Queen’s Brian May Explains Why He Doesn’t Use Fender Or Gibson, ‘We Had No Money’
Queen lead guitarist Brian May opened up about the story of his iconic homemade guitar, ‘The Brian May Red Special’ during a recent appearance on BBC Radio, and apparently, the legendary guitarist couldn’t afford a Stratocaster or a Gibson which is why he made his guitar himself with his father and has been using the special handmade guitar since then.
As some of you might know, Brian May has one of the best stories when it comes to his famous Red Special and how it was created by its player at home. May and his father Harold began working on the guitar in August 1963 and it took them more than a year to complete the project for which they’ve used wood from a ‘hundred-year-old-ish’ fireplace mantel that a friend of the family was about to throw away as well as matchsticks to fill the wormholes in the neck of the guitar.
The Red Special has turned into an incredible icon over the years that Brian May has become the legendary guitarist of Queen as he used the homemade electric guitar almost exclusively, including on Queen albums and in live performances, since the band’s advent in the early 1970s. The guitar even has other nicknames on its own as it’s sometimes referred to as the Fireplace or the Old Lady both by May and by others.
During a recent interview, the Queen guitarist opened up about the legendary guitar for the sake of its 50th anniversary as well as the book about its construction and history named ‘Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-Made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World,’ which was written by Brian May with Simon Bradley.
Apparently, Brian May came up with the idea of making an electric guitar on his own when he realized it was nearly impossible to afford a Stratocaster or a Gibson, therefore, he and his father decided to make their own guitar which made the creation of ‘The Brian May Red Special’ possible and that’s why May doesn’t use a Stratocaster or a Gibson anymore since he has his own signature guitar.
Here is what the interviewer asked:
“It’s a famous guitar with its very own tone, the Red Special, that you’ve played at so many important events and on all the Queen records. And I was thinking, nowadays it’d be very fashionable to do what you did then, in these days of sustainability and stuff like that. But it was unheard of then to make a guitar come from scratch in a kind of also almost wartime, make-do-and-mend spirit, wasn’t it?”
Here is what May said:
“It was. We had no money, and that’s why we made the guitar. We couldn’t possibly buy a Stratocaster or a Gibson. It was unimaginable. We used to go to the shops and see them on the wall and not be allowed to touch them. It was when you were a kid in those days, you could see the brochures but there was no way I could have owned one of those things. So we decided we’d make the guitar, me and my dad.”
You can listen to the interview down below.