Jerry Cantrell’s Guitars and Gear

Jerry Fulton Cantrell Jr. (born March 18, 1966 in Tacoma, Washington) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter best known for his work with the grunge band Alice in Chains, as guitarist and co-lyricist. He was the a part of them band until it’s near-permanent hiatus in the late 1990s, leading up to April of 2002, in which tragically, lead singer Layne Staley died from a heroin overdose. Although he and Staley each wrote about half of the lyrics in their catalog, Cantrell wrote or co-wrote most of the music.

As far as Jerry’s gear is concerned, he’s mostly been associated with G&L Rampage guitar on which he recorded some of his most successful songs. His two most valued guitar are nicknamed “Blue Dress”, and “No War” – both dating back to pre Alice in Chains days. He has also used a number of different Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar, as well as a Music Man EVH model which was a personal gift from Jerry’s hero himself. Most of the early work was recorded on a Bogner-modified Marshall JCM800, which was just a beginning of a long line of Bogner products that Jerry would use throughout the years. His favorite pickups are made by Motor City, and he’s used couple of different models including Afwayu and 2nd degree Black Belts.

Jerry Cantrell’s Electric Guitars:

198? Partcaster/Boogie Bodies

Jerry Cantrell Them Bones Guitar This guitar was most likely one of his first electric guitars, built by Jerry himself sometime in the early 80s. According to an interview he gave to GuitarWorld Magazine in 2014, Jerry worked at the Boogie Bodies shop and was offered to pick out one of the Boogie necks that the owner (Lynn Ellsworth) prepared to send to Eddie Van Halen.

Rest of the guitar Jerry allegedly built himself using instructions given to him by Lynn. He built the body in his high-school wood shop class,which included drilling all the holes and adding contours to the body. The hardware that he used is unfortunately a mystery, but it based of the pictures he used a single humbucker placed in the bridge pickup cavity, a Kahler tremolo system, and a locking nut.

The guitar was most famously used in the Them Bones video. Jerry still has it, although he never used/uses it live at least according to what we’ve were able to learn.

1980s Warmoth/Boogie Bodies Telecaster

Jerry Cantrell Warmoth Telecaster Jerry used this guitar occasionally in 1990/91 as a spare next to his G&L Rampage. The guitar seems to be another home-made instrument, since it features various body parts that you don’t usually find together. Since Jerry worked at the Boogie Bodies when he was still in high school (early 80s), it is likely that he put the guitar together himself. You’ll find this guitar most often referred to as a Warmoth Telecaster, which is a company closely related to Boogie Bodies.

Jerry’s guitar featured a blonde Telecaster body decorated with couple of stickers and various hand-writings, and a maple neck with a Stratocaster-style headstock. The guitar was equipped with a single humbucker in the bridge position, and a Kahler tremolo system with a locking nut.

There’s lots of stuff written on the guitar, but due to lack of high-resolution photos we haven’t been able to decipher most of it. There’s “Who Farted” written on the area between the pickup and the neck, “Scale fish to this” written above it on the top horn, and “Layne” written just bellow the bridge. Most of the other stuff seems to be random drawings.

1984 G&L Rampage “Blue Dress”

1984 G&L Rampage Blue Dress Jerry’s main guitar of choice. He bought his first G&L Rampage on installments in 1984 while working at the music store in Dallas, and still occasionally uses that very same guitar today. The company behind these guitars is mostly known by it’s founders – Leo Fender and George Fullerton. Leo in particular sold his first company Fender in 1965, then worked with Music Man in the 1970s, and finally switched to G&L in the late 70s. He’s been quoted saying that G&L were the best instruments he had ever made.

The guitar is somewhat similar in shape to the Fender Stratocaster, but features a more narrow waist and a more indent contours on the back of the body. The necks on Rampage models are made of maple wood with an ebony finger board, and they are all equipped with Kahler tremolo systems. Rampages also utilize just a single humbucker, originally designed by G&L and built by Schaller.

Jerry however used a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker for majority of the first 20 years of his career, and just recently switched to different pickups made by a company called Motor City. For first couple of years since 2008 he allegedly used the Afwayu model in his Rampages, and only recently switched to a custom-wound signature pickup.

This guitar was used on the majority of Alice in Chains stuff, but it is now unfortunately almost completely retired due to a micro crack on the back of the body. The guitar is nicknamed “Blue Dress”, and is easily recognizable by the pin-up girl sticker behind the bridge, and three stickers reading “Rock” applied on the area behind the strings.

1984 G&L Rampage “No War”

 1984 G&L Rampage No War This is Jerry’s second Rampage guitar that he bought from the same store couple of months after his first guitar. It is often referred to as the “No War” guitar, and features a sticker reading “No War” with American flag behind it.

This guitar was set up in the exact same way as his main Rampage, and usually served the purpose of a back up instrument. Jerry still has it, but mostly keeps it safe at his house and uses various signature/tribute models instead.

1990s Music Man EVH Signature

Music Man Axis EVH Jerry used this guitar very briefly in 1992/93, mostly just during couple of live shows (see Alice in Chains live Jools Holland 1993). The guitar was a gift from Eddie Van Halen, who is one of Jerry’s biggest influences and whose band toured with Alice in Chains for six months from late 1991 to early 1992. Jerry allegedly received another guitar from Eddie at the same time, but that one got stolen at some point.

The guitar was obviously a Van Halen signature model and featured basswood body with maple cap, two DiMarzio humbuckers, and a Floyd Rose tremolo system. The neck on it was maple, and it was electronically mapped in order to feel like the one of Van Halen’s favorite guitars (read more about it on Eddie’s gear list).

This same guitar is nowadays known under the name “Axis” because Eddie left Music Man around 1995, and took his signature name to another company – Peavey.

1990s Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop “D-Trip”

Jerry Cantrell Dotted Les Paul Custom White Jerry received this Les Paul Custom sometime in early to mid 90s from the Gibson Custom Shop. At the same time, he received three more similar Les Pauls which all will be mentioned in their separate sections bellow this one.

This guitar in particular is perhaps the most important of the four Les Paul guitars that Jerry currently owns since he used it to write the whole Degradation Trip album, released couple of years after it was first envisioned.

In ’98, I locked myself in my house, went out of my mind, and wrote 25 songs. I rarely bathed during that period of writing; I sent out for food; I didn’t really venture out of my house in three or four months. It was a hell of an experience. (original source needed)

Jerry used this exact guitar during the said process, and over the period of those couple of months started adding burn spots on the body using cigarettes and a hand-held torch. He also wrote something on the back of the body, but due to lack of good photos we haven’t been able to fully decipher it. The top portion of the writing almost certainly reads “D-TRIP”, and bellow it there’s Jerry’s initials and what looks like numbers “99-00” – marking the period during which Jerry extensively used the guitar.

Another thing worth mentioning is that during most of this period the guitar had a broken headstock, which somehow didn’t interfere with it’s play-ability. Jerry decided that’s he not gonna bother fixing it before all the songs were finished, and the guitar probably wasn’t fixed until the studio sessions for the album began sometime in the early 2001.

As far as the specs, it seems that the guitar is completely stock except for the bridge pickup. This modification didn’t happen until about a year before the Black Gives Way to Blue recording sessions (circa 2007), which is the point in time when Jerry started equipping almost all of his main guitars with Motor City pickups. The exact model he’s allegedly using in all of his Les Paul is called 2nd Degree Black Belt.

1990s Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop (Red)

Les Paul Custom Red This is the second of the four Les Pauls that Jerry received from Gibson sometime in mid 90s. Unfortunately we couldn’t dig up much info about it, so if you happen to know any specific details about be sure to message using the contact form at the end of this page.

What we can conclude from the photos is that the guitar features wine red finish, and it’s safe to believe that it follows the usual specs of regular Custom models. This includes a one-piece mahogany neck, carved maple top on a mahogany body, gold-plated hardware, and a pair of Gibson 490R/498T pickups.

Jerry seems to have kept everything stock but the bridge pickup, which was most likely replaced with a Motor City 2nd Degree Black Belt prior to the Black Gives Way to Blue tour during which Jerry used this guitar as a spare.

1990s Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop (Black)

 Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Jerry’s third Les Paul Custom Shop, acquired sometime in the mid 90s. This guitar was used extensively during the Black Gives Way to Blue studio session and on the following tour.

Beside that, the story is the same as with the two previously mentioned guitars. This one is was left completely stock as well, with the exception of the bridge pickup which was replaced with a Motor City 2nd Degree Black Belt circa 2007.

1990s Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop (Blue)

Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Pelham Blue This guitar is the fourth Les Paul that Jerry received from the Gibson Custom Shop in the mid 90s. Next to the usual Les Paul Custom specs, this guitar features pelham-blue finish and a Motor City 2nd Degree Black Belt pickup in the bridge position, installed sometime prior to Black Gives Way to Blue album.

Jerry seems to have used the guitar occasionally live in the 90s, and more recently during the Alice in Chains The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013) tour.

1990s G&L ASAT Deluxe

 1990s G&L ASAT Deluxe This is one of Jerry’s less known guitars, which he allegedly uses very often in studio on clean tracks. He supposedly got it sometime in the 90s, so there’s a good amount of material on which this guitar could have been used on. Unfortunately we didn’t any direct quotes from Jerry that goes beyond this statement, so if you happen to read an interview where there’s specific songs mentioned in relation to this guitar be sure to let us know using the contact form at the bottom of this list.

As far as the specs are concerned, the guitar features flame maple top over mahogany, two Seymour Duncan humbuckers (Jerry possibly changed them to Motor City), G&L Saddle-Lock bridge, and a maple neck. Based on a photo of Jerry’s guitar collection floating around the web, he also seems to have an identical ASAT but featuring rosewood fretboard.

1990s G&L ASAT Classic

G&L ASAT Classic Jerry was seen using this guitar on few occasions live mostly just in the more recent years, although it’s not clear whether he ever used it in the studio.

The guitar is basically G&L’s take on the Telecaster, which is a guitar that Leo Fender (one of G&L founders) originally designed and developed in the early 50s as the first commercial solid-body, single-cutaway electric guitar made by Fender. G&L’s version uses similar wood materials on the body and neck (ash/alder and rosewood/maple), but features significantly flatter 12″ fretboard radius with modern jumbo frets, compared to 7.25″ on vintage Telecaster guitars. The guitar features three G&L MFD single-coil pickups designed by Leo himself.

Giffin Les Paul Baritone

Giffin Les Paul Baritone  Jerry acquired this guitar sometime prior to the Degradation Trip album directly from Roger Griffin himself.
We’re currently in the process of re-writing Jerry’s list and we’ll add more guitars in the following days. If you’d like to contribute you can message Dan at danko@groundguitar.com with any info that you think is worth pointing out.

Jerry Cantrell’s Acoustic Guitars:

Guild JF30 and D50

Guild D50 Both of these guitars were used on the Alice in Chains Unplugged Album.

Takamine

Jerry was seen playing a Takamine 6-string acoustic. Exact model unknown.

He was also seen playing Taylor and Martin acoustics.

Jerry Cantrell’s Guitar Amps:

– Marshall JCM800
Used on the first two Alice in Chains albums, Facelift (1990) and Dirt (1992). The amp was modified by Reinhold Bogner, who later worked closed with Jerry on most of his amps.

– Bogner
Jerry used a few different Bogner amps, including the Shiva, Alchemist and Uberschall  heads, and the Bogner Fish Preamps.

– Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Prototype
Used for the recording of “Dirt”. These amps were released after 1992 so this was probably a prototype.

– Marsha
Custom made Marshall-style amp by Dave Friedman, with a little more overdrive sound to it. He has two of these, ‘Mad’ and ‘Pissed’,

– Fender Twin Reverb
Used on “Jar Of Flies”.

– Peavey 5150
Given to him by Eddie Van Halen.

– Friedman Amplification BE100 Brown Eye 

 

 

As of cabinets, Jerry sticks almost exclusively to the Marshall 1960B 4×12 cabs fitted with Celestion 25 W “Greenbacks”.

Jerry Cantrell’s Guitar Effects:

His on-stage pedalboard consists of his Wah pedal, Buff Puff pedal, and occasionally the Rotovibe. All other effects are triggered from back-stage by his guitar tech.

 

Wah pedals:

Dunlop GCB-95
Used in the early days. Most likely modded.

Dunlop JH-1
Hendrix signature wah.

Dunlop DB-01 
Dimabag Darell signature wah.

Jim Dunlop JC- 95
His own signature model. He uses it exclusively since the time it was released

 

Rest of the pedals:

Dunlop Rotovibe

Digitech Whammy Pedal

Dunlop Heil Talkbox
(used on the “Man in the Box”)

Digital Music Corp Ground Control Pro

Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi
(used on his solo album “Boggy Depot”)

Ibanez TS808HW Tube Screamer

ISP Decimator

MXR EVH Flanger

MXR Bass Octave Plus

MXR Smart Gate (x2)

BOSS CH-1 Super Chorus

BOSS CE-5 Chorus Ensemble

BOSS TR-2 Tremolo

BOSS TU-2 Chromatic Tuner

Eventide TimeFactor

Xotic AC plus

Jerry Cantrell’s Guitar Strings:

– Jerry previously used Dean Markley 2554s but recently switched to Dunlop Electrics  .010 – .046 gauge.

Jerry Cantrell’s Guitar Picks:

– He started out with Dunlop Tortex 1.14mm purple picks, but along the way started using .88mm and .50mm Pitch Black picks.

Contributors: BradtheGreat, DK