Scott Sharrard has been playing in the Gregg Allman Band since 2008, after a “pretty insane” audition where he had to sit in with the Allman Brothers. Currently, Sharrard is Allman’s musical director and songwriting collaborator, and although he has to do a lot of heavy lifting in the band, he manages to do it all with a pretty basic guitar-to-amp setup. Here, Sharrard—who also has his own solo act, Scott Sharrard and the Brickyard Band—describes his no-nonsense approach to awesome tone.
What are your main guitars for the Gregg Allman Band?
My main guitar is a Gibson Custom Shop ES-336 that I bought new in 2002, I think. It’s like a shrunken ES-335. It’s sort of like my Swiss Army knife. It’s what I use on almost everything. I had it modded by Paul Schwartz at Peekamoose Guitars in New York City. He really upgraded the guitar and got it to the next level. It has a Master Volume at the top of the f-hole, and Paul replaced the cabling, frets, saddle, and nut, and added locking tuners. Sonically, it sits right between a Telecaster and a 335. I also have a Fano SP6—it’s sort of like a Les Paul Junior meets a Tele—that I use as an alternative to the 336.
I plug straight into a Fender blackface amp—my favorites are Vibrolux Reverbs and Princeton Reverbs—but I change out the speakers for Celestions. For 12s I use G12-65s, and for 10s I use the G10 Vintage Ceramic. They break in immediately, and sound like they’ve been played for years. They have a warm midrange honk, they really agree with humbuckers, and they compress and break up in just the right spot for me.
How much do strings factor into your tonal equation?
A lot! There’s a lot of mythology about the size of your strings and tone, however. For many years, I used .011s, but I found I was working too hard, and, as a result, I was overplaying. Then, I remembered when I was growing up, I played with a lot of older blues guys from Chicago and Milwaukee, and they always used .009s, and they got huge sounds plugging straight into a Peavey Bandit or something. I was like, “Man, that sounds exactly like those old Chess records!” But I knew the sound was in their hands and their touch. And in thinking about that, I found that using lighter gauges—like .009s or .010s—makes me dig in less and listen a little harder. So that’s where I ended up, and I only use DR Pure Blues strings. I can play ten gigs on those strings, and they still sound alive and brand new to me.
Does your commitment to plugging direct into the amp require any extra preparation to ensure your tone is right there?
Your technique relates to your sound more than anything, so I’m always trying to get the least interference between my fingers and the amp. When I practice, I always play unplugged. I want the warmest and cleanest sound I can get. When I do use effects for something, however, I go by the “Jimi Hendrix Rule”—no more than two or three pedals at a time.
Did you experience any epiphanies while growing up that informed your growth as a guitar player?
I once read a Stevie Ray Vaughan interview in a guitar magazine—it might have been Guitar Player—where he mentioned Donny Hathaway and Grant Green. I was in my early teens at the time, and a huge Stevie Ray fan, but, at first, I couldn’t find the direct link between those artists and Stevie. I mean, Grant is a jazz guitarist, and Donny is a soul singer. But when I put their records on, it immediately hit me right in the heart that Stevie had that same power, and absorbing these seemingly different musicians made him so much more than just a blues guitar player. Right there, I started to realize that all the musicians I loved had similarly broad and diverse listening habits. That epiphany kicked in a joy for all music that I still use as inspiration to this day.