“If you like to tweak, this is the guitar for you,” the Roots’ “Captain” Kirk Douglas says about his new signature model Gibson SG. And with its three pickup configuration, with coil splitting in the lead and rhythm (a/k/a neck and bridge) positions, this versatile six-string is a musical tiger, capable of earth-shaking roars and sweet-kitty purring.
Fans of the Roots who’ve seen Kirk play with the group in concert or on their regular weeknight gig as the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon know he’s a die-hard Gibson player. He’s appeared brandishing a wealth of cool Gibsons, including a Les Paul Goldtop, an ES-356, a black Custom Shop Les Paul with P-90s, a Byrdland archtop and a vintage Epiphone Crestwood.
But his original three-pickup Gibson SG Custom is a favorite. And that gorgeous beast, a 1969 model, is the inspiration for the Kirk Douglas signature guitar, which pairs its multi-ply neck binding and acrylic pearloid block marker inlays with gold hardware (including Grover tuners), a gold Maestro vibrato arm with gold plate-style tailpiece, gold Tune-O-Matic bridge, and a striking double-wide white pick guard.
Instead of reading “Gibson,” the tailpiece cover engraving reads “Captain,” a flourish that reflects Kirk’s sense of humor. “I can’t help but smile when I look down at that while I’m playing,” he relates.
Tone freaks will smile when they hear the Kirk Douglas signature model, too. The three classic ’57 humbuckers have plenty of gorgeous output, and the push-pull tone pots also allow for trim single-coil sounds.
“My original SG Custom came in a brown and I think it’s a perfect update to have this one come in cherry red,” Douglas says, running through the guitar’s appointments. “One of the things Gibson’s builders and I collaborated on was the three pickups.”
The goal was a high range of tonal control and functionality, he explains, so the pickups can be isolated with the toggle switch, and the bridge and middle pickups can be combined. The degree to which the middle pickup is present is controlled by a patented Gibson TogPot switch, which has a stealth blender ring disguised within it. “It’s an actual knob that can blend in the volume of the middle pickup,” Kirk notes.
In the single-coil setting, the pickups have a markedly more delicate architecture than in humbucker mode. “I think of this almost like a faucet, where you can have a little ‘water’ or color, but you can just turn it on full, too.”
Of course, this modern classic instrument is made from solid Grade-A mahogany with its thin dimensions and beveled edges upholding the SG’s legendary playing comfort. The gorgeous high-gloss Vintage Cherry nitrocellulose finish is a true yet lesser-seen variation of the SG Custom of the 1960s, and the slim, super-fast mahogany neck boasts depths of 0.800” at the 1st fret and 0.900” at the 12th. The Grade-A rosewood fingerboard is topped with a large Custom headstock with multi-ply binding and a split-diamond inlay.
Many guitar players fantasize about having a Gibson model bearing their name, but for Douglas the notion of a “signature” model has special resonance. “I try to get every guitar player that I am a fan of who plays the Fallon show to sign my headstock,” Kirk says. “So on a guitar like this, I thought it was a good idea to have my signature on the back of the headstock. I want whoever is playing it to really feel like it’s theirs, but it is a signature guitar, so why not put my signature on there?
I feel so incredibly proud. I am a huge fan of Gibson guitars, but if this wasn’t my signature model and I walked into a music store and found this guitar, I would have a very difficult time walking out of the store without it.”
Discover more about the Kirk Douglas SG here.