John Frusciante’s Electric Guitars:
1986/87 Kramer Pacer Custom II
This was the only guitar that John had with him when he first joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1988. He only used it for couple of gigs with the Peppers [Red Hot Chili Peppers John Anson Ford Theater October 8, 1988], and for some of the early gigs with HATE (side band project with Flea).
This particular guitar is somewhat of a mystery. What we do know is that the guitar had 24 fret maple neck with dot inlays, long banana headstock, strat-style body with sharper horns, and a HSS pickup configuration. It also featured a custom paint job, perhaps something inspired by Eddie Van Halen who John looked up to in the early days.
As far as the exact model, the closest possibility seems to be the Kramer Pacer Custom II. As one of our readers pointed out, this seems to be the only model with HSS config where the humbucker isn’t slanted like for instance on the Striker model, which features the same pickup layout.
What doesn’t fit with the usual configuration of Pacer Custom II model is the 24 fret maple neck featuring long banana headstock. By 1986/87 when the model was first introduced, Kramer already started using pointy headstocks, so John’s guitar must have been one of a kind. Even the few of the Pacers that featured maple necks all came with pointy headstocks finished in black, so again quite unusual seeing that particular setup on John’s guitar.
As far as to what happened to the guitar post-1988, we were able to spot it in the 1993 short documentary recorded at John’s place. This means that John kept the guitar for at least 5 years, even though by then he switched to playing Fender Stratocasters almost exclusively.
If you happen to know anything more about this guitar, even the slightest bit of information, be sure to message us using the form at the end of this article or email me directly at. To help you start – here’s a video of John playing this guitar in 1988 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Punk Rock Classic (Los Angeles 1988), and a photo album on imgur showing screencaps from couple of different videos.
John used couple of Ibanez guitars when he first joined Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988. This is the same guitar featured on most of the photos that come up when you Google “John Frusciane Ibanez” – featuring ton of stickers and hand-writings.
There are indications of another white Ibanez with a HSH setup (humbucker in the neck position when compared to single-coil on his main Ibanez), which was quite possibly used just as a backup, and a third one seen briefly during a 1993 short documentary ‘Stuff’.
John used his main Ibanez (the one with the stickers) up towards early 1989, and it is highly likely that he used it for most of the “Mother’s Milk” studio sessions [Mother’s Milk Studio Sessions]
1968 Fender Stratocaster
This was Frusciante’s main Stratocaster from the time he joined the band up until the release of Mother’s Milk album. The guitar can be seen during a gig in Amsterdam played in late 1989 – Red Hot Chili Peppers Dam Square, Amsterdam 1989, and in the music video for the song “Knock Me Down”.
John’s favorite 1968 Stratocaster was stolen sometime in early 1990, as Frusciante reported in an interview with Guitar Player magazine published in April 1990. However, at Pinkpop Festival played in June he still appears to be playing the very same guitar.
The truth is that John had more than a few of these CBS sunburst Stratocasters with large headstocks, and he continued using them throughout 1990, and for the couple of gigs in early 1991 before the band took a break to work on Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
1970s Les Paul Custom
Acquired sometime prior to Mother’s Milk and used to record ‘Higher Ground’ – and possibly some others.
The guitar appears to have wide body binding, which is typical to the models made post 1975 – so it was almost certainly not a highly priced vintage model from the 50s.
1966 Fender Jaguar
John used this guitar for overdubs on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, but it is undeniably best known for it’s appearance on ‘Under the Bridge’ video. John purchased it probably before he even joined the Chili Peppers. It was one of his favorite guitars at the time – the one he’d use for practicing and fooling around in his room.
John’s Jaguar is finished in what’s known as Sherwood green color, and features two single-coil pickups, rosewood neck with white binding and dot inlays, and a floating tremolo. The guitar had a good amount of paint cracks on it, and the neck itself had a couple of dead spots – so perhaps that’s one of the reasons John never really played this guitar live.
The guitar is now owned by Hard Rock Cafe, and it has John’s signature and words “Under The Bridge” written on it. They however don’t explains how they got hold of the guitar – whether it was from John himself, or from someone else. If John gave them the guitar himself, that means that this is the only guitar that John cared enough about not to sell it during his junkie years – and it obviously meant a lot for him. All the other guitars that John had in the early 90s were either sold or they were destroyed in a fire that caught his house in mid 90s.
Just recently we’ve been contacted by one of our readers whose friend happened to be working at the Guitar Center Hollywood when according to her, John Frusciante walked in barefoot with the Under the Bridge guitar and sold it for a relatively small amount. This means that the guitar after all wasn’t that precious to John, and that it too, like most of his guitars ended up being sold in order to support his drug addiction. (thanks to Anna from SuggestiveDesign.com for providing this info)
Since the guitar is indeed signed by Frusciante, the Hard Rock Cafe probably got in touch with him at some point – or more likely, Guitar Center asked Frusciante to sign the guitar themselves when he sold it, which would obviously be a very smart thing to do. From that point on, the guitar could’ve went straight to the Hard Rock Museum, as it is likely that G.C. contacted people/places like Hard Rock to let them know they’d acquired the Under the Bridge guitar and if they were interested.
1960s Fender Stratocaster
For the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, John switched from late 60s CBS to older models made in the early 60s. His main guitar from the bunch was a 1962 or 1963 sunburst model which he used extensively on the record and on the following tour.
Although John reported in an interview with Guitar Player that his main guitar on the album was a ’58 Stratocaster , this is highly unlikely. For that to be true, it would require of the guitar to have a maple neck, and since we have a pretty good insight into what guitars he used on the album (see documentary Funky Monks), none of the guitars that John had with him at the time had a maple neck.
That means that John intentionally or unintentionally gave wrong information in that interview, and the guitar that was his favorite at the time was actually an early 60s Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard and small headstock.
That aside, it is also important to note that this is not the same guitar that John used in the late 90s and early 2000s – the one which most of the fans know as his main. This particular guitar was used from mid 1991 to mid 1992 when John left the band. It was seen again briefly in the 1993 short documentary Stuff taken at John’s place, and it was then most likely lost in a fire that caught that same house couple of months later, or he simply sold it for money.
1990s Gibson Les Paul Classic
John was seen playing this guitar in 1991 during a side project with Flea (see Red Hot Chili Peppers, Creating “Give it Away”1991). The project was focused around a band called HATE (Hops, Anarchy, Truth For Everyone), and next to John and Flea, it involved Angelo Moore from Fishbone and Nick Alexander (former Germs). The band was disbanded in 1991, most likely due to the two Peppers members focusing on working on Blood Sugar Sex Magik instead.
The guitar most likely wasn’t a vintage model, but an early 90s Les Paul Classic. Based on the video linked in the first paragraph, the guitar was finished in bullion gold and it was an all-gold model, meaning that the gold finish was also present on the back of the body. Most of Gibson Les Paul models finished in gold featured brown backs.
Fender Stratocaster Fretless
John used this guitar briefly on BSSM to record the solo on “Mellowship Slinky in B Major”. He bought the guitar just prior to recording the album, and it apparently had really bad frets. He took the guitar to a local guitar shop to replace them with new ones, but was unsatisfied with the result and asked for a complete removal of frets.
Well, the frets on this guitar were completely shot, so I took it to Nadine’s [a L.A. music store]. Actually, I took it in for something else, but the guy says, “Man you gotta get new frets.” And he put on these huge frets. Jumbos. Which were like shit. So wimpy. When I play, I press down hard on the strings. And when I did that with the jumbos, it didn’t even sound in tune. So I just told him to make it fretless. [Guitar Player, October 1991]
The guitar was finished in sunburst and featured rosewood neck. John referred to it as a ’57 Stratocaster in an interview, but that’s most likely not the case since it doesn’t feature a maple fretboard. It was most likely a reissue, or an original 60s model.
1960s Fender Jaguar
This guitar was seen on one of the photos taken at John’s place circa 1993. Although somewhat similar, this is almost certainly not the same guitar John used in ‘Under the Bridge’ video. This guitar seems to have blue finish (lake placid blue to be exact) and no neck binding when compared to John’s other Jaguar, plus it had some kind of a sticker just below the bridge.
As said, this guitar was only seen on one photo taken at the time John wasn’t a part of Red Hot Chili Peppers anymore, so very little is known about it. It may have been sold or lost in a fire that was mentioned couple of times already.
1962 Fender Jaguar
According to an interview John gave to Vintage Guitar magazine, this guitar is the only guitar he had with him when he re-joined the Peppers.
When I rejoined the Chili Peppers, I just had one guitar – the red Jaguar. I love Fender Jaguars. I feel like Strats are an extension of me, and a Jaguar feels like the next closest thing to being an extension of me. – John Frusciante for VintageGuitar.com
He used this guitar in late 90s and early 2000s for warming up before shows, and in his own time to come up with ideas for the new songs. He also used it live mostly just in 1999 for the song “Around the World”.
John appeared with this guitar on the cover of September 1999 issue of Guitar One magazine, and in the interview for that same magazine he notes that he used a 1966 Fender Jaguar to record “Around the World”, and some parts of “This Velvet Glove”. Important thing to say about this is that that wasn’t his 1962 Jaguar, but a different guitar borrowed from the band’s recording engineer, Jim Scott.
1962 Fender Stratocaster
This guitar was a gift from Anthony Kiedis when John joined the band again in 1998. Apparently at that time he didn’t own any decent quality guitars except for an old Fender Jaguar, so this one quickly became his favorite and the one he has a special connection with.
John’s Stratocaster is a 1962 model, featuring three tone sunburst finish, slab rosewood fretboard with 7.25 inch radius, and three single coil pickups. The guitar is easily recognizable by it’s wear. We haven’t been able to find any pictures of the guitar in it’s original state, but looking at the pictures from early 2000’s and at the more recent ones, the wear seems to be increasing at a pretty high rate – which is a good sign that John uses this guitar heavily not only on concerts, but also in his own time.
You can see John’s 1962 Fender Stratocaster on almost all off the live performances, and he usually uses this guitar for most of the set – except for those couple songs which require of him to use a different instrument (Californication, Zephyr Song to name a few). It was used less often on “Californication” – where John used his ’55 Stratocaster more, but the next album “By the Way” was recorded mostly just using this guitar. Stadium Arcadium was also recorded mostly using this guitar, although John used couple of different guitars on that one.
The Pickups in John’s 1962 Strat
Although the guitar had the original pickups for first few years, according to John he had them replaced with Seymour Duncan SSL-1s after trying them out on his 1955 Stratocaster. [VintageGuitar magazine – John Frusciante Red Hot On The Empyrean]
John’s guitar tech was recently interviewed by the members of the John Frusciante Effects fan page/website on the subject of pickups and there seems to be some confusion about which model of pickups ended up being installed in the 1962 Stratocaster. According to Dave Lee, who worked as John’s guitar tech on tour from 1998 to 2007, argues that they were just basic Fender pickups found in the American Standard Stratocasters.
I remember reading that and realizing John was wrong in that interview (I never told him). We were experimenting with a number of different pickups at the time. And he must’ve gotten confused. The actual pickups we settled on (and John never knew this) were stock, brand new, Fender Strat pickups. [JF EFFECTS INTERVIEWS: DAVE LEE (GUITAR TECH)]
This does come as a surprise, since many have argued that the low output SSL-1 pickup set sounds identical to John. Countless people have probably invested in the set in order to emulate that sound, likely switching away from the Strandard Fender set – which ironically seems to be the real thing.
1955 Fender Stratocaster
From the time he came back to the band up until the release of the album “Californication” in 1999, John acquired a good amount of new guitars. Among them was a 1955 Fender Stratocaster – the only maple necked guitar John would ever use.
The guitar is finished in two-tone sunburst, and as said – features one-piece maple neck. When John bought the guitar sometime in 1998/1999 the pickups were already replaced with the Seymour Duncan SSL-1s – same ones John would later install in his main 1962 Stratocaster.
It’s been reported a few times that this is John’s second favorite guitar, and he used it extensively on Californication – possibly more than his ’62 Strat. Since then it’s usually been used on slower and more mellow songs – a good example is “Zephyr Song” from By the Way album released in 2002.
Here’s an interesting interview with John talking a bit about recording Dani California. It features his 1955 Strat.
To avoid any misunderstandings, for many years John thought that this guitar was actually a 1957 Strat, but it was proven to be a 1955. He might also be referring to his Shure SM57 microphones when talking about the equipment used on Dani California.
1963-65 Fender Custom Telecaster
Bought sometime prior to Californication, and used on a few songs from that album – specifically “Easily” and “Scar Tissue” (only on the solo) [Return Of The Prodigal Son, Guitar Player (UK), September 1999]. It was also used on the band’s 2002 album “By the Way”, where John used this exact guitar to record one of their bigger hits, “Can’t Stop”.
John’s Telecaster features three-tone sunburst finish, rosewood fingerboard, white body binding, and white pickguard with a letter “F” embedded into it – origin of which we’re not familiar with. If you know anything please contact us using the form below this article.
This guitar was made sometime in the 60s, during the pre-CBS period. In some older interview John refers to the guitar as a ’65 Telecaster, although more recently almost every source has it listed as a ’63.
Important thing to note is that John had another almost identical Telecaster from 1967 as a backup during By The Way tour, which he ended up giving to Josh Klinghoffer after he joined Peppers.
1955 Gretsch White Falcon
John used this guitar on “Otherside”, “Californication”, and for a few sections on “This Velvet Glove”. He usually played the guitar through a Fender Showman and a Marshall 4×12 Cabinet, although he did switch to a 1961 Gibson SG Custom plugged into a Marshall JCM800 for solo and outro on the “Otherside”.
John found this guitar through Vincent Gallo, and the inspiration for it supposedly comes from Matthew Ashman who played one in his new wave band “BowWowWow”, and also from Malcolm Young who played a similar model with AC/DC.
He [Vincent Gallo] found me a lot of things. At this point he’s found me pretty much a whole recording studio! As far as guitars go, he’s found me my 1955 Gretsch White Falcon, which is the nicest guitar I have, I think. – original source needed
John strings this guitar with .012 strings, which are noticeably heavier from the usual set of .010s he plays on most of his guitars.
As said, it was mostly used just on Californication album – but John picked it up again on By the Way on the song “Tear”. On Stadium Arcadium album, John said that he didn’t even pick the guitar out of it’s case.
1961 Gibson SG/Les Paul Custom
John used this guitar on Californication album when he needed heavier humbucker sound. It can be heard on the solo and outro section of “Otherside”.
The guitar featured cherry red finish, three PAF pickups, and a white pickguard. It was made in 1961, so correct naming for it would be “Les Paul”, since and the model “SG”, which stood for ‘Solid Guitar’, was officially introduced only in 1963.
1960s Fender Jaguar
John acquired this guitar sometime in the early to mid 2000s. To our knowledge, the guitar is first mentioned in 2007 [Guitar Player, November 2006], although this could possibly be the same Jaguar that he used during the Californication sessions in 1999. At that time, the guitar belonged to the studio engineer, Jim Scott. [Guitar Player, September 1999]
By 2009 [VintageGuitar magazine – John Frusciante Red Hot On The Empyrean], John converted the guitar to a Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer. This basically required doing some changes to the body to fit the circuitry and to control knobs from the what we assume was a stock Roland GR Controller. John’s reasoning behind doing instead of just using one of the stock guitars is unfortunately unknown to us. If you happen to find any quotes of John talking about it please be sure to forward it to us.
1960s Fender Duo-Sonic
This guitar was seen on some photos taken at John’s place in the early 2000s. Unfortunatly, we haven’t found any mention of the guitar in any of articles and interviews, so not much is known about this particular guitar.
What we can conclude from the photos is that the guitar is most likely an early to mid 60s Duo-Sonic finished in white, featuring two single-coil pickups, and a stop-tail bridge. John’s Duo-Sonic is a short-scale model, measuring 22.5″ instead of 24″ like on most of the standard models.
1960s Bartell St. George XK12
One of the lesser known guitars in John’s collection. It was mentioned only once in magazines [Guitarist & Bass (FR), March 2009], and it was seen on the photos taken at John’s place sometime in the early to mid 2000s.
The guitar is a 12-string model designed by Paul Barth, who was one of the pioneers in the history of electric guitar. Prior to starting his own company, Paul worked as a designer for Rickenbacker, during which time he helped developed the first electric guitar – the Rickenbacker “Frying Pan” . [Paul Barth – Magnatone Amps]
Frusciante’s guitar was made during the period from from 1964 to 1968, when Paul partnered with Ted Peckels to build guitars under a brand called “Bartell”. It features two single-coil pickups, a nonadjustable aluminium bridge, individual switches for the pickups, a phase switch, and control knobs for volume and tone.
1956 Gibson ES-175D
John found this guitar through Vincent Gallo sometime in 1999. It features dark sunburst finish, two PAF pickups, and a full depth hollow body making it a semi-acoustic guitar. John had .013 strings on this guitar, which are heavier even than the ones he’d use on his Gretsch.
The guitar was used on the solo for “Get on Top”, and on some parts of “Porcelain”.
1961 Fender Stratocaster (olympic white)
John bought this guitar sometime in 2000 and started using it on tours as a backup for his main 1962 Stratocaster (see Rock in Rio 2001). It was used for a relatively brief period of time, as John apparently didn’t like it that much.
There’s a cool white early-’60s Strat that was rented to me at one point for some reason, and I just had such fun playing that I bought it. But it ended up not really being able to alternate with my other guitars; it’s the kind of guitar you can have some fun on, but it’s not really practical. – VintageGuitar.com
Note: this is not the same white Strat that John used during Stadium Arcadium tour.
1964 Fender Mustang
John bought this guitar sometime in early 2000s to use for practicing at his house while the rest of his gear was kept in storage to be used on tours. He used the guitar on some of his solo stuff, but as said it was mostly just a guitar to have on hands whenever he felt like playing.
John’s Fender Mustang is a 21 fret 22.5″ inch shortscale version, not the regular 24″, and it features dakota red finish, two single coil pickups, rosewood fingerboard, and Fender Dynamic Vibrato tailpiece. Based on the photos, the guitar appears to have a smaller headstock styling the Fender transition logo and Kluson tuners with plastic oval knobs – meaning that it was likely made in 1964.
1959 Fender Stratocaster (Fretless)
John used this guitar occasionally on tour in 2005/2006 [Red Hot Chili Peppers – Live La Cigale 2006]. At that point of time, the Strat was most likely completely stock, and featured a fixed tremolo bridge. Sometime in mid to late 2006 John decided to mod the guitar and replace the original neck with a fretless one.
The reason that might have led John to choose this exact guitar to be re-fitted with a fretless neck is probably the fact that it had a very thin D – shaped neck that was specific to the 59/60 Strats — as opposed to fatter necks that were fitted on the 1961-63 Strats which John obviously favored. The job was done by Ned Evett, and was arranged by Frusciante’s guitar tech, Dave Lee.
I took a Warmouth vintage replacement neck, outfitted it with a glass fretless fingerboard and attached it to the 1959 Fender hardtail Strat body John provided. The original neck was safely removed, and no modifications to the original guitar were made. [Ned Evett Fretless Guitar Blog: Blue Raga on John Frusciante’s Custom Guitar]
Unfortunately, it is unknown whether John used this glass fretless Stratocaster on any of the songs he recorded with the band, or on any of his solo records. If you happen to come across some info regarding the subject, please be sure to contact us.
1961 Fender Stratocaster
This is one of the guitars John bought just prior to Stadium Arcadium, most likely to have something on hands available as a backup for his 1962 Stratocaster.
This Stratocaster was made in 1961, and features fiesta red finish and a rosewood fretboard. The pickups in it are most likely original, although there’s a possibility that John replaced them with Seymour Duncan SSL-1s like in his two main Strats.
John used this guitar quite a lot during the Stadium Arcadium tour, although he did not use it on the record itself.
1963 Fender Stratocaster
Another guitar bought sometime prior to Stadium Arcadium. John supposedly used it a lot during the rehearsals, and even during the recording session on couple of songs. It was also seen occasionally during the tour, sometime played by Josh Klinghoffer in the background.
The guitar was made in 1963, and it features Olympic white finish and a rosewood fingerboard. It’s also John’s only Strat that has a floating tremolo bridge – meaning that the tremolo’s rear edge is raised up off the body. This allows John to raise the pitch of a note, as the additional range of movement allows the bar to be raised, which pulls the strings tighter and raises the pitch.
1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom
1961 Rickenbacker 365 Deluxe
Deluxe version of the 360 model, with added tremolo and white binding on the body’s edge. We’ve never seen John actually playing this guitar, except in the “Dani California” video.
The guitar was allegedly owned by James Burton prior to John acquiring it.
On one of the most recent photos of John you can see him holding a Yamaha SG guitar. He used it on his latest album, Letur-Lefr , not strictly for recording, but rather for developing initial ideas about the melody which he would later record on a Roland MC-202.
One thing I have done constantly throughout my life is to play along with CDs, or LPs, or whatever I have. I think that’s the best form of musical education… With the Yamaha SG, I could play along with guitar players who were playing, say, Les Pauls, and feel like the sound matched what I was hearing on the record. You know that you would have never played those things on a Strat. The tones don’t match.