Fender CEO Andy Mooney Plays His Favorite Riffs on Rare + Weird Guitars
Fender is one of the leaders in the guitar industry and we recently visited the guitar giant's Los Angeles office to speak with the CEO of the company Andy Mooney, who not only took us through a history of some of his favorite riffs, but also displayed some of Fender's top guitars along with a few choice pieces from his own collection.
Mooney was the son of a piano player father who encouraged him to pick up an instrument. "I learned a classical Spanish guitar when I was in high school, I started in grade school and kind of migrated to electric guitar,” says Mooney, who adds that his dad also encouraged his fascination by purchasing him his first record player and two singles to get him started. "The two singles that were in the U.K. pop charts simultaneously were 'Black Night' from Deep Purple and 'Paranoid' from Black Sabbath,” says Mooney, who then offers a demonstration of riffs from both tracks on his Blackmore Strat.
A personal favorite for Mooney is David Bowie, with the CEO praising the talents of guitarist Mick Ronson. For his Bowie demonstration, Mooney rocks some "Rebel Rebel" and a couple of other iconic riffs on the Fender American Ultra Telecaster.
"This is really our top of the line guitar that we recently introduced in the last quarter of last year. This is the most popular color of the guitar which we call Texas Tea. I guess that’s essentially become the new black,” says Mooney.
Another Fender favorite at the moment is the Acoustasonic. Addressing what they saw as a need for players, Mooney showcases the innovative instrument. "Usually when an acoustic guitar player goes onstage, the guitar is electrified. What you usually get is just one great acoustic sound louder," says Mooney. "What we did is we said let’s use the five-way switch and we’ll incorporate 10 different acoustic sounds. We got a great response from working musicians about this guitar.”
Staying in the Fender family, Mooney introduces the HM Strat. “It was really meant, at that time, to compete with a lot of the strat-like objects that were kind of Super Strats as they were called back then,” says Mooney, who rocks out a bit of the Alice in Chains favorite "Man in the Box."
“That basic pentatonic blues scale. It’s the foundation for some of the greatest riffs of all time," says Mooney, reflecting on the similarities between "Man in the Box" and Deep Purple's "Black Night."
Pulling from his own collection, the CEO shares a very special custom shop variation on Eric Clapton's "Brownie." There were only 100 made of the instrument, but one extra was made for the Fender collection. "You can’t possibly have this guitar without going [‘Layla’]," says Mooney. "It’s a very classic simple line, but in the hands of Eric Clapton, it’s immortal.”
The Fender honcho also shows off one of his Jimi Hendrix guitars, marveling at Hendrix's mastery having to play left-handed on a right-handed guitar. "I have to say it’s tough. It doesn’t even sit in your lap that easily," says Mooney, eventually breaking out a bit of "Little Wing." "What can you say about Jimi Hendrix? How he was able to do what he did playing a guitar in this manifestation, limited access to the upper frets cause the heel is upside down and the bar completely all over the place, having to reach over the controls to do some of the solo work he was going to do, it’s just a miracle.”
One of Fender's latest guitars is a signature Tom Morello "Soul Power" model, which came about via a chance meeting. "I have a 13-year-old daughter and maybe 18 months ago I went to the annual fundraiser for her school and lo and behold there was a Tom Morello guitar there signed by Tom that was up for auction. Along with it was an hour's lesson from Tom. So there was no way I was going to get outbid on that," recalls Mooney.
During their lesson, Morello learned that Mooney was playing a Chris Shiflett signature model guitar and approached him about doing signature models for some of his own guitars, starting with the "Soul Power" model, as displayed by Mooney while performing a bit of "Killing in the Name."
Continuing the visit, Mooney pulled out a one-of-a-kind Duo Sonic. "It’s pure Mahogany, start to finish," said the CEO. "Our pickup designer Tim Shaw -- who has done some of the greatest pickups in the industry -- the way that he described it is I’m going to give you extra spicy pickups. I think the combination of Mahogany with these extra spicy pickups will give you what you need.” Showcasing some of the power, we get a little taste of Pantera's "Broken" on the Duo Sonic.
Finishing out his display, Mooney grabs a Jim Root signature model Jazzmaster. Speaking about working with the musician to get the specs just right, he explains, "Because of what he wears onstage with the mask, with the boiler suit and how energetic the performance is, lights and everything else, what he found was the band sweat so much they were shorting out the guitars. He said, ‘I don’t want anything to interrupt the show.’ Mooney gives his own sampling of "The Devil in I" on the instrument.
Our thanks to Fender CEO Andy Mooney for showcasing some of his and the company's top guitars. You can watch the full Gear Factor episode above. And during this period of self-isolation, be sure to check out Fender Play guitar tutorials as well. For all your Fender guitar needs, check out the company's website.
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