When Larry Carlton graciously invited Premier Guitar to visit his Nashville studio, we jumped at the chance. He played guitar, told stories, and pretty much proved he's the coolest person any of us will ever meet.
"I'm not a collector," Carlton explains, "I just have a few guitars I like to play." For someone who has tracked as many sessions as Carlton, three Gibsons, two Fenders, and two Valley Arts 6-strings might seem like a modest number, but each one is very special.
The belle of the ball is Carlton's #1, a 1969 Gibson ES-335 he purchased new in '69. This is the guitar that earned him the “Mr. 335” moniker. It has seen a few changes over time, including Schaller tuners, a graphite nut, a KTS titanium bridge, and several re-fret jobs.
A fan gave Carlton his second ES-335, which is a 1968 model. Its pickups were swapped out for a matched pair of 1961 Gibson PAFs.
Next in the Gibson family is a stock 1955 Les Paul Special in TV yellow.
Carlton covers the Fender sound with his 1954 Fender Telecaster and his 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Both are completely stock and utterly beautiful.The only modern-ish guitars are a custom Valley Arts T-style and a Valley Arts small body acoustic. The latter resembles a Martin 000, but features a different soundboard bracing pattern.