John Etheridge - Guitar

Picking up his first guitar in 1961, a £3 Russian acoustic "with a six inch action at the twelfth fret!" didn’t make for the best of beginnings. "That was awful," says John Etheridge with a chuckle; "I was really relieved when I found the Hofner solid body a few months later. Looking back, that Hofner was a nice guitar and I used it for a surprisingly long time." John Etheridge - Guitar
His third instrument, purchased in 1966 was, as he puts it, his first ‘proper’ guitar. "I’d been listening to a lot of Eric Clapton, so I decided to go out and buy a Type 1 Gibson SG Standard. It cost me £90, from a shop in Wardour Street." Like many of his colleagues Etheridge played a number of different guitars over the next five years, but he always remembers that ‘SG’, and for good reason.

"In 1993, Bernie Holland a guitarist mate of mine said he’d just bought an old "SG", and [wondered] would I like to have a look at it. I opened the case and picked up the guitar to play it and soon realised that it was the very same guitar that I had owned all those years ago. It had been a big part of my life. It was like meeting up again with an old girlfriend. I played it for a bit, and then realised why I got rid of it."

By the mid-1970s, Etheridge had become a member of Soft Machine and remembers playing a Strat and a SG Custom with three pick-ups. "Sadly, that SG,’ he says, ‘got stolen in Montmartre, the same evening we finished recording the album Alive And Well in Paris, a cruel irony." For the last 20 years though, Etheridge has pulled out his trusty Yamaha SA2000, a copy of the Gibson 335. "I’ve fitted ’59 Seymours to it, but it still doesn’t quite have that 335 vibe.’ But he would really like to get his hands on an early 335. ‘I reckon the best ones were produced from 1959-72," he says. If he were allowed to keep just one guitar, which one would it be?

"I bought a Gibson “Charlie Christian” 150 in 1971. It’s very plain but really nice to play, with one P90 pick-up in the laminated top. It’s got a typical 50s sound that’s very nostalgic." Yet this guitar is more often than not seen at the recording studio, rather than on stage. "Most of my favourite guitars, including my Gibson Super 400, aren’t suitable for playing at concerts." Was there an instrument out there that would make Etheridge go weak at the knees? "Guild have made some really fantastic guitars and I would love to get my hands on an "Artist Award". It has one sliding pick-up, and it’s a really great jazz guitar. I’d also like an original Selmer Maccaferri, but a good one. They weren’t all good, you know." Had Etheridge been around in the 1930s, this may well have been his chosen instrument, but this is where his true love lies.