By Damian Fanelli
The Eagles' 1976 mega-hit single "Hotel California" turns up — time and time again — on lists of "best guitar solos of all time." In fact, it earned the No. 8 spot on Guitar World's often-quoted list of the 100 greatest guitar solos.
While the recording features the guitar work of Joe Walsh and Don Felder, the primary guitar heard throughout the solo belongs to Felder, who also wrote the music for the track.
In the studio, Felder played the intro on a Takamine 12-string and the solo on his 1959 Les Paul Standard. Live, it was a different story.
"We got to the sound stage to rehearse that song to go on the road for the first Hotel California tour," Felder told Guitar Aficionado earlier this month. "I couldn’t figure out how I was gonna play the introduction and the solo stuff at the same time without literally changing guitars back and forth. So I got the idea of using a double-neck, the Gibson EDS-1275."
When performing the track live, Felder performed the 12-string intro on the guitar's top neck (through a Leslie) and switched to the lower 6-string neck for the soloing duel with Walsh.
With both guitars so closely associated with the classic track, Gibson Custom created not one, but two signature Felder signature models — the "Hotel California" 1959 Les Paul (MSRP: $10,351 and up) and the "Hotel California" EDS-1275 (MSRP: Aged White, $9,174; Aged White — Signed, $12,704).
While the originals are safely stashed away (the '59 is under lock and key and the 1275 is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio), Felder tours with the Gibson Custom guitars ("I honestly can't tell the difference between the originals and the copies," he said).
We recently asked him about the process went into creating the high-end "Hotel California" models.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: How does a signature model get off the ground?
First of all, we have a lot of meetings — in advance — about what they’re gonna do. The one thing I felt impelled to demand was that the guitars be as close and identical in production, scale, tone, pickups and finish as humanly possible. So I had them send the 12-string from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Gibson's custom shop, and I shipped them my '59 Les Paul.
Then I went back and had a meeting with the head of their custom shop, who does their reproductions. They actually had Billy Gibbons’ Les Paul there at the time. I asked them, “How do you put these scratches in? They look so identical.” He opened the drawer and took out an Elvis rhinestone belt buckle and said, "This is what we use."
How and when do you get to try out the guitar before they start selling it?
They produce what is called an artist proof. They send it to you, you play it.
How many artist proofs were required till they nailed it? Any little issues along the way?
The first artist proof they sent for the double neck was wired wrong. The original double neck was wired with two separate outputs, so that the 12-string goes into a Leslie and the 6-string goes out to an Echoplex and a Fender Tweed Deluxe, which was actually set up behind a Marshall on stage. So they had originally wired it so that both of them came out of the same jack. So we had to correct that, and we did.
How about the '59 Les Paul?
The pickups that were in my original ’59 had an unbelievably hot output. The first stab they sent me for the ’59 replica was close, but there were slightly different tonal qualities. So after a couple of attempts, they completely nailed it. All in all, I had about five different artist proofs of each guitar.
For more about Gibson's Don Felder "Hotel California" EDS-1275 and Don Felder "Hotel California" 1959 Les Paul, visit the following links:
Photo: Neil Zlozower (gibson.com)