It’s an unusual looking guitar for sure, but this ‘Guitar of the Month’ has a great history and killer tone to boot.
The Story of the Jupiter Thunderbird
American rhythm & blues guitarist, Bo Diddley, is probably best known for his rectangular guitars used throughout his long and influential career. Feeling the large-bodied guitars of the 1940’s hindered his performance he designed and built the rectangular and trapezoid shape guitars to allow him to jump around the stage more easily while playing. In 1959 he approached a former Gretsch employee with three guitar designs; the Cigar Box, Cadillac and Jupiter Thunderbird – the last two being named after the famous automobiles and whose shapes were inspired by the side profile of the car’s bodies.
Some years later Bo gifted his Jupiter Thunderbird to ZZ Top guitarist, Billy Gibbons.
In the early 2000’s, ZZ Top were in the studio searching for sounds for their upcoming album. Looking through the guitar vault they uncovered the Jupiter Thunderbird and found it had a “certain-something”! The Jupiter was far too rare and precious to take out on tour so Billy Gibbons and Gretsch reproduced it as the rather more roadworthy G6199 Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird which was launched in 2005. Since then numerous artist have discovered the Jupiter Thunderbird and various versions have been produced.
Construction & Tone
The Billy-Bo features a chambered mahogany body with a maple top producing a natural blend of sustain, warm low end and snappy highs – perfect for snarling rock riffs and expressive lead work. A comfortable mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard add to the bold acoustic tone while the TV Jones Power’Tron (neck) and Power’Tron Plus (bridge) ram the signal into the amp of your choice. This guitar packs one hell of a punch and is guaranteed to turn heads.