Band at Loara High, and with Mahre Buckham (Jeff’s high school band).
– Roland JC-120
According to Jeff band mate at the time, John Lindsey, Jeff used this amp in pre-college years/early to mid 80s. At that time, he played an Ovation Viper.
– Fender Vibroverb
This was the amp that Jeff used for the most part of his career, as it was seen on photos taken at Sin-e and on the stuff he did later, like the Live in Chicago DVD. Please note that he originally seemed to have used a brownface Reissue made sometime in the 90s, but after the “Grace” he was occasionally seen using a blackface Vibroverb, most likely also a reissue model. During the recording of the album itself, he allegedly used a different amp of the same model since his amp wasn’t performing well at that time.
– Mesa Boogie Tremoverb
Also used during Live in Chicago, but most likely just for overdrive/dirty sound.
Couple of more amps are listed over at JeffBuckley.com, including a Fender Bassman 135 head and a Crate Vintage/Club 50. It is most likely that these amp weren’t used by Jeff but by other band members.
Jeff Buckley’s Guitar Effects:
– Alesis Quadraverb
Rack unit, which probably contributed the most in making what’s now known as Jeff’s signature sound. The best example of this sound is perhaps heard on “Hallelujah”, during which Jeff used the “Taj Mahal” preset on the Quadraverb. He also allegedly played around with the settings, so it is possible that he modified the preset to his own liking.
Due to lack of photos and videos showing Jeff’s pedalboard it’s hard to guess the rest of the effects that he used. One again, there’s a really extensive list of gear used by the bend over at JeffBuckley.com, but they are all group together and it’s impossible to tell which ones Jeff used himself. If we were to guess, it is likely that he at least had a fuzz/distortion box at his feet, which would probably be either the Boss Hyper FUZZ FZ-2, the DOD Buzz Box, or the MXR Fuzz.
* If you happen to come across a photo that directly shows Jeff’s pedalboard, please be sure to forward it us using the contact form at the bottom of this list.