Steve Clark Guitar Bodies


Steve Clark to most of us, will be remembered as one of the most talented rock guitarists to play the stage during the 1980’s. Steve was the heart and soul of Def Leppard‘s music. He was known by his fellow musicians and fans as “The Riffmaster” and Steve “Steamin’” Clark.

“The day the music died” got new meaning to Def Leppard on 8th January 1991. Steve’s life would end prematurely that day and a great musical talent would be silenced. What many fans did not know at that time was that Steve was the driving force behind Leppards’ music. He wrote most of the music, most of the riffs and orchestrated most of their songs through the glory days of the 80’s. Photograph, their biggest hit from Pyromania was also riffed by The Riffmaster.

Steve played with pure emotion; his soul bled through his guitar. Steve was not interested in speed playing, but rather, precision through guitar playing; his solos seemed to recreate the mood and feeling of the songs from which they were played.

Steve’s stage presence also earned him nicknames. He was commonly called “White Lightning” – because he looked like a lightning bolt flashing across the stage at times with so much speed and energy. He would leap and spin around the stage throwing those heavy Gibson guitars about as if they were toys!

Steve once commented on his idol, Jimmy Page: ‘He’s the whole package; he writes the songs; he arranges the songs; he plays the leads; he produces in the studio and on stage he is one hell of a showman.’ Steve learned from the best and added that extra 80’s muscle to the sound.

From a musician’s standpoint I knew the day that I had heard about his death that Def Leppard would never be the same again. I can remember in high school, all fellow guitarists must compete, and we would walk around during break comparing what we had learned the night or week before. One guy said to a friend, ‘Hey can you play Crazy Train?‘ My friend looked at him and said ‘Yeah, but can you play Bringin’ On The Heartbreak?’

You should’ve seen the look on his face. I said ‘Yeah, that’s real talent.’ Just as I guessed, Leppards’ sound and uniqueness would never be the same. Never again would we see Steve strutting across the stage, Les Paul Custom hanging at his knees, ripping into the ferocious lead of Die Hard The Hunter.

Steve Clark live with Gibson EDS-1275
Steve Clark with Gibson Firebird '76


In the early days, Steve played mostly a Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Hamer Double Cutaway. He was occasionally seen with a Dean.

Towards Hysteria, Steve had endorsed Gibson Guitars. His gear during the Hysteria world tour consisted primarily of two Les Paul Custom’s (both equipped with Kahler trem units), two Gibson Firebirds and two Gibson Doublenecks (EDS-1275 models).

The Les Pauls and Firebirds were equipped with coil tap switches to split the humbucker pickups. It is believed that Steve also had four additional Doublenecks on order from Gibson at the time of his death. Steve was also known to play Fender guitars occasionally in the studio, due to their unique sound. All of his stage guitars were strung with GHS Boomers.

Steve’s amplifiers consisted of primarily Marshall JCM series throughout the period of the first three Leppard albums. Again towards the Hysteria era, both Steve and Phil [Collen] were both endorsed by Randall Electronics. Steve’s rigs through Hysteria consisted of primarily Randall with some TC Electronics equipment.

He also used the following effects: Morley Preamp, Boss Delay and Boss Chorus.

Steve always stated that he was more of a traditionalist when it came to guitars. This can be seen in his selection of gear. At the time of his death, it was estimated that he owned approximately 75 guitars. I think it is safe to assume that a very large portion of those were Gibsons, and a large portion of those Gibsons were probably Les Pauls.

A note about the pickups:

I’m not 100% sure what pickups Steve used in all of his guitars. It is assumed that he used Gibsons stock PAF. The pickups in the Firebirds were Gibson mini-humbuckers. Gibsons custom shop built all of his guitars and he stated that Gibson did the electronic work, including the coil taps on the volume pots of the Les Pauls. This is why it is assumed that he used Gibson pickups.

Steve has also stated in an interview (see Def Leppard Spot Check: Guitarist interview from 1988) that most of his guitars are fitted with Gibson PAF’s and one Les Paul is fitted with a Dirty Fingers

For a more in-depth look at Steve’s gear, please check out each of the following sections: