GP Editors Top Five NAMM Faves

MATT BLACKETT Joe Bonamassa blazes through a private lesson for GP. He plugged a dark-blue, signature Les Paul into a Fender Twin and got amazing tones.


Joe Bonamassa blazes through a private lesson for GP. He plugged a dark-blue, signature Les Paul into a Fender Twin and got amazing tones.

NY Yankees star (and great guitarist) Bernie Williams at Fender. I can’t forgive what he did to my Oakland A’s over the years, but I do love the way he plays—whether it’s baseball or guitar.

The coolest product I saw at NAMM: the amazing Ring Thing ring modulator from Electro-Harmonix. This great-sounding box will change the way you think about ring mod, guaranteed.

Jeff Babicz holds a guitar with his Full Contact Hardware, which is now distributed by Kaman. This guy has gone from an unknown maker of interesting-looking flat-tops to a major innovator of acoustic and electric guitars in just a few years.

Guilford Guitars— top-quality American-made instruments— with their Ty Tabor signature model. It’s not easy getting a new guitar company off the ground, but with a great blend of craftsmanship and artist endorsements, they might just have a shot.


I was having dinner with Abstract Logix label head Souvik Dutta and fusion guitarists Amit Heri and Alex Machacek, when legendary jazz drummers Lenny White and Vince Wilburn joined us—along with their rather large entourages. Great musical conversations and champagne were enjoyed all around.

I had fun at the Looperlative Audio booth catching up with inventor/programmer Bob Amstadt and guitarist Bill Walker, who demonstrated the new LP2 looping pedal. Bill is one of the most advanced looping guitarists on the planet.

One of the coolest products for recording guitarists was the MOTU ZBox—a passive device that mimics the impedance of the input on an amplifier, potentially eliminating the lack of responsiveness sometimes experienced when playing through amp and effects-modeling software.

I very much enjoyed interviewing Paul Rivera Sr. of Rivera Amplification— a key figure in the history of amp design, and the brains behind my beloved Venus 6 1x12 combo.

I love spending time in the “Mad Scientist’s Hall,” and Godlyke’s Kevin Bolembach always has a bumper crop of cool new pedals—including models by Guyatone, Maxon, Hao, and his own Totally Wicked Audio line.


Got to play a “punk-shred” version of the Faces’ “Stay With Me” at All-Star Guitar Night with GP Guitar Superstars Mike Orlando and Steve Senes, bassist Stu Hamm, drummer Danny Gottlieb, and my Ol’ Cheeky Bastards mates Dave Dalton and Cheryl Doll.

I dig fashion designer Mark Nason’s rocker boots, but I never thought he’d put his haute-couture leatherwork on an amp. Wow. Here are Nason (left) and Hartley Peavey beside the Budda MN-100.

At the Blackstar booth, I got to interview the Stooges’ James Williamson, who played on one of my essential ’70s thrill rides, the Kill City album with Iggy Pop.

What can I say? I love lime green, and I never expected PRS to toss such dayglo mayhem on one of its fine guitars. But there it was—a gorgeous green Mira X, acting like some kind of Star Trek tractor beam to pull me right into its ghoulish embrace.

Sunday, 3:00 pm. Last day of NAMM. I’m zombie walking down an aisle, and this catches my eye—the JMI Mick Ronson Signature Tone Bender. Ronson is one of my major heroes. Heart pounding. Tears welling in my eyes. I must have it! Nice way to end the show.


Egnater’s new Tweaker delivers 15 watts from two 6V6 power tubes and features tone controls that are switchable for American, British, and Vox response curves. Packed with cool tones, and aimed at the boutique crowd, this new amp is, well, a tweakers dream!

The P-1800 PF Power Factor Pro ($479 retail) gives amplifiers the headroom they need to operate at maximum efficiency, and deliver consistent sound from venue to venue.

Bringing new meaning to the term “plexi,” Matchless’ clear-plastic combo cabinets provide a birds-eye view of the point-to-point circuitry used in most Matchless amplifiers.

Paul Reed Smith hosted two “Tone Quest” events, and, at the acoustic session, Martin Simpson played a PRS after having a go with a variety of vintage flat-tops. Randy Travis (right) and Tony McManus also sat in the “hot” seat to compare the sounds and playing qualities of the various instruments.

This beautifully inlaid Rivera Chubster 40 easily won my pick for the fanciest combo at NAMM. The design concept by Marc Minarik (Minarik Guitars) consists of chocolate koa inlays, and angels and cherubs made from a variety of shell and wood pieces. For a $6,500 upcharge, you too can have a Rivera that looks like this one.