Pete Townshend Playing Gibson Guitars


Have you heard of the legendary rock guitarist, Pete Townshend? If you’re a fan, you may be interested in owning a guitar that belonged to him. This particular instrument is a Gibson that Townshend used for over three decades. He eventually gave it to his longtime engineer and producer, Jon Astley.

This guitar is now considered a legendary piece of rock music history. Let’s take a closer look at it.

Les Paul

The guitar that you are holding in your hand is most likely the same one Pete Townshend played on his famous tours. The famous rocker used a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. In the early days, Pete only played it on stage, and it remained in his possession until 1975 when he gave it to his long-term producer and engineer, Jon Astley. In the ensuing years, he gradually replaced it with different models, but always retained the same guitar.

The first Les Paul that Pete Townshend used was a ’59 single-pickup, white double-cutaway model, possibly a ’59 or ’60 model. He used it on his 1967 television appearances, but he also played a ’55 single-cutaway sunburst model from Mountain. He changed the Maestro Vibrola tailpiece to a solid bridge and stop tailpiece. Townshend started a relationship with Gibson’s SG Special in 1968, replacing a Maestro Vibrola with a solid bridge and stop tailpiece. The SG Special featured humbuckers, and his ’71 SG is set to auction on June 24.


Alan Rogan, long-time guitar tech to Pete, was responsible for acquiring the first Schecter he ever owned. Schecter was not widely available at the time. Rogan was able to contact Schecter builder Roger Giffin to build guitars for Pete. Giffin would then assemble and customize the guitars for Pete. After some time, Schecter began building guitars to Pete’s specifications.

In September 1979, Pete Townshend began using Tele-style guitars. He played a gold Schecter at Live Aid and a black double-bound Tele at the 1988 BPI Awards ceremony. Eventually, he would switch to a custom-built guitar made by Giffin and Schecter. After a few tours, he had his SGs custom-built.


Pete Townshend has used many different guitar brands in his career, but he was at his peak playing Gibsons. From the mid-’60s through the mid-’70s, the guitarist used Gibson acoustics and electrics. During this period, he also broke several guitars, and many of them were destroyed on stage. Indeed, this stunt cost the band more money than they made!

This guitar was in Pete Townshend’s possession until 1975, when he sold it to Jon Astley, one of his long-time producers and engineers. The SG lasted until the 1970s when Pete decided to retire it. The guitar is now part of a private collection and is rarely seen on stage anymore. Here are some photos of Townshend playing the Gibson. Read on to discover the details behind the famous guitar.

Les Paul Custom

In the late 1950s, Les Paul was reintroduced by Gibson. The first version was black with gold-plated hardware and was nicknamed “Black Beauty.” In the late 1950s, Gibson added a TP-6 fine-tuner tailpiece and three-piece maple neck. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Gibson produced various models with the same distinctive design, including the SG and Les Paul Standard.

Early guitars used by Townshend include prototype versions of the Les Paul Deluxe. These guitars have unnumbered Letraset stickers and may have been altered by Townshend or Peter Cook. Early Les Paul Deluxes have three-way switch configurations instead of one. These guitars are also the most sought-after model among rockers today. The guitar is famous for Pete Townshend’s distinctive tone and the Gibson Super-Distortion pickup.

SG Special

Pete Townshend was known for his use of the SG Special on stage. It is the guitar of choice for the legendary guitarist from 1968 until 1971. In 2012, Gibson released a limited edition Pete Townshend signature model, and this example is in great condition. There is one small crack on the back of the headstock. The guitar features Alnico V P-90s and a rosewood fingerboard and comes with its original hard case.

During the 1970s, Townshend used Gibson Les Paul Deluxes. It is unknown if he ever played the SG Special again. However, there are rumors that he ruined so many original SG Specials that Gibson had to stop producing them altogether. Interestingly, the guitar was seized by the Rolling Stones when they performed a show at the ICA in London.


During the 1970s, Pete Townshend used Gibson Les Paul Deluxe guitars. He preferred this unloved model, and he often smashed his original SG Specials. Later, he gave away his guitars to Jon Astley, a longtime producer, and engineer. In this interview, he describes his relationship with his guitars. Listed below are some of the most memorable moments involving his Gibson guitars.

The SG Special was one of the most popular guitars of all time. Gibson also built several models specifically for Townshend. His famous angel wing pickguard is still in production. The SG Special features a USA Standard body design from 1991 to 2012. The guitar also comes with a hardshell case featuring a stencil of the ‘Who’ on it. This Gibson guitar is now in a private collection.

SG Special smashed at Woodstock

In the 1970s, Townshend played a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, but was more than satisfied with the unloved SG Special. So, he smashed so many original SG Specials that the guitar’s supply line was virtually destroyed. However, the guitar survived. A few years later, Townshend played a Gibson SG Special at Woodstock, which may have been the first time he destroyed one of his own instruments.

In 1969, Pete Townshend played the SG Special on his tour with the Who. The guitar was backed up with a Vibrola, but Townshend still removed it before playing. Its guitar has a full wraparound black pickguard, which is held on with two original screws. Full pickguards are usually found on 1966-1970 models. The body of Pete Townshend’s SG Special is completely cracked, and the backplate has separated from the guitar. One wire poking out from the hole where the lower pickup would have been located is still intact.

SG model

Despite having a legendary reputation, Pete Townshend’s guitar may not be what you would expect. The iconic guitar was once played by the Rolling Stones and is no doubt among the most iconic instruments in rock history. Townshend used this instrument during his 1969 tour of the U.S. He reportedly used it to perform “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Want to Break Your Heart” on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. This guitar also features a full black wraparound pickguard that is held on with two original screws. A full pickguard is a standard feature of Gibson guitars from the 1960s and 1970s, and Townshend’s model is no exception.

Despite the legendary reputation of the SG model, you can still spot this guitar today. Young also used several versions of the SG guitar throughout his career. He also used an SG model, which is now considered a signature model. In addition to using this guitar, Pete Townshend has played several variations of the SG model, including an SG Gothic that features a single ebony fingerboard and a P-90 pickup.

SG 50th anniversary

The Gibson SG has been a classic electric guitar since it was first introduced in the 1960s. Its 50th Anniversary model features a signature Angel Wing pickguard. The SG is made of mahogany and features a traditional 4-degree pitch. The headstock has a 17-degree back-angled profile. The guitar features a PLEK-cut Corian nut. The Pete Townshend SG has a medium jumbo fretboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets and a 12-inch radius. The guitar also features a hardshell case with a silver block-letter “Who” stencil.

The SG Standard became the favorite guitar of countless legendary rock players, including the late ’60s guitarist of The Who. He used the P-90 pickup in the SG Special to achieve his signature sound, which was essential for achieving his signature sound. From the late 1960s into the ’70s, Townshend used the SG Special to set the bar for rock power. To honor this milestone, Gibson has released a limited edition 50th Anniversary Pete Townshend SG.