John Clayton Mayer was born on October 16, 1977 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was first influenced to pick up a guitar by Marty McFly in “Back to the Future” movie, after which he managed to persuade his father to rent one for him and his brother to practice on. Around that same time, John received a cassette of one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s albums, which caught his attention more than anything he’d heard before. He started taking lessons from a local guitar-shop owner, Al Ferrante, and it soon became his main focus. At the age of 19 John attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but left after two semesters to form a band together with his friend Clay Cook called LoFi Masters. Eventually due to some differences in style of music, they split-up, and Mayer decided to continue as a solo artist.
John has a collection of over 200 guitars and take at least 40 of them on tour. In this article we probably will not manage to list all them. Instead we’ll focus on the ones he plays often and seems to enjoy the most. He also has the habit to switch his guitars and effects pretty often, so it’s almost impossible to make a steady, exact list of his equipment. We wrote this article in an attempt to give you some general idea of what he uses most often.
John Mayer’s Electric Guitars:
1990s Squier Stratocaster
This was John’s first electric guitar, acquired and used most likely sometime between 1991 and 1993. Prior to this, John was using an acoustic guitar which was rented from a local guitar shop, although there might have been couple of more acoustic guitars going through his hands before he eventually acquired the Squier. [John Mayer: Someday I’ll Fly]
My first electric guitar was a Squier, so I’ve kind of grown up native to the shape and the sound and the feel of a Stratocaster. I kind of learned my way around the guitar on it. [John Mayer 2007 summer tour – Fender]
As far as we know, there’s only one photo of John with this guitar, and it is shown briefly in the music documentary by Eastwood Allen titled “John Mayer: Someday I’ll Fly” [John Mayer: Someday I’ll Fly – 02:31]. Based on the photo, the guitar was finished in black and featured a rosewood fretboard. The same photo was shared on John’s Instagram profile a while ago.
What happened to the guitar is unknown, but it is likely that John sold it in order to purchase his next axe.
1990s Fender/Squier Stratocaster
John was first seen using this guitar in summer of 1994. At that time, he was playing in a band called “Another Roadside Attraction” [John Mayer: Someday I’ll Fly – 3:35]. As mentioned previously, the guitar likely directly replaced the black Squier that John played prior.
What’s particularly interesting about this guitar is that in 1994 it featured a maple neck, while later on in 1995 the neck seemed to have been swapped for a rosewood one [F.H.S Senior – John Mayer with Villanova Junction, May 1995]. Of course, there’s couple of reasons that might have led to this – the old one broke, John preferred rosewood fretboards over maple, or he simply came across a better neck than the one that was originally on the guitar and decided to swap them.
Another interesting possibility is that he got his hands on a Fender branded neck, while the guitar itself was a Squier. For what its worth, no one but John would ever know that the guitar was not an actual Fender since it sported the company’s logo on the headstock, which is of course the only cue most people will ever refer to when trying to identify the guitar. Also, John refers to his SRV Signature Stratocaster as his first ‘real’ guitar, with no mention of owning a white Fender prior to that one – which in case if it was an actual Fender would be certainly considered a decent guitar – at least in comparison to the Squier.
Unfortunately, all this is just a wild guess since none of the photos of the guitar with the maple neck show the headstock, and therefore we can’t see the logo on it. The logo on the rosewood neck, although the photo from May 1995 is of very poor quality, almost certainly sports a Fender logo. If you happen to come across more photos of the guitar which might help us figure this out, please be sure to send them to us using the contact form at the bottom of this list.
And to bring even more confusion into all of this, John posted a photo on his Instagram profile from Berklee circa 1996 standing next to James Valentine (Maroon 5).
If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice that although the front of the guitar seems to be either finished in clear lacquer or just showing bare wood, the back of the guitar and particularly the area around the neck joint still shows what looks like white paint. This leads us to believe that John partially stripped down the paint from the white Fender/Squier Stratocaster sometime in late 1995/early 1996, replaced the pickguard, and installed (the old?) maple neck on it.
Of course, it is also possible that these are two completely different guitars. One being a white Strat with maple neck, and the other one being also a white Strat but with rosewood board. John is probably the only person who would know for sure, while we can just keep on guessing.
Be that as it may, this guitar seemed to have been the first one that John would personally connect with and take special care of. The neck swap itself goes to show that John was becoming more familiar with the instrument and it’s inner workings, and was openly exploring which specs fit his style best. The fact that he gave the guitar a personal touch by adding his initials to the pickguard in style of Stevie Ray Vaughan, is obviously a clear sign that he was trying to make the guitar his own.
1996 Fender Stratocaster Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature
John acquired this Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster in 1996, trading it for a Takamine 12-string acoustic and a Mesa Booge distortion pedal, and paying the difference from the money he made working at a gas station. He used the guitar for bedroom practice in the early years, and during the two semesters spent at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
This one I bought from the money I made working at a gas station, and I traded in a Takamine twelve-string and a Mesa-Boogie distortion pedal. I think I paid around $900 as the difference. I bought it in 1996, and this thing has so many little stories on it. […] This has been in my bedroom when I was nineteen, practicing guitar playing, and Madison Square Garden, and Tokyo, and television shows… This is the representation of of the places I’ve been. [John Mayer – Studio Session No. 4]
In the video linked above John also talked about a few different changes that he did to the guitar in the early years. He mentioned engraving his name on the back plate at a local mall (1997), changing the bridge after breaking the whammy bar (1998), engraving his initials on the back of the body at Berklee (1998), and sanding down all the lacquer from back of the neck and from the fretboard edges (199?). Sometime after leaving Berklee and moving to Atlanta in 1998, he also added a small photo to the back of the headstock of him and his former college and roommate Matt Mangano [John Mayer – Studio Session No. 4].
However, he did not mentioned one mod in particular that seemed to be have been done around the same period as the rest of them. The original pickguard on the SRV signature models is black, and it features SRV initials engraved on it. It seems that John’s guitar from 1998 onward features a tortoise shell pickguard, which obviously is a change or a mod that was done by John himself. On the photos taken at Berklee the black pickguard was still on the guitar, so the mod likely happened sometime in 1998.
John continued using this guitar after he left Berklee and moved to Atlanta to form Lo-Fi Masters with his former college classmate, Clay Cook [Lo-Fi Masters at Eddie’s Attic, June 1998]. Although we couldn’t find any photos taken during the sessions, it is also safe to guess that this guitar was used in studio to record Room for Squares.
John continued using this guitar as his main stage instrument from 2001 to 2003 [John Mayer – Live at Cincinatti, October 5, 2002][John Mayer – Live, July 7, 2003]. With the release of his second album Heavier Things, John began introducing more and more guitars to his rig, and by 2004 the SRV Stratocaster was partially retired from stage use. Nonetheless, John still owns and plays it occasionally live, for instance at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2004, and more recently in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2013.
* Please note that this is not the same guitar that John was often seen playing in the more recent years – for example during the Live on Letterman performance in 2013. You’ll notice that the guitar he plays there features regularly-oriented bridge (as opposed to the upside down bridge on the SRV tribute model), all the hardware is chrome, and the Stevie Ray Vaughan signature on the headstock is missing as well. The guitar he was seen playing on Letterman is a vintage 60s model which we’ll discuss in detail later on.
This guitar was featured on the cover of John’s 2001 album Room for Squares. In the DVD commentary of “Any Given Thursday” he states that the guitar was used live for “Neon”, and in the studio on the song “Room for Squares”.
As you may have noticed, the guitar features angled or fanned frets, which allows for better intonation of the guitar. The principle on which this works is based on making the lower pitch strings shorter by making the bridge and the nut angled, and on the opposite side making the bass strings longer.
2000s Fender Stratocaster
Circa October 2001 John picked up a dark blue Stratocaster to use during the Room for Squares tour [John Mayer at the 3rd annual Voodoo Music Experience,October 27, 2001. photo by Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect].
This guitar was likely his primary guitar for Something’s Missing during that tour since he would have it tuned differently. From the looks of it, it seem to have been finished in Lake Placid blue, featuring mint-green pickguard, and a flamed maple neck with rosewood board.
Rick Turner Model 1
John first used this guitar in 2003 for the live version of “Bigger Than My Body” [John Mayer – Live, July 7, 2003] (whether he actually used the guitar during the studio sessions is uncertain). He continued using it on and off from that point on, and it was again heard in 2009 on the song “Half of My Heart” from the Battle Studies album [John Mayer NY, Beacon Theater – 11. Half of My Heart].
The Model 1 was popularized by Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), who actually played the first prototype that was build specifically for him by Rick Turner, on which the production model was based on. The guitar features solid body design with mahogany used exclusively as the building block. It is equipped with Rick Turner-designed hum-canceling pickup with optional coil-split, a piezo system, on-board pre-amp, and on-board quasi-parametric EQ. [Model 1 Solid Body – RickTurnerGuitar.com]
2000s Fender Stratocaster Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature #2
John was first seen using this Stevie Ray Signature Stratocaster in Australia 2003 [John Mayer – Live at Music Max in Australia, September 23, 2003], but it is likely that he owned the guitar for at least couple of months back, and used it during the 2003 US tour. If you happen to find photos and/or videos from anywhere between late 2002 and late 2003 with John using this guitar, or for that matter – a guitar that is not on this list, please be sure to forward it to us.
Since this guitar looks suspiciously similar to John’s first SRV Signature model, we should point out the differences. First, the wood grain on this guitar is different from the one John had since 1996, especially around the area behind the bridge leading to the strap button. Second, this guitar features a black pickguard – which of course is not that hard to change, but in any case it’s still worth noting. Lastly, the second guitar has not stickers on the back of the headstock, which the old one of course has (more details on this in the 1996 Fender Stratocaster Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature section).
It of course makes sense that John would pick up another guitar to use on tour, and save his old Strat from stage abuse and any potential damage that might occur during live shows. He went the safe route and picked up what’s essentially the same exact guitar, allowing him to avoid getting used to new neck shape or pickup sound, that would obviously also influence and change the way his songs sound in a live setting.
For a final note it is worth mentioning that based on video evidence, this guitar was used extensively on John’s second album Heavier Things, in favor of John’s old SRV Strat. If you look at the footage from the studio sessions [John Mayer – Heavier Things Studio Sessions], at around 2:43 you’ll notice that the guitar he’s holding has no stickers on the back of the headstock.
2000s Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop (Stripe)
This guitar was most famously used in the music video for the song “Bigger Than My Body” from the 2003 album Heavier Things. It was subsequently used on various dates in late 2003 [GettyImages – John Mayer 2003]
The guitar appears to be finished in Inca silver, featuring a red stripe spanning from the area bellow the bridge all the way to the bottom edge of the body. It was likely a custom order by John from the Fender Custom Shop.
1960-1963 Fender Stratocaster
This guitar was featured on the cover of John’s 2003 album Heavier Things. It is possible that the guitar was used to some extent during the studio sessions, although we couldn’t find any official word on it from John. If you happen to come across an interview where there’s gear mentioned in relation to this album, please be sure to send it to us using the contact form at the bottom of this list.
The guitar is most likely an early 60s Stratocaster. This is based on the fact that dot markers on the 12th were moved closer together on models made after mid 1963, and on John’s guitar they are obviously further away. The pickguard screw placement also fits the description of pre-1964 models – which is when the screw between the neck and middle pickup was moved closer to the middle. The final giveaway is of course the logo, which changed in mid 1964 to feature thicker letters and patent numbers. [Vintage Guitars Info’s Vintage Fender Guitars]
2003 Vinetto Legato
As far we know, John only used this guitar once – at the PNC Arts Center on August 28, 2003 in New Jersey [Singer-Songwriter John Mayer at the PNC Arts Center, Credit: Myrna Suarez]
The guitar was built by Vince Cunetto, who in the mid 90s worked with Fender Custom Shop on relicing their bodies and necks from his own workshop. Couple of years after the deal between the two ended, Vince started his own line of guitars under the Vinetto brand. The model that he came up with was called Legato, and it featured a design heavily influenced by Fender models such as the Stratocaster and the Telecaser.
John’s guitar featured sunburst finish on what looks like alder body, rosewood fretboard, 6-saddle Telecaster-style bridge, and a white pickguard. Although Vince mostly used pickups by DiMarzio, more specifically the ‘Virtual Hot T’ in the bridge and the Minibuckers in middle and neck [The ToneQuest Report, March 2004], Mayer’s guitar seems to have been equipped with Seymour Duncan pickups [John Mayer playing a Vinetto Legato, GettyImages]. These were most likely SD Vintage Mini Humbuckers.
Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterey Stratocaster Custom Shop
John started using this guitar sometime towards late 2003. One of the earlier appearances of the guitar was on December 30, 2003 on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, when John played a set with Buddy Guy and Double Trouble. The guitar was subsequently used on the 46th Annual Grammy Awards show on February 6th, various dates throughout the 2004 tour in support of the Heavier Things album, as well as on many different dates throughout the John Mayer Trio era.
The guitar most likely is one of the Fender Custom Shop’s limited replica run of Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster that he played and burned at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. A total number of 210 of these guitars were produced, all painted and hand-signed by Pamelina H. (see H.I.Guitars, Inc. Shop Collection for photos).
John’s guitar in a particular is mostly stock but it did have a couple of modification done to it. According to Mayer himself [John Mayer – Jones Beach Back Stage Tour] he had the neck re-done to feature a Brazilian rosewood fretboard, and he had the back of it sanded down.
More than just one Monty?
It is rumored that John owns more than just one Monterey Stratocaster, but at the time of writing this list we haven’t gathered enough information about the subject to be able to say anything for sure. If we happen to discover another guitar further down the line, it will be mentioned here. For now thought, it is safe to say that at least from 2004 to 2006, every time John picked up a Monterey Stratocaster it was probably the one same exact guitar.
There’s also rumors that the guitar that John play isn’t a genuine Fender, but based from the photos alone this also seems to be unlikely. I you carefully watch the Who Do You Think I Was music video, you can spot the golden transition-style logo on the figured maple headstock, as well as the number printed on the back on the headstock (somewhat less clearly due to poor quality of the video).
2003/4 Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop (Charcoal Frost Metallic)
John first appeared with this guitar sometime after the release of Heavier Things circa late 2003. The guitar was likely a Fender Custom Shop master-built guitar, and served a purpose of backup guitar for the upcoming tour.
If you happen to come across an interview where John mentioned these early Strats with stripe design, please be sure to forward it to use. While the specs on the post-2004 models are relatively known, since they were based on John’s Artist series, these early guitars are pretty much still a mystery.
2004 Fender Custom Shop SRV “Number One” Tribute Strat
John acquired this guitar sometime in early to mid 2004, presumeably right after it became available. The guitar was introduced in January 2004 at the Winter NAMM, and since it was only produced in 100 pieces, it was sold at the authorized Fender dealers who were choosen on a lottery basis – making the guitar even more of a vanity item.
The guitar was built by John Cruz (who later worked on John’s BLK1), and it was the exact replica of the Stratocaster that Stevie Ray Vaughan used throughout his career, nicknamed the “Number One”. The guitars were marked with serial numbers ranging from 1 to 100 with the prefix “JC” (John Cruz), and they were built with close input from Rene Martinez who prior to working for Mayer worked as a guitar tech for Stevie Ray Vaughan. [Fender Custom Shop John Cruz, SRV “Number One” – Reverb.com]
John was seen using the guitar at a sound check on July 24th, 2004 in Houston, TX, so it is likely that he carried it with him on tour as a sort of a warm-up/backstage instrument. The SRV Tribute Strat was subsequently seen on some photos taken at John’s apartment later that year, which originally appeared in an article posted on Today.com [John Mayer lets go of ‘Wonderland’]
As a final note, it is rumored that John acquired a few of the SRV “Number One” Tribute Strats at the time of the release, and then subsequently sold them later. If you happen to come across an interview where John talks about the purchase, or about this guitar in general, please be sure to forward it to us.
Fender Custom Shop Tele/Strat Hybrid
This guitar appeared sometime in mid 2004 [John Mayer at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, April 15, 2004], although it is possible that John already owned it for couple of months proir. As far as we know, it was only used for live performances for the song such as “Something’s Missing”, although this is not definitive and still needs further research.
When I used to play Something’s Missing [from Heavier Things, 2004], I had this Strat-Tele that Chris Fleming built. It became the allocated guitar, with the tuning for that song [E B E F# B E]; it comes out of the coffin and I’d play it for Something’s Missing, then it went back in and stayed in that tuning. Then when I stopped playing Something’s Missing, it was like – this is a great guitar for other things; tune it back into standard… [John Mayer interview – Music Radar]
As noted in the title, the guitar a hybrid between a Stratocaster and a Telecaster models built by master-luthier Chris Fleming. The Stratocaster seemed to have been used as a base, since if you ignore the upper half of the body all the features are taken directly from that model. The guitar features three single-coil hand-wound 60s style pickups, a 5-way pickup selector switch, and a Fender S-1 switch that turns the bridge pickup on and off in any position.
John’s Tele/Strat is actually the first model to ever leave the factory. According to Chris Fleming, John bought it online on his own initiative from a Fender dealer. [Chris Fleming discusses his Tele®/Strat® hybrid]
2004 Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop (Burgundy Mist)
Once again a mysterious guitar that probably came out of the Fender Custom Shop on John’s order. This one was used extensively during the Heavier Things tour in 2004 [03/12/2004 John Mayer- YouTube], and therefore likely served purely just as of a tour guitar.
By the looks of it, the guitar was based on a early 60s Stratocaster model. It features a rosewood fretboard on a maple neck, most likely an alder body finished in Burgundy Mist, aged mint-green pickguard, and the standard configuration of three single-coil pickups.
2004 Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop (John Mayer Artist Series Prototype)
This guitar was first seen in July during the 2004 Summer Tour [John Mayer at Shoreline Amphitheater July 16, 2004]. Based on couple of sources, it is highly likely that this guitar was a prototype of sorts for John’s upcoming Signatures series from Fender, which became publicly available a year later, in July 2005.
According to information over at Fender Reissue Shop website, John received two prototypes with serial numbers JM001 and JM002 in 2004. Both of these were custom built by Chris Fleming, and were used by John during the 2004 and 2005 tour dates. Sometime in 2005 he gave the JM002 back to Chris Fleming as a present, and after changing couple of hands the guitar ended up with guys over at the Fender Reissue Shop [Fender Masterbuilt John Mayer Prototype Stratocaster Stage Played JM002 Proto]
The guitar is heavily based on the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute model on which John relied for most of his career. The main difference is the orientation of the bridge, which was rotated 180 degrees back to it’s original position, and the pickups which were replaced with a set of single-coils designed with John’s personal input. These pickups eventually became known as “Big Dippers”, and were available exclusively through one of John Signature guitars – meaning you couldn’t buy them separately.
As said, most of the other stuff was pretty standard and was taken either from vintage models (general design), or Stevies Ray Vaughan Signature model. The guitar featured alder body, thick C shape neck with African rosewood fretboard featuring 9.5” radius and 6105 narrow jumbo frets, and 25.5” scale length. For more in-depth details consults official Fender spec sheet – [John Mayer Signature Models Specs].
The John Mayer Signature model was discontinued in September 2014, shortly before John announced that he’s parting ways with Fender, although he obviously he still continued using Fender guitars but was no longer endorsing the company.
2004 Fender Stratocaster John Mayer Signature (Black One)
This is perhaps the guitar that John is most often associated with, at least in the more recent years. It was built by Fender Custom Shop master-builder John Cruz in Corona, California in late 2004 – with direct input from John, who also participated in some of the handwork. The guitar was delivered to Mayer in November 2004.
I had just gotten of a tour, and was just starting the get crazies from the second or third world tour. So, as soon as I had any time off, I called you and said – can I come down and build a guitar. I wanted to build my main guitar. […] Since I was a kid, I would draw my own item details for the Fender Frontline Catalog. I would draw free-hand the Strat, the headstock, the tuning keys, and I would write “Fender John Mayer Signature Stratocaster”. Then I would start writing all the details out – what kind of pickups would it have, what kind of this-and-that.. [John Mayer – The Story of The Black One]
The guitar ended up featuring alder body and a thick C-shaped maple neck with African rosewood and all the specs taken directly from the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster, which John was of course very familiar with from before (9.5” radius, 6105 jumbo frets, 25.5” scale length, 1.650”width at nut). The Strat was equipped with a set of Gold Schaller Die-Cast tuners with white pearloid buttons, which coincidentally were also installed on Stevie Ray Vaughan original guitar by his (now John’s) guitar tech, Rene Martinez.
These are the machines that I bought a long time ago for Stevie’s guitar. I guess he (John) noticed them somewhere, or maybe he didn’t – I don’t know. But, they are on here, so I’m just guessing that’s where he saw them. I bought this for Stevie a long time ago, and when I saw them on this one – I went wow! [Rene Martinez – Premier Guitar, John Mayer Rig Rundown]
The most noticeable thing on the guitar is of course the finish, or perhaps more precisely – the lack of it. This was done on John’s personal request, following an experience he had after picking up the Stevie Ray Vaughan Tribute model, which was basically a replica of Stevie’s worn-out guitar, that had next to no lacquer on it. Many have argued that the less paint the guitar has on it, the more natural it sounds, since the lack of paint allows for the wood to breathe. John seems to agree with this for the most part:
The body on a Strat that has a lacquer around it, normally doesn’t resonate. That’s sort of where the germ of the idea was. It wasn’t about wanting a guitar like Stevie’s – it was only in the sense that I want a guitar that doesn’t have lacquer on it — Bonnie Raitt has a guitar that has no lacquer on it, and it sounds great! And the early guitars are great because they only got couple of layers of paint, and one thin layer of lacquer.
So idea became that I wanted a guitar that doesn’t have any paint on it. But when I started to think about it, the idea of a guitar without any paint on was just a little bit too rustic for me. So I thought about something sort of like Rory Gallagher’s Stratocaster, where there’s more negative space than positive space in terms of painjob. [John Mayer – The Story of The Black One]
Last thing to mention in relation to specs are of course the pickups. According to John Cruz, who was the main person behind the project, the guitar is equipped with three custom made single-coil pickups.
People say that those are Big Dipper pickups, but no – not on this run. These ones are modeled and chosen to be kind of close to the Stevie Ray Vaughan’s tone. They are custom-wound pickups that we used in that. [Fender Custom Shop Road Show With John Cruz – John Mayer]
There is some speculation however that these have since been replaced. Some say they are Ron Ellis pickups, some say they are from D’Pergo – but John himself has never disclosed any info regarding this. If you happen to stumble upon any mention of the subject by John, please be sure to contact us.
The Ground Issue
Upon receiving the guitar, John was disheartened to learn that it just didn’t sound as good as he expected. Frustrated by this and not knowing what to do, he placed the guitar in a freezer over night hoping for some kind of a miracle to happen. As that obviously proved to be of no help, he opened up the guitar and learned that the ground wire wasn’t hooked up. [John Mayer – The Story of The Black One]
John used this guitar as his main axe on and off ever since he received it in late 2004. It was used most extensively in the era following the release of the album Continuum, which itself was recorded almost exclusively using this guitar.
The Black One just struck. All of a sudden this guitar started doin’ it. And as the guitar started to age it got different; within months it started to sound different. So it was a labor of love and it’s all of the Continuum record. It’s in a couple places on Battle Studies, but it really is the Continuum guitar – you know, it’s just fucking great every time; it’s the best feeling guitar I’ve ever played. [John Mayer interview – MusicRadar]
In 2010 Fender started producing a limited run of John Mayer’s black Stratocaster. The more exclusive line of the two was limited to only 83 guitars, all master-built featuring the same exact wear and distressed look of John’s personal guitar. They also feature custom-wound pickups based on the ones used on John’s guitar, and not the Big Dippers production model which was fitted into the less exclusive version of the BLK1.
This ‘lower-tier’ model was limited to 500 pieces, and all of the guitars from this production line looked factory new. The first model usually sold for upwards of $15,000, while the less exclusive model was available for $2,199.99. [Official Fender John Mayer BLACK1 Signature Spec Sheet]
According to a post that John made on his Instagram profile on May 22nd, 2014, the guitar had a neck replacement. The old neck apparently got warped and twisted beyond the possibility of it being fixed, so John Cruz made the same exact replica, and went as far as using the tuners and the string tree from the original neck.
Had to retire the original neck of my main guitar, “Black1”, due to twisting in it that just couldn’t be fixed. Master Builder John Cruz made a new neck, even going so far as to keep the original tuners and string tree. Hard to see it go… Oh well. I’ll always have it in the vault… Goes goes to show you, nothing in life is forever, not even your guitar. Time to put another 10 years on this thing.
According to Tommy (JM Yuku forums user, and a direct contributor to this list), who had a chance to meet John personally and hold the BLK1, the guitar will likely have another neck replacement soon. During the chat between the two, John mentioned that the new neck was warping and twisting again, and that he plans on asking John Cruz to make him another replacement – which would be the guitar’s third neck. [Learnings from holding and playing the BLK1 – John Mayer Yuku Forums]
Fender Custom Shop 1962 John Cruz Masterbuilt Sonic Blue Stratocaster
Mayer started using this guitar during the Trio era on Gravity. It was built by John Cruz and is part of a limited run of 100 guitars.
The model is designed as a 1962 Stratocaster, in a color called faded sonic blue, that almost looks white under certain light. The neck has laminated rosewood fretboard with a 9.5″ radius and 21 Medium Jumbo frets, and the guitar is equipped with the John Cruz master design pickups (this model is possibly one of the first to feature these pickups).
There are pictures of Mayer playing this exact guitar in the studio during the recording of Continuum, though he claims he used the BLK1 on Gravity on the album and not the sonic blue. One of those pictures is the infamous “70s-looking” photo that John took, smoking a cigarette and sporting a fake mustache.
If you’re curious about the price, and perhaps purchasing one for yourself, a John Cruz Masterbuilt Sonic Blue Stratocaster is currently selling on Reverb.com for $6,800. [Fender Custom Shop Masterbuilt John Cruz 1962 Relic Stratocaster Limited Edition Builder Select]
2004 Fender Stratocaster “Crashocaster” Custom
John was first seen using this Strat in 2005 during the John Mayer Trio tour. The guitar was built by Fender Custom Shop and painted by John Crash Matos.
Crash is a graffiti artist who became known in the guitar circle after painting a couple of Eric Clapton’s Strats in the early 2000s. In 2004 he was commissioned by Fender to paint a total of fifty guitars with completely unique designs. John’s Strat was likely not counted as one of those fifty, since it was obviously a custom order featuring the number “83” embedded into the design – obviously requested by John himself.
In case John’s guitar was made in private agreement between the two, that would mean that there’s a total of 54 Crashocaster circeling around.- the three he painted for Clatoin, fifty for the Fender Custom Shop, and this one for Mayer. If you happen to know more details about this particular Chrashocaster, and the story of how it came to be, please be sure to shoot us a message.
1980 Fender Custom Shop Reverse Proto Stratocaster Closet Classic
This guitar was used extensively by John throughout the 2005 John Mayer Trio tour. It was also used on some later dates, including Mayer’s performance at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, California on December 8, 2007, which was eventually released as a live DVD album Where the Light Is [Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles]
John’s guitar is one of the original prototypes made in 1980 which were intended to be the first line of Jimi Hendrix Artist Series. For one reason or another, Fender never really got around to sorting everything out, and all that remained are couple of prototype guitars – all of which are now of course highly-priced collectibles. For detailed photos of one of the prototypes, check out Fender Reissue Shop’s website.
Towards 2008 the guitar seems to have disappeared from stage use, but we haven’t been able to find any quotes from John mentioning this guitar specifically so it’s whereabouts are pretty much unknown. It is possible, and very likely, that he decided to keep the guitar safe at his home.
2005 Fender Custom Shop “Try” Stratocaster
This guitar was primarily used during the John Mayer Trio era, more precisely in the period following the release of their live album Try! on November 22, 2005 [John Mayer Trio In-Store Performance at Tower Records in New York City – November 22, 2005]. The Strat was most likely a custom order from John, built by Fender Custom Shop.
As far as the specs – although we haven’t been able to find any official word from Fender or John, it is likely that everything was taken over from the John Mayer Signature model. The only difference, apart from the custom paint-job, is the reversed neck. This is likely something that John requested upon familiarizing himself with the previously mentioned Reverse Proto Stratocaster.
Since this guitar is one of the more mysterious ones, if you happen to find any quotes from John mentioning it please be sure to send it to us using the contact form at the end of this list.
1963/64 Fender Stratocaster
John acquired this guitar sometime prior to the Continuum album (mid to late 2005), and used it on at least one song during the studio sessions, although we couldn’t find out which one in particular (if you happen to have any information regarding this, please be sure to contact us). From then on, the guitar remained behind the scenes for the most part until just prior the Born and Raised tour in 2012, when it became his main stage instrument.
This somehow became kind of like go-to stage guitar for last two or three years. I had this guitar for almost exactly ten years, and the first time this guitar was on record was on Continuum record. [John Mayer on Periscope August 20th, 2015 – Gear Talk]
Although John does not mention the age of the guitar specifically, the exact year of manufacture is somewhat easy to figure out by looking at the pictures. If you Google a couple of high-res pictures of the guitar, you’ll notice that the headstock styles the early 60s spagetti Fender logo, and it has three patent numbers below it. The third thing is the placement of the screws on the pickguard – in 1963 the screw between the neck and middle pickup was moved about 1/2″ closer towards the middle pickup. [Vintage Guitars Info’s Vintage Fender Guitars]
Based on that info, and on the fact that Fender completely changed the design of their logo in mid 1964, it is safe to say that John’s Stratocaster was made either in 1963, or sometime in early 1964.
The last thing that is interesting to note is the general design of the guitar, and the choice to use a tortoise shell pickguard instead of the stock white one. We couldn’t find any official statement by Fender, but it seems that all the early 60s Strats in sunburst originally came equipped with white pickguards, meaning that John either replaced the old one himself, or simply went shopping with this exact design in mind.
This trend can be followed all the way back to his first SRV Stratocaster on which he replaced the original black pickguard with a tortoise one, and did that on almost every subsequential sunburst Stratocaster that he played afterwards. It is therefore somewhat safe to assume that this is John’s favorite Stratocaster design.
One of the members of the John Mayer Yuku forums (thanks Alejandro) pointed out that John answered a question regarding this guitar on the forums. His statement seems to confirm that this is indeed his favorite Stratocaster look:
It’s my favorite spec combination, sunburst with tortoise pick guard and rosewood fretboard. You see a lot of basses with that look, I think Dela (David LaBruyere) had one the whole time we were playing together. […] I didn’t decide on it being a top 5 guitar, it just sort of kept getting used until one day I looked back and realized it was my favorite vintage Strat. It really is perfect. It’s like a Stratavarius. [JM Answers Some Questions From Our Own Musicians…]
John also points out that the guitar was re-fretted by Chris Fleming at the Fender Custom Shop, and the original 3-way switch was replaced with a modern 5-way by his guitar tech Rene Martinez.
2005 Gibson Custom Shop Eric Clapton Crossroads ES-335
This guitar first appeared sometime during the John Mayer Trio era, which corresponds with the time when the guitar became available for purchase from the Gibson Custom Shop, in 2005.
The Clapton/Cream 335 – the reissue of the 335 that he played in Cream. You might have seen this on the Trio tour, and I think I played “Out of My Mind” on this. I think I did because I would have played that style of a guitar on it. [John Mayer on Periscope – Gear Talk]
As you might have guessed from the title, the guitar is a replica of the ES-335 model that Eric Clapton used during his years with the Yardbirds and Cream. After the original was sold at auction in 2004 for staggering $847,500 [Gibson 1964, ES-335 TDC | Christie’s], it was examined by Gibson Custom Shop and eventually replicated in a limited run of 250 guitars.
The guitar features maple body with a solid maple center block finished in aged Cherry finish, slim mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard, two custom-designed “Burstbucker” humbuckers, Grover tuners, and a ABR-1 bridge with stopbar tailpiece.
2000s Fender Custom Shop Gold Leaf Stratocaster
This guitar was first seen sometime in late 2006, following the release of the album Continuum. It was specifically used during the studio sessions for the song “Vultures”, and most of the occasions when the song was played live.
So for Vultures , I have to play the gold-leaf Strat. That’s what I wrote the song on, and that’s got that incredible second position – what do they call it, the quack? That’s the quackiest Strat of all time! Vultures does not work on another guitar. That weird, hollowed-out, out-of-phasey-type sound. […] I’ve never taken that gold Strat and played any other tune on it than Vultures. [John Mayer interview – Music Radar]
The guitar was most likely built specifically for John by the Fender Custom Shop, since it’s drastically different from the Eric Clapton Goldleaf Stratocaster (which would be the obvious suspect), although John might’ve taken some inspiration from it. The exact specs are unfortunately unknown, but it is likely that John requested that the guitar featured the exact same specs as his signature model.
2000s Fender Custom Shop Time Machine ’50s Thinline Telecaster
John was seen using this guitar occasionally towards late 2006 [John Mayer and Sheryl Crow at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – September 27, 2006].
Although very little is known about the guitar, from the looks of it appears to be a Custom Shop Thinline Telecaster. Fender apparently released a limited run of this guitars sometime in the mid 2000s, and by 2009 the model was discontinued [Fender Custom Shop Retired Models]
2004 Fender Stratocaster “Crashocaster”
This guitar appeared on ocassisons towards late 2004, more precisely during couple of gigs that John played with Sheryl Crow [John Mayer in Concert at Nikon Jones Beach Theater – August 30, 2006].
The Stratocaster was obviously something that John Crash Matos had laid his fingers on, but the exact details behind the guitar are unfortunately unknown. It is possible that this is one of the fifty guitars that Crash did for Fender, and John ended up buying one of them, and it’s equially possible that the guitar was a custom order by Mayer.
Be that as it may, he specs are likely to be that of a John Mayer Signature model. While the body could’ve been taken from any given Stratocaster, the neck and the electronics are most likely taken directly from a JM model.
Fender SRV Lipstick Stratocaster
John was seen playing this guitar at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, Illinois, as well as on PBS’s Austin City Limits recorded that same year [John Mayer Live 2007 (Austin City Limits)]. Although initially suspected by many, the guitar is not from the limited line built by Charley’s Guitar Shop, but Fender’s own replica – likely requested to be made by John himself (if you happen to know for a fact that Fender actually sold these replicas apart from the one the made for John, please shoot us a message).
As said, the guitar is Fender’s own replica one of the 33 replicas of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s original guitar, made in 1983 by Charley’s Guitar Shop in Dallas, Texas. Charley’s Guitar Shop made their replicas of this guitar from 2003 with direct input from Rene Martinez, who worked as Stevie’s guitar tech prior to joining Mayer to do the same job for him. Initially, 100 guitar were planned, but apparently Fender stepped in and the production stopped at 33 [reliable source needed].
The guitar takes most of its design from a standard Stratocaster model, featuring rosewood fretboard on a maple neck (most likely) with a small headstock. The pickups in it are based on the vintage Danelectro pick-ups, most likely Seymour Duncan’s Lipstick Tubes or an in-house replica made by Fender. The guitar has only one tone knob compare to Stratocaster’s two, and one volume control.
Although he was never seen playing one (to our knowledge), it is suspected that John also owns one of the ‘original’ replicas by Charley’s Guitar Shop. Since Rene Martinez worked on a number of those replicas himself, and he now happens to be working for John, who again happens to be a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan, that would be very likely.
1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Junior
John was see using this guitar on couple of occasions in 2007, including the ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” on July 20th, 2007. Unfortunately, the specifics and the origin of the guitar are currently unknown.
Based on the photos, the guitar appears to be vintage, most likely dating back to late 50s. It features a double cutout body, cherry red finish, and a single P-90 pickup in the bridge position.
2007 Fender Stratocaster John Mayer Signature (Continuum)
This is one of the guitars occasionally used during the Continuum tour. The guitar is most likely just a regular John Mayer Signautre Stratocaster in white, featuring the word “Continuum” written in sequence on top of the body, excluding the pickguard.
Fore the specifics behind the electronics and woods used on the guitar, refer to official Fender spec sheet – [John Mayer Signature Models Specs].
2007 Fender John Mayer Limited Edition Stratocaster (Cypress Mica)
This guitar was a limited edition of John Mayer Signature Stratocaster released in 2007, featuring most of the specs present on the regular models with some minor differences. John himself used the guitar occasionally from early 2007 [John Mayer during 38th Annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, May 05, 2007].
As said, the guitar is pretty much just a regular JM Stratocaster featuring different finish and few minor design features. The color is officially branded as “Cypress Mica”, which falls somewhere between gun-metal gray and olive green with sparkles that under a certain light give more of yellow/golden tint. Aside from the finish, which is obviously the most unique feature on the guitar, the standard tone and volume knobs have been replaced with vintage white amp control knobs.
The model was produced from mid 2007 to late 2008 as a limited run of 500 pieces, and was available for purchase for $2,149.99. For exact specs, please consult official spec sheet, kindly provided to us by Fender via email [John Mayer Limited Edition Stratocaster Specs]
The guitar(s) that John played himself was (were) modified from the factory specs by Chris Fleming. One of the models with the serial number #002 is currently owned by the Fender Reissue Shop, who posted couple of photos of it over at Fender John Mayer Stage Played, Owned, and Signed Masterbuilt Stratocaster – The Fender Reissue Shop.
1961 Fender Stratocaster Hardtail
John acquired this guitar sometime in 2007, which is a presumption mostly based on the photos which seem to date back no further than mid 2007 and the 38th Annual New Orleans Jazz Festival.
According to a Periscope live stream that John did recently [John Mayer on Periscope – Gear Talk] the guitar is a 1961 hard-tail Stratocaster, meaning that it doesn’t have a regular tremolo bridge, making the guitar lighter and less prone to going out of tune.
In the same Periscope session linked above John mentioned that he used this guitar on “Something Like Olivia”, and some other stuff. We unfortunately have no idea what that other stuff may be. If you happen to know more, please be sure to contact us.
1977 Gibson L-5
This guitar was most famously used on Where The Light Is DVD, mostly just on the footage recorded of John playing outside on Mulholland Drive. From then on, the L-5 was seen occasionally on John’s social media profiles and it was used very rarely on any of the live gigs. One instance where the guitar was seen live was at the David Letterman show in 2008, where John played a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours”.
John’s L-5 is a 1977 model [John Mayer – Jones Beach Back Stage Tour], and it features a rounded cutaway – a design change from the pointed cutaway that was introduced in the late 60s. It is a hollow body guitar with solid spruce top with maple back and sides, five-piece maple neck, and two humbucking pickups.
Guild Starfire IV ST
John used this guitar on the Where The Light Is DVD/album to play the song “Come When I Call”.
The guitar is finished in dark sunburst, and from the looks of it appears to be brand new. Given that this is true, it features a semi-hollow body with solid spruce center block, a 22 fret neck with Indian rosewood fretboard, a Tune-O-Matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece, and two Guild LB-1 pickups.
Fender Custom Shop Stevie Ray Vaughan Lenny Tribute Stratocaster
John received this guitar from Fender Custom Shop sometime in 2008, as was shown in the bonus interview featured on the Where The Light Is DVD. To our knowledge he never used this Strat live.
The guitar is a replica of a Strat that Stevie Ray Vaughan received as a gift on his 26th birthday from his wife Lenora (you can read more about the guitar at Stevie Ray Vaughan’s gear page). Fender made a total of 185 instruments, all of course master-built.
2009 Fender Custom Shop Jeff Beck Stratocaster “Heartbreak Warfare”
John was first seen using this guitar following the release his 2009 fourth studio album Battle Studies. The guitar is used exclusively for the song “Heartbreak Warfare” which features quite extensive use of the tremolo.
The main distinctive features on this guitar are the 24-fret neck with what looks like a Wilkinson split roller nut, and three Fender Noiseless pickups. Based on this, the guitar appears to be a Jeff Beck Signature model – since all of those features are present on that model, although John’s guitar doesnt seem to feature the usual Jeff Beck signature on the headstock (it is possibly that the signature is simply on the back instead on the front).
All these features, and John choice to use a Jeff Beck Stratocaster are of course for the purpose of making the guitar more reliable during the use of a tremolo, which as noted in the opening paragraph, is used profusely on Hearbreak Warfare.
Duesenberg Mike Campbell Signature
This guitar seems to have been used occasionally on couple of gigs with Keith Urban’s on the song “‘Til Summer Comes Around”. It was subsequently seen in 2010 in the Palace of Auburn Hills, where John used the guitar to play the song “Say” [John Mayer – Say (Live at the Palace Feb.12, 2010)]
According to the information on the Duesenberg website, the guitar features maple neck with Indian rosewood fingerboard featuring 12″ radius (compared to 9.5” on JM Strat) with 22 jumbo frets. The body is semi-hollow with laminated spruce top and laminated flamed maple back and sides. All the hardware is produced in-house by Duesenberg, including the P-90 style pickup which is fitted in the neck position, and the “Grand Vintage” humbucker in the bridge.
2009 Fender Custom Shop La Cabronita Telecaster
John Mayer used this since 2009 on live performances of “Perfectly Lonely”, and since he often chooses to use the same exact guitar he originally used during the studio sessions (gold-lead Strat on “Vultures” for example), the guitar was mostly likely used to record the song as well.
The guitar was built by Fender Custom Shop and it features blonde finish, maple neck with 9,5 inch radius rosewood fretboard and 6105 frets, two TV Jones Filter’Tron pickups, a fixed Strat-style bridge, and Sperzel tuners. The guitar only has a single volume knob, and a switch to toggle between the two pickups, however the volume knob also serves as a push/pull switch which changes the sound of the guitar significantly. [Mike Eldred On The Fender Custom Shop La Cabronita Especial]
According to Mike Eldred, John was actually the first person to receive this guitar, and to our knowledge one of the few (if not the only person) who owns the rosewood fretboard version of the guitar.
1961 Gibson Les Paul/SG
This guitar was first spotted in late 2009 [Mayer at the Beacon Theatre on November 17, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)]. Although used rarely at first, the guitar became John’s favorite axe by the time he recorded Battle Studies, and he ended up using it to record the song “Edge of Desire” from that album.
It took me 10 years to… no, more than 10 years, 15 years, to really be able to put a Strat down and play something else. My favorite guitar right now is this Les Paul SG. [John Mayer interview by MusicRadar]
The guitar is properly branded as a Les Paul, because at the time it was produced this was its official name since it directly replaced the old Les Paul model. Les Paul himself wasn’t involved in the design of this new version, and he wasn’t too fond of it – so he requested the removal of his name from the new model. His name was officially deleted in 1963, but the SG continued to feature Les Paul nameplates and truss rod covers until the end of 1963. The new name, the SG, stood simply for “Solid Guitar”.
John’s own model features cherry red finish, a solid mahogany body, 24.75″ scale mahogany neck, traditional Gibson humbucker pickups, and a sideways Vibrola tremolo tailpiece.
John used this guitar to record War of My Life and Assassin from the 2009 album “Battle Studies”.
This is sort of like a guitar synth in a way. It has constantly-sustaining pickups that just keep the strings ringing. I used this on War of My Life and I used it on the Assassin. Those sort of groovy, long, sort of ethnic-sounding guitar parts I played on that guitar. [John Mayer – Jones Beach Back Stage Tour]
Fender TL-MINNIE “Minnie Mouse” Telecaster MIJ
John seems to have acquired this guitar during the Battle Studies tour in Japan in May 2010, and played it on at least one gig around that time. [John Mayer Perfectly Lonely Live in Japan, Tokyo JCB Hall 2010.5.13]
The guitar is part of a limited Disney-themed line made and released only in Japan, and it featured a basswood body and a maple neck rosewood with 25.5″ scale length and 9.5″ radius (marked as 324mm and 250mm for the Japanese market). [Amazon｜Fender Japan TL-MINNIE Telecaster] The price of the guitar was around 100,980 Japanese Yen, or approximately $1,000.
2000s Fender Custom Shop Masterbuilt ’60s Rosewood Stratocaster “Rosie”
Based on the photos, the guitar was first used sometime in early to mid 2011, as John was first seen using it during theTiger Jam All Star Benefit Concert in April that year.
The guitar was built by the Fender Custom Shop, and it features all-rosewood body and neck. It is based on late the 60s model, and it styles the larger headstock and the logo design that was typical in that period. As far as the rest of the specs, this depends on whether the guitar was built specificaly for John, or he just happened to pick up one of the standard models.
In case the guitar was standard, it featured 25.5″ sale neck with 9.5″ fretboard radius and medium jumbo frets. The pickups were hand-wound in the factory to match the specs pickups made during late 60s, and the headstock was fitted with the Vintage Style Tuners,
Sometime in 2012 the pickguard on this guitar was painted by Pamelina (the same artist that did the Monterey Pop Strat) to feature a rose flower, making it a one-of-a-kind. Some argue that the guitar with the rose on the pickguard is a completely different Start, buy if you closely inspect the wood grain on the body you’ll find out that they are actually identical.
2009 Ernie Ball Music Man 25th Anniversary
This guitar was seen during the 2010 Battle Studies World Tour on various dates primarily on gigs played in Australia and Japan. From the photos available the guitar appears to be black, but it seems that all of the 25th Anniversary models were produced in dark red. John’s guitar was then either a custom-made model and one of the few to be finished in black (likely the case), or it only appeared to be black on those photos but was in reality dark red.
The Ernie Ball Music Man 25th Anniversary model is equipped with two DiMarzio custom humbuckers mounted on top of a chambered basswood body with figured maple top with white binding. John particular model is fitted with a rosewood fretboard with 22 frets and 12″ radius (flatter than John’s Strats).
Allegedly, the guitar was used to record some of the stuff on the Battle Studies but we haven’t been able to find any official word from John on this.
Duesenberg Double Cat
John used this guitar on the Battle Studies album to record the song “Wildfire”. Following John’s preference to always use the exact same guitar that the he the song was recorded with, the Duesenberg was also seen on most of the live performances of the song.
According to the info on Duesenberg’s website, the guitar features alder body with sound chambers and Laminated maple top, Indian rosewood fretboard with 12″ radius, Duesenberg Multibender tremolo bridge, Duesenberg Domino P-90 pickup in the neck, and a Grand Vintage Humbucker in the bridge position.
1952 Fender Telecaster
This guitar was first seen live during the Born and Raised World Tour in 2013, althought based on John’s Periscope stream recorded in 2016, he had owned the Tele for quite a while:
This is a bit of a different Tele in a sense that it’s not traditionally bright and sort of twangy. That’s why I had to have it – at a considerable cost to get it out of this person’s hand – about seven or eight years ago (note: that would be around 2009). [John Mayer on Periscope – 52 Tele Blues – 2/2/16]
1990s Fender Strat Plus
John used this guitar occasionally during the Born and Raised world tour, most notably at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2013.
From the looks of it, the guitar appears to be an early 90s Strat Plus. The most obvious giveaway are the three Gold Lace Sensor pickups (famously used by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy) and the Fender/Wilkinson needle-bearing roller nut – which was used on this specific model until around 1993. The exact color used on the guitar is unfortunately hard to tell exactly, since there a few possible options – including Candy Red, Torino Red, and Lipstick Red, and perhaps even Fiesta Red.
For more info about the history of this Fender model, please check out this wonderful and resourceful page by Xferi’s Guitars – The Fender Stratocaster “Strat” Plus Series
Alembic Further Jerry Garcia Tribute
John was first seen using this guitar during the 2013 while playing a cover of Grateful Dead song “Friend of the Devil”. This is of course no coincidence, since the guitar was modeled after one of Alembic’s earliest guitar models known as “Wolf”, played by Grateful Dead co-founder and lead guitarist – Jerry Garcia.
Although just by looking at it one would assume that the guitar is solid, this is not the case. It basically features a center block that spans from one to the other end of the guitar, made of two large piece of maple, and smaller strips of purpleheart and cherry wood. The body itself is also made from several woods, with quilted maple top and back and purpleheart sides.
As far as the electronics, everything on the guitar is custom-made by Alembic. The pickups are branded as the Alembic STR (neck) and Alembic HG (middle and bridge), and model appear to be active pickup – meaning that they require batteries. The controls include master volume, filter for each pickup, off/on/bright for each pickup, mono output, TRS effects loop, on/off for effects loop.
From 2013 and on, John seemed to have used this guitar occasionally for live gigs. He was seen playing it on Live on Letterman TV show in 2013 [John Mayer performing Something Like Olivia (Live on Letterman). (C) 2013 CBS Interactive]
2014 Fender Custom Shop Nickel Plated Stratocaster
This is one of the more mysterious guitars of John’s. He started using it in 2014, and it appears to be a 50s style model with a maple neck and a visible truss rod on the headstock – meaning that the guitar is not vintage but a new model. The finish on the guitar seems to be one-of-a-kind, since it looks to shiny to be Inca Silver or really anything from the Fender catalog.
Update: we managed to dig up an old tweet of John from 2014 in which mentions the said guitar and clears up the mystery behind it:
The guitar was used occasionally during the 2014 as well as on some studio projects during that year [Barbra Streisand – Come Rain or Come Shine with John Mayer]. As far as the specs, it likely features all of the hardware from the JM Signature Strat, but this is obviously not one-hundred percent true.
2014 Fender Eric Clapton Custom Shop Signature Stratocaster
This is one of the two maple-neck Stratocasters that John played on couple of occasions in 2014. Prior to acquiring these two maple-neck Strats, John almost exclusively used rosewood Strats, aside from couple of odd ones – like the Custom Shop Reverse Proto Stratocaster. 2014 seems to have been a sort of a transition year for John, which eventually culminated with a huge announcement in October that year when Mayer revealed that he has parted ways with Fender.
From the looks of it, the guitar appears to be brand new. All the specs also seem to match the Eric Clapton Signature model – starting from the black finish, three Noiseless pickups, 8-hole pickguard, and the 22 fret maple neck.
Most notably, John used this guitar during the Made in America Festival at Los Angeles Grand Park on August 31, 2014 to cover Jimi Hendrix’ “All Along the Watchtower”.
Guild M75 Aristocrat
John used this guitar in 2014 on the John Mayer Trio mini-reunion on Late Night with Seth Meyers. This was trio’s first TV performance in five years, and they played the song “After Midnight,” originally by J. J. Cale and later covered by Eric Clapton in 1970.
As far as the specs, the guitar features a chambered body with spruce top and mahogany back, 22 fret neck with rosewood freatboard, Guild floating Tune-O-Matic bridge, and a pair of Guild SB-1F single-coil pickups.
2014 Jackson Custom Shop 30th Anniversary Soloist
According to a post that John made on his Instagram profile, he received this guitar sometime in mid 2014 -however, it mostly remained behind the scenes until around a year later when John appeared with it during his 2015 Grammy’s performance with Ed Sheeran.
John’s Jackson seems to be a Custom Shop 30th Anniversary model, based on the pickups and the control knobs layout. It features a bright pink color (which unsurprisingly caused some negative comments among the more conservative fans), two EMG SA1 single-coils (neck and middle) and a EMG 81 humbucker active pickup in the neck position, and a 80s-style Floyd Rose tremolo bridge.
One confusing thing about this particular guitar is that on the original photo posted on John’s Instagram the pickups in the Jackson seem to be active type featuring plastic covers, while on every other photo or video featuring the guitar, they seem to be just a normal pair of single coils and a humbucker with no covers whatsoever. This opens up the possibility that John actually owns two pink Jacksons, or that he simply just didn’t like active pickups and got somebody to replace them with passive ones.
2015 PRS NF3
John used this guitar at Eric Clapton’s 70th Birthday Concert in May 2015. According to one of his recent Periscope streams, this is the first PRS guitar that he ever got his hands on.
This is the first PRS guitar that I played, and I went holy moly! I played that at the Clapton birthday show at the Madison Square Garden. [John Mayer on Periscope – Gear Talk]
Given that the guitar is stock, and not that Paul Reed Smith custom-built for John, it featured korina body, maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, controls for volume, tone and a 5-way switch. The pickups in it are the Narrowfields, which are sort of a cross between single coil and humbucker. It is interesting to note that John decided to use one of these pickups in his custom made PRS “Super Eagle” model, which became his main guitar by 2015.
Charvel Guthrie Govan Signature Model
This guitar is probably one of the lesser known ones, since you’d be unlikely to have known of it unless you regularly tune in John’s Periscope streams. To our knowledge, he only used this guitar during a stream dating back to late 2015.
The guitar features maple body and neck, Charvel Custom MF humbuckers in the neck and the bridge position, and a Charvel Custom MF single-coil in the middle, Sperzel locking tuners, and a Charvel locking tremolo bridge.
2015 PRS Super Eagle (Prototype #1)
This is the first prototype of the PRS Super Eagle model, which Mayer deigned working closely with Paul Reed Smith in mid 2015. The guitar seems to have mainly been based around the McCarty 594, which was introduced only a couple of months prior to the two of them meeting to discuss a possible signature model after John’s departure from Fender.
The guitar is very similar to the production version of the Super Eagle, except that it’s compleely solid guitar, and it doesn’t have an F-hole. Aside from this, there are also few minor differences – stoptail bridge instead of the Gen III Tremolo, no binding on the neck, no pickup cover on the bridge pickup (and likely different pickups altogether), and the most obvious – no sunburst finish.
2015 PRS Super Eagle (Prototype #2)
This guitar is the one that John eventually settled up with after trying out the first prototype from Paul Reed Smith. In it’s essence the guitar is identical to the prototype number three, aside from the sticker on the back that simply reads “2”, and the amount of the brown paint used to get the sunburst effect.
In the interview bellow you can see John holding what we assume is the Prototype number two, since the sticker on the back is clearly visible (note that the sticker might not necessarily mean that this is indeed the #2, this is just our assumption). The existence of the third prototype can be referenced in the post on John’s Instagram profile (link available in the section below), so the #2 has to be out there somewhere. Whether’s it’s this guitar, or some other – we have no idea. If you happen to know more, please be sure to send us a message.
The guitar features curly maple sandwich body with mahogany sides, maple neck with rosewood fretboard with 24 and 25.375″ – which is longer than usual for PRS guitars, but still short in comparison to John’s Strats (25.5″). The model is equipped with two specially-wound 58/15 JM treble and bass (bridge and neck) pickups, and a custom-wound Narrowfield JM pickup in the middle position (with three individual coil-tap mini-switches).
The guitar also has a built-in JCF Audio preamp with treble boost, PRS Gen III Tremolo bridge, and a hand-signed sticker in the f-hole of the guitar that was designed by Mayer’s friend David Smith (who also designed the cover art for Mayer’s 2012 Born and Raised album).
We assume that John used this PRS alongside its identical twin – the Protoype #3, as his main guitar from late 2015 and in the early 2016, and from then on he probably picked up a couple of finished versions from Paul Reed Smith to use on the Dead & Company tour. Although it is currently unknown which exact guitar Mayer uses most of the time with D&G, it seems logical to assume that the #2 Prototype would seem the least likely, and the #3 was commented on by John as “getting real close to it” – meaning there’s still some work left to be done.
2015 PRS Super Eagle (Prototype #3)
This is the third and (to our knowledge) the final prototype of the PRS Super Eagle, which is essentially the official John Mayer Signature model. To our understanding, this guitar is identical to the Prototype #2 except that is seems to feature a somewhat darker grade of brown on the edges. This should be taken lightly, as finish can seem to appear darker under different light.
This PRS is first mentioned on John’s Instagram profile in July 2015, and it shows the guitar waiting to be finished in the PRS guitar shop. Couple of months later in August John did a Periscope stream showing off what we assume is the exact same guitar, but now obviously completely finished. Since he unfortunately does not show the back of the guitar, we have no way of knowing if the guitar on the Periscope stream is the same one that was interview with on the PRS YouTube channel. To remind you, that guitar had a number two sticker on the back, which we assume means that it’s the Prototype #2.
The Prototype #3 seems to have been finished and delivered to John by late July 2015, and the whole process of building the guitar can be seen on the PRS website – Behind-The-Scenes: The Super Eagle Collaboration with John Mayer. The guitar was equipped with two custom-wound 58/15 JM treble and bass humbuckers, and a custom-wound Narrowfield JM pickup in the middle position. It features a built-in preamp, treble boost, and three individual switched for coil taps. For full specs please check the official specs sheet at Private Stock Super Eagle Specs.
We assume that this was John’s main guitar until he received the production version of the Super Eagle sometime in early 2016, but it is possible that the #3 is still around and comes into play now and then. If you happen to come across any photos of John’s guitar vault from the Dead & Company tour, specifically images showing the backs of the Super Eagles, please be sure to forward it to us as this would help us figure out which specific guitars he uses nowadays.
2015 PRS Custom 22 Private Stock
This guitar was only seen briefly in one of John’s Periscope streams dating back to July 1st, 2015 [John Mayer Guitar Lesson on Periscope 2015].
Based purely on the looks, the guitar appears to be a Custom 22 model, but there are few things on it that don’t exactly fit the description. The first are the inlays, which are not the usual “bird in flight”, but Celtic knots styled ones. Second is the fact that all of the hardware is gold-plated, including even the tiniest screws on the back and bridge saddles.
Taking a look at the PRS website, the only model that seems to fit the description is the one branded as the “Collection Series IX – Curly” – which seems to be a really top of the line guitar with all the bells and whistles. If you’re interested in the full specs of this guitar please visit PRS official web presentation of the model.
PRS Silver Sky
John started using this guitar in early 2018. It has been developed as a close collaboration between Mayer and Paul Reed Smith, main goal being designing an instrument that would be a future of the classic design, taking inspiration mainly from early 60s Strat models which John is known to favour.
It’s been a dream of mine for years to design a guitar that includes some of my favorite vintage specifications but with a modern spirit and aesthetic. After two years of study and refinement, the Silver Sky is my vision of what a reboot of the electric guitar should look and feel like. [John Mayer, Silver Sky Signature Model]
The PRS Silver Sky features a 22 fret maple neck (22.5″ scale) with rosewood fretboard radiused at 7.25″ – identical to vintage Strat models, as opposed to 9.5″ or even 12″, which are way more flatter and usually more common on modern guitars. Body is made of alder wood, and houses three single coil pickups, again – custom-design as a collaboration between Mayer and Smith, dubbed the 635JMs. The pickups are only available in this model, and it is highly unlikely that they would became available for purchase separately.
If you’re interested in more details about this guitar from the man himself, and you have 40 minutes to spare, be sure to watch the video bellow. It originates from John’s live stream from his personal Instagram profile, and John goes into details regarding the guitar’s sound, design choices, influences, and demos the guitar through a Fender Deluxe amp, and his own signature amp from PRS, a J-MOD 100.
John Mayer’s Acoustic Guitars:
In his Periscope stream on August 20th, 2015 [John Mayer on Periscope – Gear Talk] John mentioned that his first guitar was a Washburn acoustic, and that that same guitar is still with his family. Unfortunately, this is the only piece of info we have on this guitar, so if you happen to come across some old photos of John with the guitar, or an interview where he happens to mention it, please be sure to forward it to us.
This was the guitar that John had very early on, prior to becoming a recording artist. Unfortunetly that guitar is pretty much a mystery and everything we know about it is that it was a 12-string, and that John traded it in 1996 for a Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster that became his main recording guitar on first couple of albums.
John was seen using this guitar only on one video clip dating back to March 9, 2000 [John Mayer – Live from the Gothic Theatre, Denver, March 9, 2000]. The origin of the guitar, and the time frame during which John used it are currently unknown.
This guitar seems to have been John’s main acoustic for the Room for Squares album and the 2001 tour. While we couldn’t find any direct quotes from John about which particular acoustic was his main around that time, it’s somewhat safe to say that this was it – at least based on the frequency of use.
The guitar is a limited edition Dave Matthews signature model from Martin. According to the official specs, it features a 14 fret dreadnought body with solid spruce top and solid East Indian rosewood back and sides, solid mahogany neck with ebony fretboard, and grained ivoroid body binding.
Martin 000-14 Cutaway Custom
This Martin was mostly used just for the 2001 Room for Squares tour, it being one of only two Martins that John was seen playing around that time (the DM3MD being the other one). It was likely picked up just due to fact that it was a cutaway guitar, and allowed John to reach the higher frets more easily while playing live.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to figure out the exact model of the guitar. It seems to feature a cutaway body with OM/000-14 design, and Abalone binding on the edges and around the sound-hole, but surprisingly – no binding on the neck whatsoever. This is weird because the Abalone binding seems to only be available on the top of the line models (Martin 000-42 for instance), and it appears that these models all come with neck binding of some sort at least. Also, these models usually feature custom fretboard inlays as well, while John’s guitar seems to have the basic dots.
This could all point towards a custom-made guitar, or maybe a Signature model that has sence gone out of production. We’ll try to reach out to Martin to see if they can help, but in the meantime if you happen to know something that would help identify the model please be sure to contact us.
By 2002 Mayer seems to have decided to slowly start moving from a dreadnought sized guitars to OM/000 sized ones. For the first guitar the choice fell on a OM28-V model, which is part of Martin’s Vintage Series line. This guitar was mostly seen just during 2002 tour, and by 2003 it was replaced by the John Mayer’s own signature model.
Martin OM28-V features a solid sitka spruce top with solid East Indian rosewood back and sides, solid mahogany neck with ebony fretboard, tortoise pickguard, and Gotoh nickel tuners.
Used on few occasions in 2002, likely just a tour/temporally guitar. More research needed.
John was first seen playing the Martin in 2003 [John Mayer in Concert at Madison Square Garden], but the guitar is perhaps best known for it’s appearance on the Where The Light Is DVD years later in 2007, during which John used it to play “In Your Atmosphere”.
This model is one Martin’s top of the line guitars, and features a dreadnought sized body with sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides, a mahogany neck with ebony fretboard, and Abalone rosette as well as the fretboard and headstock inlays. Current price of the guitar is a bit short of $10,000.
2003 Martin OM-28JM Limited Edition
This guitar was introduced in late 2003 as the first official John Mayer Signature model from Martin. The model was produced in limited amount of 404 instruments, with the #4, #43 allegedly going to Mayer [source needed]. In the interview with Martin guitar at the 2014 NAMM show, John does mention that he still has the “same two” OM-28JMs, so that does somewhat confirm the theory that there’s more than just one guitar.
John himself used these guitar extensively since he received them sometime in the late 2003 (he was first seen with the guitar in November at the Madison Square Garden, New York). It seems that although he allegedly has two of them, he does have a favorite one which comes into play way more often that the others. One of the guitars seems to have developed quite a scratch just bellow the pickguard on the bridge side, meaning that it was obviously used very extensively.
The guitar features a body with a solid Engelmann spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck, Sterling silver binding on the headstock and bridge edges, and Herringbone binding on the body. The freatboard features a custom triangle-shaped inlay on the 12th fret (apperently inspired by pilots triangle on wrist watches), and John’s signature engraved between the the 19th and the 20th fret – which are the two thing to look for when trying to identify the guitar.
If you’re curious about whether any of the 404 guitars are still available for purchase, the answer is nope – they were all sold out within couple of days. The good news is that since then Martin released a cheaper version of this guitar dubbed the OM-JM, which shares most of the specs with the Limited Edition, aside from the custom headstock/bridge inlays, and few other minor details.
John was seen playing this guitar on occasion in early 2003, most notably at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards show on February 23rd. The guitar is one of Martin’s premium models with $5,000+ price tag, featuring sitka spruce top, East Indian rosewood back and sides, Abalone rosette and top inlay, and grained ivoroid body and headstock binding.
Martin 000-ECHF Bellezza Nera
This guitar was seen in the music video for the song “Half of My Hearth” from the 2009 album, Battle Studies, and on a home video that John recorded in Japan in 2010. [John Mayer – Half of My Heart (Tokyo Acoustic Version)] Unfortunately, we couldn’t find out if the guitar was used on the studio sessions.
The Martin 000-ECHF, nicknamed Bellezza Nera (meaning Black Beauty in Italian), is an Eric Clapton signature guitar introduced in 2004. The guitar features a solid Italian Alpine spruce top with scalloped 5/16″ bracing, East Indian Rosewood back and sides, ivoroid binding, fine herringbone top trim, custom pearl rosette, ebony bridge, and a custom V-shape neck neck.
This is second guitar that John designed working with Martin, introduced initially at NAMM 2012. According to John’s own words, the idea behind the guitar was to create a smaller and more portable guitar.
The guitar features a 00-style body with sitka spruce top and Cocobolo back and sides (notice that all the prior Martins that John played had East Indian rosewood back and sides), and a select hardwood neck with ebony fingerboard. One of the unique features on the guitar, which was apparently John’s idea, is the fact that the Abalone rossette extends over the fretboard itself.
Interestingly enough, this is not officially a John Mayer signature model since John requested that he’d prefer to be considered a designer of the guitar, and think of it not as a Signature model targeted at this own fans but as sort of special edition Martin. Respecting that philosophy, Martin limited this model to only 25 instruments.
As far as usage, it seems that John didn’t use this guitar on Born and Raised album since the guitar wasn’t finished until the album had already come out. He did however use it on the following tour occasionally. [John Mayer – 2013 G+ Hangout]
National Style-O Resonator 12-string
This guitar was seen on occasions during the Born and Raised tour in 2013. Given that he used the guitar practically every time he played “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”, it’s safe to say that it was used during the studio sessions as well (not to mention that this is pretty obvious just by listening to the song).
This National seems to be a custom made guitar since it looks to be fairly new, and features a 12-string neck – which seems to be very rare on these guitars. Next to that, the guitar is also equipped with a sound system, which is obviously not something you’ll find on a true vintage Style-O. Beyond this, we haven’t been able to find anything directly from about this guitar, so the search continues.
John Mayer’s Guitar Amps:
– Fender Vibro-King
This seems to be the amp that John used in the earlier part of the Room for Squares tour, based on the footage from Your Body is a Wonderland video, and on some live footage recorded in 2001.
– Fender ’65 Super Reverb Reissue
Used during the later part of the Room for Squares tour starting from 2002. The amp can be seen during the concert in Birmingham, Alabama which was released as a live CD and DVD titled Any Given Thursday, and on the music video for the song Why Georgia – which also shows some backstage footage.
– Fender Tone-Master
This is the amp that was often seen next to the Super Reverb on stage during the Room for Squares tour circa 2002. It is unknown whether John actually used this amp, since it could’ve been used by the guitarist standing to his right (if you happen to know who exactly played guitar with John around this time, please send us a message).
[everything below this is part of the old list and will eventually be completely rewritten]
I use the same amps in the studio as I do live. The Dumble is incredibly chesty, and strong and open and singing. The Two-Rock is like the Dumble but a little more refined, and together I think they make a really good combination – it’s almost like one amp. The Two-Rock puts into the Dumble what the Dumble doesn’t have, but man, the Dumble will SCREAM at you. The Dumble has this thing on top of it called a Smooth And Slim, I think it’s called, and it’s really sort of an attenuator, for the treble, and for the volume a little bit. So that’s happening there, and then the Two-Rock is supplementing that to be a little bit smoother. It’s sort of Fender-y, but I would also like to put a real Fender in there.” (read full interview here: John Mayer interview)
– Two Rock John Mayer Signature
John’s main amp is a signature model from Two Rock. The amp is 100W has 6L6 tubes, and John usually plays it through Two Rock 2×12 Cabinets or the Alessandro open-back cabinets with Celestion speakers.
– Two Rock Custom Reverb
John’s second signature model from Two Rock.
– Dumble Steel String Singer
Clean sounding 150W amp.
– Avalon U5 Direct Box
A big part of his acoustic sound.
– ’68 Fender Custom Deluxe Reverb
Used on “After Midnight” during the Late Night with Seth Meyers in February 2014.
Some of the other amps he uses are:
– Fender Bandmaster
– Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
– Fender Vibro-King
– Fender Blues Jr.
– Victoria 45-410
– Victoria Reverberato
John Mayer’s Guitar Effects:
John uses a great number of pedals and changes them frequently. Below you can see a list of the pedals he used in the past, or still uses as a part of his effects.
– Marshall Bluesbreaker
Used from the early nineties for his overdrive sound.
– Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-10
He uses a model from the eighties with no mods done to it. He also used the TS-808 and TS-9 but likes the TS-10 most.
– FullTone Full-Drive 2 – Klon Centaur
When asked what’s the one pedal he couldn’t do without, here’s what John said: “Right now it’s the Klon Centaur. It’s the kindest, most satisfying distortion – it’s the best ‘loud’ I’ve heard.”
– Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
John uses a pedal with the Keeley Mod.
John has gone through various delay pedals. Here are some we could find:
– Dunlop Way Huge Aqua Puss Delay
– Eventide Timefactor Delay
– Moogerfooger MF-104 Analog Delay
– T-Rex Replica Delay Pedal
– Boss DD-5 Digital Delay
– Ibanez AD9 Analog Delay
He also uses a lot of different wah pedals:
– Real McCoy RMC8-Guitar Eqwahlyzer Wah
– Real McCoy RMC1 Wah
– Dunlop Crybaby Wah
– Dunlop BG-95 Buddy Guy Wah
Here are some more pedals that John uses:
– Uni-Vibe Phaser Pedal (original)
– Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn Multi Effects Pedal
– Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn II Multi Effects Pedal
– Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn III Multi Effects Pedal
– Boss GE-7 Equalizer
– Analog Man 3 Knob Small Compressor Pedal
– Korg G4 Leslie Rotary Simulator
– Hughes and Kettner Tube Rotosphere
– Keeley Electronics Katana Boost Pedal
– Fulltone Super-Tremolo
– Electro Harmonix Memory Man
– Electro Harmonix Micro Synthesizer
– Electro Harmonix POG
– Crybaby Q-Zone
– Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive
John Mayer’s Guitar Strings:
On electric guitars John seems to alternate between 10s and 11s, depending on the guitar itself. For instance, in an interview with MusicRadar John stated that his Black Strat handles 11s well, while some other guitar just becomes too stiff to play:
But that one [The Black One] just has a little extra slack; like a little leeway. Some guitars you’ll put 0.011s on, and it’s like [makes abrupt noise] and you just can’t move around. [John Mayer interview, MusicRadar]
In another interview with GuitarWorld John stated that the main point to focus on when choosing strings is whether you’re able to bend them comfortably or not:
’ll tell you, the argument about string gauges is about the silliest thing a guitarist can engage in. Maybe you get a better tone off of bigger strings, but if you can’t bend up to the note, what’s tone anyway? But like Hendrix probably had .010s, so it’s whatever you can bend. [John Mayer: Battle Star, GuitarWorld]
Based on this, and a tweet from Ernie Ball [Ernie Ball, @ernieball], John likely uses the Regular Slinky set (.010 – .046) on some guitars, and the Power Slinky set (.011 – .048) on the others – which as said includes the Black Strat.
According to Ernie Ball’s website, John uses Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Medium Light Strings (.012 – .054) on his acoustic guitars. There might be some variations on this, however, and the research regarding the subject is still being done.
John Mayer’s Guitar Picks:
– Dunlop 1.14mm Purples – seems to be his choice in the more recent years (see John Mayer – Wheel (São Paulo – 19/09/13) for reference). Please note this is not set in stone since the picks could’ve been custom-made, and therefore the fact that they are purple does not necessarily mean that they are Dunlop 1.14mm picks.
– Pickboy 0.75mm Custom – used during the Dead & Company tour in 2015