Welcome to the main “Gear” page at Steve Clark Guitar. This introduces you to Steve’s equipment and tastes in gear selection. For more in-depth detail please see the “Steve’s Gear” menu to the right for more options. →
Guitars & Equipment
Steve Clark, to most of us, will be remembered as one of the most talented rock guitarists to play the stage during the 80’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 January 8, 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 Pyromania era. Their biggest hit, Photograph 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.
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, Def Leppard would never be the same. 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, “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 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’.
In the early days, Steve played mostly Gibson Les Paul Standards. He was occasionally seen with a Hamer Double Cutaway, as well as a Dean.
Towards Hysteria, Steve had endorsed Gibson. His gear during the Hysteria tour consisted of 2 Les Paul Custom’s (both equipped with Kahler trem units), 2 Gibson Firebirds, and 2 Gibson Doublenecks (EDS-1275 models). The Les Pauls and Firebirds were equipped with coil tap switches to split the pickups. Steve also had 4 additional Doublenecks on order from Gibson at the time of his death. Steve was also known to play fenders occasionally in the studio, due to their unique sound. All of his guitars were strung with GHS Boomers.
Steve’s amplifiers consisted of primarily Marshall JCM series throughout the first three Leppard albums. Towards the end of Pyromania, Steve and Phil were both endorsed by Randall Electronics. Steve’s rigs through Hysteria consisted of primarily Randall with some Marshall 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 pick-ups:
I’m not 100% sure what pick-ups Steve used in his guitars. It is assumed that he used Gibsons. The pick-ups in the Firebirds were Gibson. Gibson’s 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 pick-ups. 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 “Dirty Fingers”.