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Same old song and dance

Courtesy photo
Aerosmith is still going strong, having just released its 15th studio album, "Music from Another Dimension!," in November.(Photo by Ross Halfin.)

WANT TO GO?

Aerosmith, Greenbrier Classic Concert Series

WHERE: West Virginia State Fairgrounds, Fairlea

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: $159, includes admission to Greenbrier Classic today through Sunday and Kenny Chesney concert today

INFO: 888-598-7380 or www.thegreenbrierclassic.com

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A lot of big-name guitarists have one special guitar. It's their "weapon of choice," a guitar they return to time and again, and when you see them live, odds are, at some point in the evening, that guitar is going to find its way into their hands -- if it hasn't been there all along.

Guitarists can be sentimental about these instruments. Country legend Willie Nelson, rocker Neil Young and blues great B.B. King all gave their favorite guitars names. Kenny Wayne Shepherd had his favorite guitar cloned and keeps the original at home.

Aerosmith's Brad Whitford loves his guitars, too, but he doesn't have a "main ax" -- at least, he doesn't have a special guitar he takes on the road with him.

"I have what I like to call my tool box. Basically, it's a Les Paul, a Telecaster and a Stratocaster," said Whitford, whose band performs Saturday as part of the Greenbrier Classic Concert Series at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in Fairlea

But the 61-year-old rocker doesn't just have just one of anything.

"I might have five or six Strats that I really like to play, the same with the Les Pauls," he said. "They're '58 or '59 designs, but basically newer guitars.

"Occasionally, I'll break out a vintage guitar. There's nothing like playing the vintage stuff, but I just don't feel comfortable carting them around. I just couldn't bear to lose one in a stupid way."

There are a lot of stupid ways to lose an instrument. Some highlights include leaving them on buses, cabs or trains. There's also the possibility of instruments getting broken or lost by airlines, plus the usual chances for theft.

Whitford said there's a whole bunch of his band's equipment at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

"We did a European tour once, and all of our equipment traveled by boat," he said. "After the tour was over, the boat sank."

Whitford said he doesn't remember losing any really important guitars on that boat, but he remembers losing pedals and amps. Those, he misses.

"I hate to lose anything," he said. "You get attached to all of it."

Whitford said he has quite a little collection of guitars and amps he's built up over the years -- a lot of it stuff he probably wouldn't take on tour -- and the collection just sort of grows.

"I probably have everything I need, but it never stops," he said.

Recently, a friend who works in a music store emailed him a picture of an amp someone had brought in to sell. Along with the photo was the message, "Here's a picture of your next amp."

"It was a 1956 Fender Twin Reverb," he said. "Oh, my God. Here's a '56 Twin that Keith Richards hasn't bought yet."

He laughed then sighed, "It never stops."

Whitford's ability to afford new gear doesn't appear to be in any kind of real jeopardy. With more than 40 years in rock music, Aerosmith is still considered one of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll.

Last November, the band released its 15th studio album, and 30th record overall, "Music from Another Dimension!" The band shows no real signs of being interested in retiring, although singer Steven Tyler keeps talking about doing a solo album.

"I keep asking him what he's waiting for," Whitford laughed.

Otherwise, everybody is more or less fine -- a few health problems here and there, but it's nothing they can't handle.

"Everybody is still hanging," he said. "I suppose we're maturing -- or growing old together."

Maturing doesn't necessarily mean slowing down, but Whitford acknowledges that the band's live show might not have exactly the same level of energy it had 20 or 30 years ago.

They've cut back, he said. They don't work as much, and when they tour, they try to break up the shows with a day or so in between to give Tyler a chance to rest his throat.

"Primarily, because he puts so much into his performance," Whitford said. "He just doesn't think that he could do it at that level with back-to-back days."

Still, Whitford thinks Aerosmith is playing better than ever.

"Somehow, we conserve our energy and save it for the concert," he said. "They're still pretty high-energy shows." Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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