Malcolm Young’s Guitars and Gear

Malcolm (Mal) Mitchell Young was born on January 6, 1953, in Glasgow, Scotland. He was best known as a co-founder, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter of the Australian hard rock band, AC/DC.

Mal‘s rig was relatively simple, and he mostly relied on one single guitar: The Beast – a 1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird. This guitar was originally red and with two Filter’Trons. Over the years, he modified it numerous times, went through thousands of gigs, and finally in 2017 – Gretsch built a signature model based on that guitar.

Thanks to Tom M.M. for compiling the info.

Malcolm Young’s Electric Guitars

Like every guitarist, Mal owned a huge number of guitars. Due to that fact, it is nearly impossible to track down and identify all of them. The list below is focused on the guitars that were either Mal’s favorites, and the ones that are memorable to the fans.

1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird (“The Beast”)

Malcolm got this 1963 Gretsch G6131 Jet Firebird from Harry Vanda, and his older brother, George Young, both of whom were members of the band The Easybeats. At that time, the guitar was already moded with a third pickup, a Gibson Humbucker, sitting in between two stock Filter’Tron pickups (US-Patent-Number 2892371). This, of course, means that the body needed to be carved out in order to fit the new pickup.

Sometime around 1976/77 (see video clip of It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll below), Malcolm decided to remove this third pickup, and the neck pickup, leaving only a single Filter’Tron in the bride position. At that point, the holes were covered up with a piece of a white pickguard.

After removing the pickups, he also removed the Burns Tailpiece (originally called Burns Vibrato) and replaced the white pickguard with two smaller black pieces (these were removed sometime in 1978). Instead of the Burns, he now installed a Schaller Bad Ass Bridge. In order to cover up the hole left behind the original bridge piece, he added a custom made black tailpiece.

In addition to this, the original red paint job was stripped of around 1977, leaving the bare wood exposed.

Malcolm’s Gretsch without the red finish. Note the holes left behind by the two removed pickups, and the custom tailpiece. Photo source: YouTube AC/DC – Jailbreak (from Live At Donington).

During the Ballbreaker Tour 1995, the black tailpiece was removed and the hole was with a white material for a short time. Sometime after the tour, he re-installed the Burns Tailpiece (probably around 2000).

Malcolm used also a second 1963 Gretsch Jet Firebird as a back-up guitar during tours (same mods like on his Number 01).

1959 Gretsch White Falcon (G6137)

Malcolm used that guitar during the Back in Black and For Those About to Rock, We Salute You tours. In addition, you could see him live with the guitar sometimes, e.g. during the Black Ice tour.

However, he said that after someone “fixed” it, it lost its distinctive sound, and so he got rid of it. It is currently owned by the Hard Rock Museum.

Jaydee Custom Guitar Jet Firebird

Malcolm also played a Custom Jaydee Jet Firebird (e.g. seen on the “Big Gun” video clip). The guitar had a stop-tail bridge, a Filter’Tron pickup, and few design features such as the empty neck pickup pocket (which obviously served no purpose), and a white arrow on the edge of the body.

1973 Gibson LS-6

This guitar was used by Malcolm in the early years of AC/DC. It had originally two pickups and a classic “Les Paul” body shape (seen of the video clip “Baby Please Don’t Go”). Later on, the guitar was cut so that both sides of the body ended up with a horn on top. In addition to this, the neck humbucker was removed.

After Malcolm got rid of the guitar all trace of it was lost. Just recently, a guitar collector Richard Henry managed to track it down. Below are the comments on the guitar from AC/DC bassist Mark Evans.

Mal bought the guitar from Harry Landis on Park St, Sydney in early 1975. It is not his original AC/DC guitar, that was always the Gretsch Jet Firebird. The L6-S was purchased because his Gretsch had one of its many headstock breaks and was in the repair shop. Mal needed a guitar, so he bought the Gibson. It was the guitar he was using when I joined in March 1975 until the Gretsch was fixed, then it became a spare. The guitar was customized to the double cut in May/June 1976 in London by Martin Birch in Kentish Town. I went with him to drop it off. [AC/DC’S LOST RARE GIBSON L-6S FOUND?]

Malcolm Young’s Guitar Amps

Guitar amp heads:

– 1971 Marshall Super Bass 100 Watt (Malcolm’s No. 1 Head)

– 1966 and 1967 Marshall JTM 45 100 Watt

– 1976 Marshall Super Bass 100 Watt

– 1967 Marshall “Black Flag” Super Lead 100 Watt

– Wizard Custom Amps

Guitar amp cabs:

– Marshall 4 x 12 Cabinets (today’s 1960 BX), loaded with the typical Celestion Greenbacks G25/30 (depends)

Malcolm Young’s Guitar Amps

Mal goes straight from his guitar to his amp. No wireless system, no pedals, just straight through a cable.

Malcolm Young’s Guitar Strings

’12 – ’56 Gibson Pure Nickel Strings (they are very rare!)

Malcolm Young’s Guitar Picks

Fender Heavy Picks


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In case you want to talk to me privatly, please use the contact form and I will get back to you as soon as possible. (Dan)

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Ian Pearson
Ian Pearson
3 years ago

What is the white piece on pickguard is called?

3 years ago

The video for It’s a Long Way to the Top was, according to IMDB, filmed on 23 Feb 1976. It clearly shows Malcolm’s Beast with 2 Filtr’Trons and the humbucker in the middle, so the claim above that “Sometime around 1974/1975, Malcolm decided to remove this third pickup, and the neck pickup” may not be correct. Just sayin’.

Pheelheaps Photon
Pheelheaps Photon
1 year ago
Reply to  icesurfer

It says, “Sometime around 1976/77” not “1974/1975”. Just sayin’.

Pheelheaps Photon
Pheelheaps Photon
1 year ago

P.S. Therefore, all three pickups are still in place. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. We all misread, mishear and misremember things.

Pheelheaps Photon
Pheelheaps Photon
1 year ago
Reply to  Dan Kopilovic

Ahh, that explains it. Thanks for your site and prompt reply.
I love Malcolm’s rhythm guitar playing and sound and he was the reason I got into AC/DC when I was about 10 years old in the early 80s and the reason I started playing guitar in the mid 80s.

3 months ago

That’s the best band ever, man. I was the same, about 11 and what’s that?, dirty deeds, whaaaa! Love them and of course saw them twice now. R.I.P. Mal.

3 months ago
Reply to  Ernie

Saw them twice too. In 1988 at the national tennis centre in Melbourne. Saw them on the Friday and at the added concert on the Monday. Must have been early February as I had or was just about to start year11. I regret not seeing them in 2008 with my eldest son on the Black Ice tour. Tickets were $150 and couldn’t afford the $300. In hindsight it would have been worth it.