Songs like “Gold and Silver,” “Who Do You Love” and “Pride of Man” gave Quicksilver Messenger Service a sound that stood out from other hippie-era San Francisco bands.
But it was the impossibly slender lead guitarist John Cipollina (1943-1989) who stole the spotlight with his peekaboo ’do, biting tone and signature warbly vibrato.
He also inlaid the fingerboard with ivory, added slabs of ebony on the headstock and neck heel to enhance sustain, and topped the control knobs with San Francisco Mint Mercury dimes.
“I like the rapid punch of solid-state for the bottom and the rodent-gnawing distortion of the tubes on top,” he said.
Cipollina could also kick on a Fender Dual Showman tube amp head that powered six Wurlitzer horns, and his effects included reverb, an Astra Echo, a Standel Modulux vibrato, a Maestro Fuzz-Tone and a Vox wah.
“My love for electronic gadgetry has been a shaping influence on my playing,” he revealed. “The trick, however, is learning how to use them just a little bit.”
Browse the Quicksilver Messenger Service catalog here.
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Art Thompson is Senior Editor of Guitar Player magazine. He has authored stories with numerous guitar greats including B.B. King, Prince and Scotty Moore and interviewed gear innovators such as Paul Reed Smith, Randall Smith and Gary Kramer. He also wrote the first book on vintage effects pedals, Stompbox. Art's busy performance schedule with three stylistically diverse groups provides ample opportunity to test-drive new guitars, amps and effects, many of which are featured in the pages of GP.