Multi-neck guitars have held a place in the music industry for a long time. Today, they hold a prominent position in rock and roll, but the multi-neck has roots that go back as far as the 17th century. These unique instruments have evolved over the centuries to transform into the flashy Gibsons and Fenders you see gracing the stage today.
Keep reading to learn about just a few of the iconic and most famous multi neck guitar players who’ve graced the stage playing these unique guitars.
1. Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page was the founder and lead guitarist for the classic rock band Led Zeppelin.
Page began his music career as a studio session musician in London.
After spending two years with the Yardbirds, Page founded Led Zeppelin with John Paul Jones, John Bonham, and Robert Plant in 1968.
A big fan of Gibson, Page incorporated his multi-neck EDS-1275 starting in 1971 during performances of the band’s iconic song, Stairway to Heaven, in addition to other hits.
The band was together for twenty-two years before breaking up after Bonham’s death in 1980.
Page continues to practice music today, although he hasn’t toured solo since 1988.
2. John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin is an award-winning English guitarist. He is known for his contributions to jazz fusion, a style of music that combines key facets of jazz with elements of rock, funk, and R&B.
McLaughlin moved to the United States in the 1970s, where he collaborated with several musicians, including Miles Davis and Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana.
McLaughlin was a member of several musical groups, most of which were short-lived, before diving deeper into a solo career.
For his farewell tour in the US, McLaughlin was given an 18-string double-neck guitar with a whammy on the six-string.
He chose to auction the piece in 2017 to raise funds for the Music Heals campaign, which aimed to help traumatized children and adults in Palestine heal through music.
3. Rick Nielsen
Rick Nielsen is an American Musician best known as the lead guitarist for Cheap Trick. He started as a drummer but took up the guitar as an adult.
Throughout the early seventies, Nielsen played in several bands with bandmate Tom Petersson before forming Cheap Trick in 1973.
Now a renowned guitar player, Nielsen has an iconic Quint Neck guitar. Designed by Hamer, this piece sported five necks that dovetailed out from the body.
His original instrument, the orange quint, broke in the 1990s and was later replaced by his trademark checker-style.
4. Steve Vai
A New Yorker by birth, Steve Vai picked up his first guitar at the age of twelve. His music career began in 1978 when he worked as a transcriptionist for Frank Zappa.
His rise to fame came in 1983 when he released “The Attitude Song,” a piece that showcased his broad technical skills with a guitar.
In 1986, Vai partnered with the guitar manufacturer Ibanez to develop several multi-neck guitars, including the Ibanez LACS and S series.
His most standout design is the Heart Tripleneck guitar, consisting of a heart-shaped body, two six-string necks, and one twelve-string.
David Lee Roth’s video for “Just Like Paradise” featured the Heart.
5. Rik Emmett
Rik Emmet is a Canadian rock musician best known as a singer and guitarist for the band Triumph, which he toured with from 1975-1988.
After leaving Triumph in 1988, Emmett released more than thirty solo albums, more than a dozen of which went platinum.
Emmett has owned a total of eight double-neck guitars. His first was a red Ibanez Gibson copy, but he also collected Yamaha, Steinberger, and Dean versions.
Emmett retired double-necks in the early nineties, citing back and neck pain, but picked up a custom Gibson for Triumph’s reunion in 2008.
6. Mike Rutherford
Mike Rutherford is a British guitar player who founded the rock band Genesis with four of his fellow Charterhouse School classmates in 1967.
Rutherford dabbled as a solo artist in the eighties but disliked the work, so he moved on to form Mike + the Mechanics while on break from Genesis in 1985.
Rutherford became adept at playing the roles of bass and rhythm guitar simultaneously by using bass pedals while he played a twelve-string guitar.
However, the instrument he’s best known for is his Rickenbacker double-neck bass and twelve-string guitar.
He’s since owned several other double-necks, his most recent being a Gibson twelve-string combined with a Yamaha TRP-4P.
7. Joe Maphis
Known as “The King of Strings,” Joe Maphis was born in Virginia in 1921.
After playing with several small bands and taking his career to the Army, Maphis made a name for himself in Los Angeles in 1951.
He had several hits that have become classics, including “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, (And Loud, Loud Music).” “Dim Lights” has since been covered by multiple recording artists.
Maphis’s most famous instrument was his Mosrite double-neck guitar.
Designed by Semie Moseley, Maphis’s double-neck featured six and twelve-string necks inscribed with his name. Moseley presented the guitar to Maphis in 1954.
8. Alex Lifeson
Aleksandar Živojinović, known professionally as Alex Lifeson, is a Canadian musician best known as a guitarist and vocalist for Rush.
Lifeson picked up his first guitar at age 12 and eventually became skilled with several other stringed instruments.
Lifeson’s most iconic instrument was a white Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck. Lifeson has carried the instrument with him for decades and has recently collaborated with Gibson to design a limited-edition replica.
Throughout his career, Lifeson made guest appearances on numerous albums. In 1973, he made his film debut in the documentary Come on Children.
In 2013, Lifeson and the other members of Rush were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
9. Derek Smalls
Derek Smalls is the bass player in the fictional British heavy metal group Spinal Tap. The mockumentary that followed the band, This is Spinal Tap, aired in 1984.
Smalls is played by Harry Shearer, an American actor from Los Angeles. Smalls was born in the West Midlands, England, and joined Spinal Tap in 1967.
Throughout his career, Smalls appeared in several commercials and released one solo album.
Smalls’s double-neck bass is what made him stand out as a bass player. B.C. Rich designed this piece, which features four and eight-string necks.
The signature piece became a key part of Spinal Tap’s image.
10. Steve Howe
Steve Howe is a British musician best known as the guitarist of Yes. Howe’s fame began when he joined Yes in 1970 and helped lead the band to commercial success.
His musical career began in 1964 and many people have referred to Howe as the grandfather of progressive rock.
He played in several bands and released a few singles before auditioning for Yes.
In the seventies, he helped Yes guide their style toward a more progressive sound, which led to two platinum albums and three gold.
Howe always had an arsenal of guitars at his disposal, but his standout instrument was the white Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck he used when he recorded Starship Trooper.
Although he only used it for a brief period in the seventies, it still made for an iconic performance.
11. Pete Townshend
Born in Chiswick, London, Pete Townshend is a British guitarist who founded The Who.
He’s most well-known for his work as a guitarist, but he’s skilled with a wide variety of other instruments, too.
Townshend started his music career in 1961 with the British rock band the Detours. In 1964, he formed the Who, and in 1965, wrote their first hit single, “I Can’t Explain.” The Who’s debut album, My Generation, was released later that year.
Townshend used a Gibson EDS-1275 for a brief period in 1967.
He opted for the double-neck to add a bit of flexibility to the band’s sound but ultimately favored single-neck instruments.
12. Michael Angelo Batio
Michael Angelo Batio is a heavy metal guitarist for Nitro, a glam-metal band based out of Los Angeles.
Batio has a deep appreciation for music theory, which has provided him the technical know-how to develop sonically complex songs.
Born in Chicago in 1956, Batio began playing guitar at ten and proved himself a musical prodigy by thirteen.
His professional career started in 1984 when he joined the band Holland. Three years later, he formed Nitro with T.J. Racer and Bobby Rock.
Batio is also well-known for developing two multi-neck guitars types. The Double-Guitar is a V-shaped double-neck, the most recognizable of which is his USA Dean Mach VII.
The Quad-Guitar, a four-necked Gibson, features two seven-string necks above two six-strings.
13. Grady Martin
Grady Martin was an American session guitarist born in Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
He made his recording debut in 1946 at age seventeen before joining The Nashville A-Team in the late fifties.
During his time with The A-Team, Martin acted as a sideman for many big names in the music industry, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Willie Nelson.
His studio career ended in 1978. However, he picked back up as a touring musician after leaving the studio before retiring in 1994.
One of Martin’s most recognizable instruments was his Bigsby solid-body double-neck.
As a custom-made model for Martin in 1952 by Paul Bigsby, this instrument featured a six-string guitar topped with a five-string mandolin that provided a unique sound to Martin’s pieces.
14. Don Felder
In the early years of his career, Felder joined a few small-time bands before moving to Los Angeles in 1973.
He joined up with David Blue there, and they opened for Crosby & Nash and Neil Young. In 1974, when the Eagles were shifting from country to rock, Felder received an invite to join the band.
However, after multiple successes, the band disbanded in the early eighties after animosity between Felder and frontman Glenn Frey led to irreconcilable differences.
Like many others, Felder favored a Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck.
Felder’s performances were so impactful that Gibson named a 2010 re-issue of the EDS-1275 after him.
Summing up our List of Greatest Multi Neck Guitarists
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the artists who continue to demonstrate the versatile nature of multi-neck guitars.
These instruments all have a unique history that continues to positively impact the music industry today.