The Guitars of CCR
Part one in a series

by Graham Niven

Gibson Les Paul Custom guitars


Once used as a graphic on Creedence's business cards and other promotional items, the Gibson Les Paul Custom is perhaps THE guitar most associated with John Fogerty and the CCR days, and continuing into Fogerty's solo career.

Of all the guitars used by Fogerty in Creedence days and later, the Les Paul Customs are the one guitar that Fogerty has never stopped using.

In the early days of Creedence, Fogerty wrote a number of songs that featured the lead guitar tuned down one step from standard tuning. This method of tuning is commonly known as ‘D' tuning. A guitar tuned in such a manner adds contrast to the other normally tuned guitars. It also produces a slinky playing instrument with a distinctive sound.

In the recording studio during the early days of CCR, Fogerty used a Gibson ES-175 Jazz guitar to record such ‘D' tuned classics as "Proud Mary" and "Bad Moon Rising". This guitar is a very wide hollow body instrument, with ‘f' holes on the front of the body. A delicate instrument, it was also very prone to feedback at relatively mild volume levels. Because of this, Fogerty used the more rugged and stage friendly Les Paul Custom solid body guitars to perform the ‘D' tuned songs with during CCR's live performances.

After Fogerty's ES-175 guitar was stolen from his car while parked at Fantasy, the Les Paul Customs became Fogerty's studio 'D' tuned guitars.

John Fogerty with standard tuned Les Paul Custom, Rock Hall of Fame opening, September, 1995


Fogerty seemingly prefers the black Les Paul Customs, although he has been known to use a tobacco sunburst finished Les Paul Custom at times. All of Fogerty's Les Paul Custom guitars are basic Gibson factory production models, fine tuned by Hideo Kamimoto, a respected luthier and author of several books on guitar repair and construction.

A couple of Fogerty variations of the basic Les Pauls are his neck instrument, a guitar that suffered a broken neck compliments of an airline, and modified by Kamimoto to a short scale neck. Another variation is the Bigsby whammy bar that Fogerty had installed on several of his Les Paul guitars. Fogerty not only used the Les Paul guitars for ‘D' tuned songs, in the later stages of CCR he abandoned his Rickenbacker 325 guitars in favor of standard tuned Les Paul Customs. Thus, the need for the whammy bar on certain song leads, such as "Traveling Band".


A pair of Les Paul Customs in Ebony. Note the mother of pearl fretboard inlays and gold trimmed bridge, pickup covers, and other parts.


Fogerty continues to show a preference for the "Black Beauty" or "Fretless Wonder" as the small fret wired Les Paul Custom is fondly nicknamed. He used a standard tuned Les Paul Custom and a ‘D' tuned one at the September 1995 Rock Hall of Fame opening ceremonies. Inside the Hall of Fame sits a John Fogerty Les Paul Custom donated by Fogerty for display. It deserves to be there.

Les Paul Custom construction

Les Paul guitars have been around since 1952. The basic design principle of the Les Paul is the combining of two different types of wood, maple on top, and a mahogany back to produce musical characteristics unique in the world of guitars. The maple wood produces a bright sound and contrasts nicely with the rich and warm sound of a mahogany instrument. The mahogany neck and ebony fret board with mother of pearl inlays is glued into the body of the Les Paul Custom, providing superior sustain and durability. Les Pauls are famous for staying in tune because of their solid design.

Visit the the Gibson Musical Instruments HomePage

The Les Paul Home Page

Gary's Guitars - Unofficial Gibson Guitars Page

Gibson Vintage Guitar Magazine - Instrument Price Guide


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