The Guitar Gear of Pearl Jam
The Guitars of Pearl Jam: McCready & Gossard
by PGS Fitz
Despite having seen (and loved) the documentary PJ20, I still can’t believe that Pearl Jam’s Ten is over twenty-years old. When CDs still came in long boxes, I’d save the long box and put them up on my wall. I still remember the deep magenta of the cover of Ten up on my wall (probably in between Nevermind and Blood Sugar Sex Magik), the five guys in the band on the cover high-fiving one another in rock solidarity. If CDs had grooves, I’d have worn mine out. Ten was a life-changer for me and honestly it re-ignited my guitar playing after a couple years of laziness. I sat for hours with my Japanese Squier strat trying (and sometimes even succeeding!) to pick out parts and learn the album start to finish. Trying to cop McCready’s solo in “Alive” was a tall order, but I tried:
Twenty some odd years later, Pearl Jam is still making music and at the top of their game. It was just announced that PJ’s new album Lightning Bolt comes out in October—so we thought we’d do some digging and try to see what guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready were up to in the last few years, gearwise, as we look ahead to another round of PJ-world-domination. Both Gossard and McCready are known to change up their gear on a regular basis, so this is by no means a currently-accurate account, nor is it comprehensive—it never could be. The great thing about players like this is that you can never fully know exactly what they’re up to—keeps things exciting for the rest of us, right?! Let’s dig in.
In the Ten era, McCready was seen primarily with Strats and the occasional Tele while Gossard rocked a Les Paul most of the time. In the years since, both guitarists have added considerably to their arsenals and tend to switch instruments at the drop of a hat. McCready has more Strats and Les Pauls than I could shake a stick at-- nor could I hope to ID all of them, but a ’59 sunburst Strat is one that he often seen tearing up with his bluesy leads. Some of McCready’s other notable guitars include a pair of early 50s Telecasters (’52 & ’53, respectively), a Gibson Les Paul Junior DC, ’68 Gibson Hummingbird, Gibson EDS 1275 double-neck, and a 90s Gretsch Silver Jet RI.
Gossard, meanwhile, began his Pearl Jam career playing a ton of Les Pauls and famously owns a bunch of goldtops ( ’54, ’69, ‘73) and several bursts—an ideal guitar for Pearl Jam’s rock tone. As late, funny enough, he’s been bringing a slew of Strats along with him for shows—including a well-worn ’59 Strat in red and a super beat-up 2 tone sunburst strat of unknown age (anyone got the 411 on this axe?!). Some of Stone’s other, less obvious instruments include a salmon pink ’59 Strat, Hamer Duo-Tone, and a James Trussart Telecaster that gets brought out onstage from time to time.
Both Gossard and McCready have gone through a zillion iterations of their rigs, typically both favoring a simple pedalboard set up with no fancy rack effects. The most recent confirmed McCready pedalboard (from his Tumblr page!) shows a tidy little setup including:
· Custom Audio Electronics Wah
· Lovepedal Amp 50
· Xotic AC Booster
· Custom Audio Electronics Boost
· Way Huge Green Rhino (replacing a trusty Tubescreamer!)
· EHX Micro Pog
· Line 6 DL4
· Line 6 MM4
· Diamond Compressor
· What might be a Rockbox Boiling Point?!!
We’ll see what he takes out on the road with him when PJ hits the road this fall. The important part of McCready’s tone is a nice, smooth overdrive to slam into his amps for that scorching lead tone.
Gossard also switches things up all the time, but most recently has been seen rocking:
· Ernie Ball 6166 Volume pedal
· Lehle Dual SGOS amp switcher (clean/dirty)
· Dunlop Wah
· Klon Centaur
· Keeley Compressor (2 knob)
· Ibanez FL305 Flanger
· Line 6 DL4
This is all subject to change at a moment’s notice, of course—as both of these guys have changed pedals non-stop since the beginning, all the while sounding completely like themselves, proving that tone is in the tips of your fingers!
During the Ten era, McCready was using Marshall heads of unknown exact make/model as well as a 4x10 Fender Bassman. The late 90s saw him running several amps concurrently including a ’59 Bassman, ’59 Tweed Twin, ’68 JMP Plexi, and a Matchless HC30 head—a combination that allowed for an endless variety of tone. During recent shows in advance of the new album, McCready has been seen playing through a 65 Amps head/cab (the Empire, perhaps, or the London?!) perched on top of a Savage combo along with a Union Jack Amps head going into a Marshall 4x12 cab. Gossard, meanwhile, has been known to play through a variety of amps himself, including the Savage Blitz, Trentinos, AC30s, Matchless HC-30s, and Fender Deluxes. As late, cameras seem to be favoring stage right, so we’re a little unclear on what Stone is actually running right now in the lead up to Lightning Bolt’s release—but whatever it is? It’s coming out of Marshall cabs, as rock music should.
Pretty hard to do comprehensive gear-gazing at these two perfectly matched musicians—their willingness to adapt and change has always been inspiring and will continue to be. Pearl Jam fans—any tips for copping a great McCready or Gossard tone?! ‘Cause I think I almost have that “Alive” solo nailed… finally.