Keith Richards’ Guitars, Amps, Effects used in a Chronological Order

Summary of Keith’s Equipment

In the early part of his career, Keith was using a couple of hollow body electric guitars – a 1960s Harmony Meteor H70 and a 1962 Epiphone Casino. In 1964, he made a move towards Gibson and acquired a 1959 Les Paul. Today a legendary guitar, nicknamed “Keith-Burst”, this Les Paul was one responsible for the explosion of popularity of this guitar model in the late 60s and early 70s. Many of the popular guitarists of that period like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page followed in Keith’s suit and bought themselves a Les Paul. Today, a 1959 Les Paul is considered the holy grail of electric guitars exactly because of this.

Another well-known Les Paul that Keith used was a black Custom which he painted and decorated himself. He used this guitar most famously during the recording of Sympathy for the Devil.

In the later part of his career, Keith moved from Gibson Les Pauls to Fender Telecasters. He used a number of different guitars, but the most notable was one nicknamed “Micawber”. This guitar was a gift from Eric Clapton, and Keith used it from around 1970 onwards. At one point he modified the guitar by adding a Gibson PAF pickup in the neck position. This way, Keith could have both of best worlds in one guitar.

Regarding effects, Keith is not of those players who like to dabble with them much. But he did use some effect pedals in his career, most notable the Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone. This pedal he used to achieve that unique sound on (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

As far as amps, Keith started out on a Vox AC30, and over the years moved over to Fender Dual Showman, than to Hiwat Customs, Ampegs, and Mesa/Boogies. From around the early 90s onwards, he mostly used vintage Fender Tweed Twin amps.

Keith Richards Sound Guide

If you want to sound like Keith Richards, there are a few main points to focus on. First and foremost is the tuning – you should practice playing in open G. This is what Keith uses most of the time. He also doesn’t use the top E string at all, doesn’t even put it on his guitar, but this isn’t something that you should necessarily do.

The second is the Telecaster. The best option would be to buy a modified Telecaster with a Gibson humbucker in the neck position. Unfortunately, these are nearly impossible to come by, so count on getting a stock Telecaster and modifying it yourself. If you’re on a budget, a Squire Classic Vibe Telecaster is a great choice. Even if you don’t wanna put a humbucker in it it will sound great. If you wanna modify it, something like a Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 would be a great choice.

For a more premium long-term guitar, you can go for a Fender ’52 Telecaster reissue and you’re set for life.

Regarding amps, this is probably where you shouldn’t spare any money. Keith nowadays plays Fender Tweed Twins, which is a crazy expensive amp starting at around $3,000. You should aim for at least something like a Fender ’65 Princeton, and if budget allows, go for something better.

Lastly, grab yourself a set of Ernie Ball guitar strings. Keith uses a rather unique combination of strings on his open G guitars – .011, .015, .018 (unwound), .030, 042. Closest to these in the Ernie Ball catalogue are the Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky which are .011 .015 .022p .030 .042 .054. But, according to Ernie Ball’s website, Keith also uses their more standard set, the Regular Slinky, which is 10-46. These will probably be a better option for most.

All in all, go for a Telecaster, a good tube amp, and you’ll still probably realize a lot of it is in the fingers. This is almost always the case, and equipping yourself with the right tools only gets you to a certain point. From then on, it’s a lot of practice and figuring out the details in someone’s style of playing.

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Chronological list of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Keith Richards

Electric Guitars

1961
Hofner Senator

Keith bought this guitar sometime in the early sixties, and it was his first steel-string guitar. He used the guitar circa 1961 with the band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, consisting of Keith, Mick, Dick Taylor, Bob Beckwith, and Allen Etherington. My guitar, this time an f-hole archtop Hofner steel string, was Blue Boy–the […]

1963
Harmony Meteor H70

Keith played this guitar in the very early days of the Rolling Stones. He acquired it on January 25, 1963, after debating whether he’d go with a Harmony or a Hawk model. The choice fell on the Harmony, mainly because it was equipped with with two pickups. Buy new guitar, Harmony or Hawk? Harmony has good price but do […]

1964
1962 Epiphone Casino

Keith likely purchased this guitar just prior to the band’s first US tour that started on June 1st, 1964. It first appeared on Hollywood Palace with Dean Martin on June 3rd, 1964.  The model was built at the old Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, long before Epiphone became mainly a budget Gibson line. It featured a thin-line hollow […]

1964
1959 Gibson Les Paul "Keith Burst"

This guitar, often referred to as the “Keith-Burst”, was first seen on August 13, 1964 [The Rolling Stones Performing at the Palace Ballroom in Douglas Isle]. It was substantially seen in September 1964 during the Live at ABC Cinema gig (photo below), and at the band’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on October 25th, 1964. The Keith Burst Origins Keith purchased the guitar at Selmer’s […]

1965
1960s Gibson Firebird VII (Reverse)

Keith appeared with this guitar on November 11, 1965 when the band played on a US TV show called Hullabaloo. Aside from this, it seems that he rarely ever used the guitar, and was seen only occasionally with it. It is also important to note that on the Hullabaloo show Brian also played a Gibson Firebird, so there’s a chance that […]

1965
Guild M-65 Freshman

This guitar appeared sometime in late 1965. One of the first major gigs ever played with the Guild was The Ed Sullivan Show on February 13, 1966, and it was also seen on May 27th 1966, when the Stones performed on British TV’s Ready, Steady, Go. From that point on, the guitar served as Keith’s main axe during the June–July […]

1966
1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Keith first appeared with this guitar on The Ed Sullivan Show aired on September 11th, 1966. He probably bought the guitar some time prior, but due to the lack of any photos or videos from early to mid-1966, we haven’t been able to pinpoint the date exactly. If you happen to know the story behind the guitar, and […]

1969
Maton SE777

This is the guitar that Keith used for the recording of Gimme Shelter and Midnight Rambler from the 1969 album Let it Bleed. According to an interview Keith gave to Guitar World magazine in 2002, the guitar belonged to a guy who stayed at his London apartment for a while. He crashed out for a couple of […]

1969
1958 Gibson Flying V

Keith was seen playing this guitar during the Hyde Park gig in 1969. Apart from this, it does seem like he didn’t use the guitar at all. Based on the looks, Keith’s Flying V had to have been a 1958, or a 1959 model. Gibson started the production of the model in 1958, and stopped […]

1969
1960s Gibson ES-330

Keith played this ES-330 for a few songs during the concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969 – just two days after the tragic death of Brian Jones. Keith’s ES-330 featured a sunburst finish on a fully hollow body of laminated maple, two P-90 metal pickups, and a trapeze-type tailpiece. Interesting to point out that the ES-330 is […]

1969
1969 Ampeg Dan Armstrong See-Through

Keith received this guitar from Ampeg likely sometime in late 1969 and was first seen using it on the Ed Sullivan Show filmed in November that year. Keith was actually one of the first people to ever get their hands on this guitar, and he was perhaps largely responsible for its popularity later on. The first guitar Dan […]

1970
Keith Richards' 1953 Fender Telecaster Micawber
1953 Fender Telecaster “Micawber”

Keith acquired this guitar around 1970, supposedly as a gift for his 27th birthday from Eric Clapton. This piece of information could be just a myth, as neither of them mentions it in their biography books, but since most sources online mention it, there is likely some truth to this. In any case, it would […]

1972
1954 Fender Telecaster "Malcolm"

This guitar was first used around 1972, and at that point, it had a Rolling Stones tongue sticker on the upper part of the body. In the early years, the guitar seemed to have been used as a spare for Keith’s main Telecaster, the Micawber. The two guitars are visually very similar. What sets them […]

Acoustic Guitars

1959
Rosetti Classical Guitar

This was Keith’s first-ever guitar. Prior to this, he could only practice on his grandfather Gus’ classical guitar, so eventually, his mother Doris agreed to buy him his own. Around 1959, when I was fifteen, Doris bought me my first guitar. I was already playing, when I could get one, but you can only tinker […]

1964
1963 Harmony H-1270

Used somewhat regularly in 1964, seen most notably on Ready Steady Go!, filmed at Kingsway Studios in London on 14 February 1964. The guitar somehow survived all those years, even though Keith didn’t seem to have used it at all after 1964, and it was sold in 2004 for $33,460 over at Christie’s.

1964
Framus 5/98 King Jumbo

Seen on the ABC’s Thank Your Lucky Stars TV pop music show filmed sometime in 1964. Aside from this, it doesn’t seem like Keith ever used this guitar, so the story behind it is unknown. It could be that it was just borrowed for the occasion of recording the show.

Amps

1963
Vox AC30

Used in the early days, circa 1963, when Keith still used to play his Harmony Meteor H70 guitar (for photos please see Reslo & The Rolling Stones 1963 on Flickr). The same model of the amp was used throughout 1964 and 1965 by both Keith and Brian, only occasionally being swapped for a Fender Showman for […]

1964
Fender Showman

First seen around 1964, more precisely during the Stones’ first American Tour. It seems that at that point both Brian and Keith used these amps. The amps were also used later on in 1965 (search for photos taken at Regal Cinema, Cambridge or Olympia Music Hall), although it seems that the Vox AC30s were used […]

Effects

1965
Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone

Used most famously on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”). (Commenting on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”): It was down to one little foot pedal, the Gibson fuzz tone, a little box they put out at that time. I’ve only ever used foot pedals twice–the other time was for Some Girls in the late ’70s when I used […]

Strings

Accessories

Contributors: Mick Searles, Jiri Strouhal. jamesleen, Frank, budrocket1, sandythreeohthree, John Burgess, lukpac, JS, zharski, Steve Bell, daniel