I can’t remember if it was 1987 or 1988. I was in a high school van driving from Helena, MT to Kalispell. This van held a small group of art students coming back from state wide multi-date art event. The experience was awesome! At this time, I was moving out of ‘metal’, and dipping pretty hard into punk and post-punk music. The Cure was in heavy rotation at the time, and was exploring the more emotional, interesting and artistic sides of things – be it music, life, etc. On that van ride, my friend Zoe suggested I listen to something and she handed me a cassette for my Sony walkman. That cassette was The Smiths – Meat is Murder. I remember the song How Soon Is Now was queued up.. and it literally blew my mind.
From that point, I started exploring The Smith picking up The Queen Is Dead not soon after. The Smiths brought another guitarist into my life – Johnny Marr – he became one of those musicians that inspire me today. Roots. At the time of listening to that cassette I was years away from playing guitar, but deep inside, there was a seed that was planted.
I’m not sure if any of you experience this, but sometimes playing music, working out parts – leads, dinking around, etc… you instinctually pull out a riff from those early memories of inspired guitar. You never *learned* the riff, but it was in you. Sometimes, I know I pull a Marr lick/riff out by accident.
Fast forward to 2014, I discovered that Johnny Marr was planning to play in my home town of Missoula at a small venue (on my wife’s birthday). I was so excited. I never had a chance to see Marr in The Smiths or any of his other musical projects, and I was a fan of his previous solo release – The Messenger. Tickets bought, and we were super stoked. Now, how life works it’s magic, my friend Zoe mentioned above was at the show as well. It was fantastic to share this experience with the person that introduced me to this guitarist!
Now, to see Johnny Marr was quite cool. He has a swagger that I appreciated. Rock star. Not-a-dick. Confident. Slayed it. Loved the new material. Loved the stuff off his previous album, and was surprised by the amount of Smiths songs he pulled out – including How Soon Is Now!
We were lucky to catch this show. Shortly after this performance he had to cancel the remaining dates of the tour due to some type of family situation. Hope everything was okay with him and his family (never heard what the situation was).
Okay.. let’s talk about gear. He has a very simple / self-contained pedal set up. He’s been using the Boss GT-100 for a while, and there are lots of discussions about how this fits the needs for – a) modeling various tones on records and b) giving him more control for massive effects changes between parts and sections with single foot press.
Here is the pedalboard break down for Johnny Marr:
Boss TU-3 Tuner
Boss GT 100 Multi-Effects
Boss FS-5L Latching Footswitch x2
TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play GTX
Radial JS-3 Passive Microphone Splitter
He played only his Fender Jaguars (an awesome Kelly Green and Black Jag – not sure about the dates, but were the original vintage Jags – both with the mods you see in his Signature Fenders). He was using a pair of Fender combos (but not 100% sure on the models) If you can fill in some blanks, please let me know by commenting below!
Photos provide by my rad wife – Amy Donovan Photography
Let me know what you think about Johnny Marr.. also let me know what guitarists inspired you early on by commenting below!
Also.. remember, don’t forget to enter the T-Rex Replay Box Delay Give Away!
8 years ago
Johnny Marr belongs on the list of most influental rock guitarists of all time. Like Hendrix or Clapton, Marr took everything before him that he was tuned into and turned it into something completely his own.Reply
8 years ago
Amp wise, Johnny uses a ’65 Deluxe Reverb, going into a ’65 Super Reverb. Both reissues.
Stage right on the American tour, we also had a second Fender rig; a vintage Fender Deluxe, going into a ’65 Super Reverb reissue. This was a back-up rig, used also by guest guitarists.
Guitar tech for Johnny Marr.
8 years ago
Back in the late 80s (*I think you and me are more or less the same age) I could appreciate only 2 players beside the EVH-League: The Edge and Andy Summers. In my country, The Smiths were a case for snobs & hipsters and I simply couldn’t connect with their music… except for “The headmaster’s ritual”: its open chords played with that chimey sound had (*still have, actually) something appealing to me, mainly in terms of using new chord-ideas for my own songs. Almost 30 years later: I have become a big Morrissey fan (not yet a big Smiths-fan, but working on it), bought & loved “The messenger” at first hear and marvel at Johnny’s working man’s approach to his solo career.Reply
8 years ago
Johnny Marr is my favorite guitarist. I've listened to him since The Smiths days and in everything he has done since. I've seen him live twice in the last two years. Great shows. I only picked up a guitar 4 years ago at the age of 41. I doubt I'll ever get there but Johnny's style is what I practice everyday to get to. I have no insight into his gear, I just love the way he plays. Great article.Reply
7 years ago
Watched Johnny in Melbourne, Aus this week (fantastic show!) Impressed to hear that tone created via a GT-100 !. Any idea how/where the compressor is used in relation to the GT100. eg lower level to tame the signal pre digital effects, whilst boosting sustain EQ treble?
From the pic (L-R) looks like Comp: 11 o'clock, EQ: 12 o'clock Volume: 10 oclock. Suggests below unity gain pre GT-100?Reply
7 years ago
I wonder if he uses the delays and modulations from the Boss GT100 only ?…or use the amplifiers simulators too? Great articleReply
7 years ago
Hi Joel, thanks for confirming this. I had the privilege of seeing Johnny Marr play in Pomona and LA this past weekend and he was fabulous! Thanks to you and the crew for all the great work! I was wondering if you might be willing to share the GT-100 patches Johnny uses. I’ve been trying to emulate that gorgeous chorus effect but its not quite there. If its too much trouble, I understand. Cheers! HenryReply