Tools of the Trade - Steve’s Electric Guitars

By Humble-Pie.net Special Contributor Graham Bell

 

Steve at Clear Sound Studios surrounded by his guitars.

                                                                                      

 Steve Marriott at his home studio in Moreton, Essex.

There are some articles on the guitars that Steve Marriott used that have been published in various magazines and books, which although have some claim to fact, the truth of the matter is that the history and available evidence seems to contradict that written.

To explain, my exposure to Steve Marriott goes back most of my life, and I have always had a fascination for his voice and the ‘tools of his trade’, namely the guitars.  I started to play the guitar, and as luck would have it, have been able to own or play most of the models of (and one of the very) guitars mentioned below.

Rather than list those guitars that Steve is ‘reputed’ to have owned, I will try to discuss those that we have photographic proof of, or ones that I actually remember him playing.  The problem here is the guitars that he borrowed, such as the red 335 in the Small Faces, the white (SG) Les Paul Custom, shown on the photographs of Performance (Peter Framptons, I think!) and perhaps the Fenders even later on in the Humble Pie era.

Steve Marriott seemed to be very loyal to makes, once he had a guitar he liked, he stuck with it: a case of if it’s not broke don’t fix it!  There is evidence of modification however; but whoever did this be it Steve or someone else, I do not know.

Before we go to the guitar by guitar description, one other thing: Wouldn’t it be nice to know who has these guitars now? Let the site know, perhaps we can show more detailed photos of the actual instruments.   

I have discussed this matter at length with Steve’s son Toby, who informed me that the famous ‘Dwight’ was actually in Steve’s possession until about six months before he died.  This guitar was stolen from him during a break in, in this country.  The 335 was not found, as it was under the bed! (Sort of makes you proud to be British doesn’t it? [Not!])  The fate of the ‘double cut Junior’ was also discussed, and the opinion was that it was sold in the States during one of Steve’s leaner periods.  So come on you American readers, lets ‘get the lead out’ look at the photo, and get some information going! 

SMALL FACES

GRETSCH (1620 & VARIOUS MODELS)

Steve with Gretch  (Small Faces)

Steve with Gretch  (Small Faces)

The first and most used guitar in the Small Faces, many are evident, the original brown one and (apparently) the same models in white and red, but as these guitars vary so little, it is difficult to tell which is which!  These were very solid sounding guitars, popular with rock and roll artists, also seen used at the same period by the late George Harrison. His however was a semi-acoustic Country Gentleman, rather than the solid body Tennessee shown here. Most of the Small Faces tracks would have been recorded with this model. A brown one was used at the very beginning of Humble Pie.

FENDER  TELECASTER

Steve with Fender Telecaster (Small Faces)

According to Ian MacLagan in ‘All The Rage’ this was bought for him to mime on the track on ‘I got Mine’ on TV. Steve then started to use it towards the end of the Small Faces, fattening up its sound by replacing the neck pick-up with a P90 (The black blob next to the fretboard in the video cap of Colour Me Pop, shown in the picture to the left).  There are precious few pictures of this guitar around, hence the video capture here, if you know of something better please let me know. A lot lighter to play than the Gretsch, it would have seemed to suit Steve’s more flamboyant way of playing at that time.  It’s interesting to note that Eddie Cochrane (of ‘Come On Everybody’ fame) replaced his neck pick-up on his Gretsch with a P90. A case of emulating his hero perhaps.  This telecaster ended its days with the Small Faces at Alexandra Palace, breaking in two as it was thrown down in disgust during the gig on New Years Eve

Humble Pie

 

GIBSON LES PAUL JUNIOR

 

Steve playing the Gibson Les Paul Junior (Humble Pie)

Steve playing the Gibson Les Paul Junior (Humble Pie)

A slab bodied mahogany guitar - a simple guitar with a great hard sound, a very ‘rock and roll’ guitar, apparently given to Steve by a fan. Another small guitar, easy to play and control, and is also very light. 

 Again, like the telecaster, this was modified in a whimsical way; the original scratch plate was removed and replaced by the white scratch plate of his Dwight, causing confusion in the identification of these guitars. (N.B. The Junior has the jack plug on the side of the guitar!)

  

EPIPHONE DWIGHT

 

To all intents and purposes an identical guitar to the junior above, this was an Epiphone Coronet made under licence to the Dwight Music shop in New York.   

It had exactly the same hardware and electrics as the Gibson Junior, but was of thinner mahogany and this therefore affected the sound giving it a slightly more cutting sound.   

This is the sound of Steve’s earlier Humble Pie days, a brash, braying sound.  Listen to the opening of ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ to see what I mean!   

Steve and the Epiphone Dwight (Humble Pie)

Steve and the Epiphone Dwight (Humble Pie)

Note that the jack plug socket, is on the front of the guitar.  Also victim to a rather strange modification, the apparently home-made black scratch plate which extended along to the controls and jack socket.   

Please lets get rid of the misidentification that is involved with this guitar now… IT IS NOT AN EPIPHONE CRESTWOOD!!  

(Arguably, this Dwight is the most famous Humble Pie guitar icon, and it was stolen in the UK, as mentioned in the introduction, This is such a distinctive guitar,where is it now?)  

  

GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM

 

A classic electric blues guitar, fat sounding but with a cutting top end from the bridge, Humbucking pick-ups, both Peter Frampton and Clem Clemson were Les Paul Standard users. Steve was pictured using a Les Paul in the Small Faces back in the sixties, so he was not averse to using them. The weight of this guitar would have stopped some of the showmanship that Steve used to do, but by this time he was starting to play!

This guitar was used almost exclusively at Humble Pie performances from 1973 onwards; it looks like it was still being used right at the end of the groups life.  I saw it still being used at the time of the ‘Marriott’ release and on the Humble Pie reformation in US. 

A beautiful looking guitar with gold pick-ups and hardware, often misnamed as a ‘Black Beauty’ (they had black pick-ups, a P90 and an Alnico V).  This one although reported to have 3 pickups shows no evidence of this; they were also produced with two pickups, as the middle one was accused of getting in the way. 

Steve’s son, Toby now owns this guitar, and as I recall, played it at the Memorial Concert in 2001.

Steve playing the famous black Les Paul Custom (Humble Pie)

Post Humble Pie

 

OVATION & IBANEZ

 

Steve  was asked to endorse Ovation guitars in the mid seventies and was shown  advertising an Ovation Electric in the trade and music press. In fact other than in the advert itself, I have drawn a blank on evidence of Steve playing these makes. But however much he enthused over their performance in the advert, I  NEVER saw him with one on stage; it was always the Gibson Les Paul Custom at that time.  What he used in rehearsal, whilst recording, at home or in the United States is open to debate, however I  have no photographic record (other than the advert) to support him playing an Ibanez.  I would be happy to be corrected here, of course.

Ovation endorsement in print ad.

FENDER ESQUIRE

 

Steve picking the Fender Esquire (Small Faces  Mk II )

The  guitar that was used on the Small Faces II reunion. Basically a single pick-up telecaster, it had a clean sounding cutting tone, which gave it a comparatively  acoustic property when viewed against Gibsons in a live concert environment. 

These  were (and are) quite rare guitars to get hold of (Bruce Springsteen uses one).  It appeared on the Small Faces II tour and disappeared as quickly after the split. 

Talking  Fenders, there is also video footage of Steve playing a Sunburst Fender Stratocaster during the Blackberries period of Humble Pie, but I’ve never seen photos, or ever seen him playing one, they are versatile guitars, but not for Steve it seems!  (Both of these of course may have been borrowed.)

GIBSON 335

Steve, the player, and his Gibson 335.

The blonde semi-solid blues guitar, two humbucker pick-ups mounted on a solid block of wood in an acoustic guitar shell, which provides a massive tonal range.  The harsh electric top and the plummy mid-bassy tones used in jazz and blues were both able to be used in this epitome of an electric guitar.  Steve had learned to play well by the time he had this guitar bought for him by Marion Pearcy, and his decision to play in three-piece bands in the future reflects the confidence that he had in his playing.  After the acquisition of this guitar, he seemed never to play any other, fueling rumours that this was the only guitar he had!  He certainly was using it when I saw both the Official Receivers and Packet of Three, and was using it when  he played his final gig at Half Moon in Putney in April 1991, where this photo was taken.  Toby has this guitar now, the  pick-up covers have been removed, and its action (playability) is no better or worse than any other of this kind of guitar I have played.  They do however weigh a ton, so they are not “throw around” guitars!! 

 

So that’s where it ends, I hope that this  may clarify things as far as the history of Steves guitars is concerned. If you have any information concerning the above, or have any other comments that you  would like to make, please feel free to get in touch.

 

 

Top of page

 

Gretch 1620, etc

Fender Telecaster

Gibson Les Paul Jr

Epiphone Dwight

Gibson Les Paul Custom

Ovation/Ibanez

Fender Esquire

Gibson 335

Gretch 1620, etc

Fender Telecaster

Gibson Les Paul Jr

Epiphone Dwight

Gibson Les Paul Custom

Ovation/Ibanez

Fender Esquire

Gibson 335

Gretch 1620, etc

Fender Telecaster

Gibson Les Paul Jr

Epiphone Dwight

Gibson Les Paul Custom

Ovation/Ibanez

Fender Esquire

Gibson 335

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