Calhoon Remembers: His Favorite Guitar
When it comes to making music, Brandon Calhoon relies on his trusty steed: his guitar. Read our Q&A below to learn more about Brandon’s history with the tool that helps him create and define his unique sound.
Q: Describe your favorite guitar.
A: My favorite guitar is a 2005 Gibson J-45 acoustic. The J-45 was nicknamed “The Workhorse” and is still one of Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitars. Mine in particular has the Vintage Sunburst color: a classic J-45 dreadnought with sloped shoulders. I remember the day I went into buy the guitar at Huber Breese Music in northeast Detroit. I played everything I could get my hands on that day in the store, but for some reason, the J-45 was it for me. I’m not a very precise guitar player; I’m a strummer, so I just wanted something with a full body, traditional sound that I could write songs on. I had the people at the store install a Fishman pick-up so I could go electric for solo acoustic gigs. No volume, bass or treble knobs, either…I didn’t want to manipulate the sound of what comes though the guitar naturally.
Q: Tell us about the memorable guitars that you’ve owned.
A: My first guitar was a maroon “Starfighter” electric my parents gave me on Christmas Day in 1986. I was 13.They bought me a maroon guitar because my favorite guitar player back then was Angus Young from AC/DC, and he played a maroon Gibson SG at the time. I’m sure they would have bought me that exact guitar if it didn’t cost over $1,000 bucks. My parents are rockers. Really wish I still had that “Starfighter” guitar though, but I traded it in for something else. It wasn’t until college in 1997 when I bought a cheap $100 used Fender acoustic from Cook’s Music (now B’s Music Shop) in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. This was when I started writing songs with my college roommate, Jason Brown. Up to that point, I’d just been playing blues and rock at local parties and bars. Several years, guitars, cities, and girlfriends later, I finally decided to treat myself to a new guitar. That’s when I bought my Gibson J-45 Vintage Sunburst acoustic.
Q: Is there a certain performance or special memory that you have with the Gibson J-45?
A: So many great memories and performances… but one that sticks out was the night I played a private party for Kid Rock and Gretchen Wilson at Cheli’s Chili in downtown Detroit back in ’08 or ’09. I had been playing Cheli’s every other Friday night for a few months when I got the call. The party included members of Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band, Uncle Kracker, Chris Chelios, and more. Halfway through the night, Kid Rock came up to the stage, grabbed my J-45 guitar and played “Can’t You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band. Minutes later, Gretchen Wilson came up to sing “Picture” with him. Pretty cool watching the “American Badass” play your guitar.
Q: What does this Gibson guitar mean to you?
A: This guitar has become a part of me, and in many ways, my shield. We share a lot of scars. I remember one night back in 2010 in northeast Detroit, I was playing a show, and I had been drinking too much. After the last song of my four-hour set, I had a meltdown and threw my guitar as hard as I could against a brick wall, basically blowing its back and sides apart. Ouch! But after 300 dollars worth of reconstructive surgery, she was back out playing gigs with me a few weeks later. I see the scars every time I strap my guitar on, and it reminds me of the beautiful struggle.
Q: How many guitars do you own?
A: Currently I have 7 guitars: 4 electrics and 2 acoustics, but that count doesn’t include all the bad decisions I’ve made through the years buying and selling guitars. One of my favorite guitars I’ve seemed to hold onto is a 2005 Tobacco Burst Gibson Les Paul. I played “Sweet Home Alabama” on national television with this guitar when I was a contestant on the TV Show “RockStar INXS” in 2005.