Joe Walsh Remembers Helping Pete Townshend Find His Famous Guitar Tone
“Yes. That happened. The James Gang opened for the Who when they performed 'Tommy' in Europe. Pete and I are in the same zip code in terms of writing music and playing guitar. He had taken me under his wing as kind of a mentor. But during 'Tommy,' he’d locked into a certain amp/guitar setup for touring, and he got stuck there. It was time for him to move on and I sensed that.”
Walsh allows that many rock guitarists of the time were employing the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul as their primary instruments for creating musical destruction. He had a setup that in his mind provided an especially harmonic secret sauce to the guitar playing sound and he shared that with Townshend.
A bright orange '57 Gretsch Chet Akins model guitar paired with a '59 Fender Bandmaster amp, both gifts from Walsh, gave Townshend exactly the right sonic mojo that he needed to create the next Who album, 'Who's Next.'
The Gretsch was a big hollow-bodied guitar that brought a rich tone that produced feedback at high volume, something that became an essential component of Townshend's sound. In typical fashion, Townshend eventually smashed the guitar during a Who show (no musical instrument was safe from Pete's on-stage wrath, right?), but he reportedly had the instrument reassembled and still owns it today.
“There’s songs in that guitar,” says Walsh. “You sit down with it, and stuff just comes out of you.”
The year 2012 will bring new music from Walsh, who recently wrapped up 'Analog Man,' his first album of new solo material since 'Songs For A Dying Planet' in 1992.