Flying High Again: Five-ish Guys That Made the Flying V Famous

Categories: Lists

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Photo by Jeff Balke
My ultra-classy Gibson guitar refrigerator magnets including the V (second from right).
There are few instruments more distinctive than the Flying V. It's odd that a guitar this funky looking has been commonly used by a wide range of guitar players from country and blues to rock, but it has. Over the years, particularly in the '80s when "the weirder the shape the better" and "splotched with dayglo paint" was a prerequisite for instruments, it has been copied by other manufacturers, but as has been the case with the Les Paul, the Explorer, the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, Gibson's original has stood the test of time, and it turns 54 today.

In fact, the 1958-59 korina Flying V is one of the most expensive guitars on the vintage market valued between $200,000 and $250,000. That's like $100k per triangle!

Despite the odd shape, there were quite a number of guitarists who used the V from Dave Davies (The Kinks) to Marc Bolan (T.Rex) to Kirk Hammett (Metallica) to Lenny Kravitz. There are even some lesser known guys like Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash) who made the V their signature instrument. But, these five plus guys, when they strapped on the V, made an impact.

Honorable Mention: Randy Rhoads

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The Ozzy guitarist, whose life was cut short in a plane crash, is one of the most influential players from that era and his now-famous polka-dot V was a staple in his arsenal. However, his V was not made by Gibson. It was a much pointier (and more terrifying looking) version made by Jackson Guitars. I played in high school with a guy who had one of these and the points looked like they could easily impale you. But the fact that the hero to legions of metal guitarists played a Flying V knock-off influenced a ton of shredders.


5. Jimi Hendrix & Eddie Van Halen

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I put these two guys together because they are both known best for their use of the Fender Stratocaster, or in the case of Van Halen, a bastardized version (though he has used and endorsed numerous guitars over the years). But, when both of these guys posed with the Flying V (in Eddie's case, one of those $200k vintage models we mentioned earlier), guitar players took notice. These are two of the most iconic guitar players of all time after all.


4. Michael & Rudolf Schenker

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Michael (left), Rudolf (right)
These guys aren't paired only because they are brothers but also because they started out in the same band: the Scorpions. Michael eventually moved on to the powerhouse late '70s outfit UFO, which Rudolf has continued going strong with the Scorps. Both are well known for their use of the V over the years and Michael was a huge influence on many of the hair metal guitarists. Michael now favors a version made by Dean Guitars, but Rudolf is still on the Gibson.

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13 comments
Sophie
Sophie

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WarrenG
WarrenG

Keeping up with the trend, the pic of Albert King doesn't have a left-handed V, it's a right-handed one turned upside down.

de
de

there are photos of neil young with flying v too. see the 'decade' album.

Hughsuck
Hughsuck

I guess establishing the twin-guitar idiom for the like of Lizzy, Priest and Iron Maiden don't count? My belief is Andy Powell made a very distinctive impact, despite the fact it goes largely ignored by historians. Ask KK Downing where he got the idea to use a V in the first place.

Jay
Jay

He didn't "make the Flying V famous" as he was a bit after the fact, but Jay Reatard deserves a mention at least for being one who preferred a Flying V as his primary/signature guitar model.

Oh, and he was awesome.

me
me

I know it's a short list but I would have made room for KK Downing some where.

Nick
Nick

Marty Bolan?  His name was Marc

Dr. Syn
Dr. Syn

I believe you mean Dave Davies of the Kinks. He was the lead guitarist who played a Flying V, not Ray.

Hughsuck
Hughsuck

BTW-

The '58 Flying V Michael Schenker played for many years was purchased from Andy Powell.

Jeff
Jeff

Very good choice.

Jeff
Jeff

I apparently can't type today. Thanks for catching that.

Jeff
Jeff

Thanks, it was Dave in my notes, but that's what writing in a hurry does. :) Fixed.

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