For the past decade, the Black Keys have gone from strength to strength, creating a deep, soulful form of original music deeply rooted in some of the greatest facets of the blues and rock and roll traditions, earning the genuine admiration of critics and drawing an ever-increasing audience of inspired fans. Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney formed the Black Keys in 2001. They recorded a collection of demos in Carney’s basement that formed their self-produced, blues-drenched 2002 debut. The Big Come Up sounded like a long lost blues classic. A deceptively simple record that highlighted Auerbach’s voice, aged far beyond his 23 years, a fuzz-infused guitar whose every note oozed a sweet, primal menace, a few well-chosen covers and some original writing that rang with the authenticity of old songs heard for the first time. Now, eight albums and countless shows into what may well turn out to be a legendary career, the Black Keys’ creative reach and critical recognition continues to expand with each successive record.
Like many guitarists who earn such success, Dan Auerbach can now collect those instruments that inspire his creative imagination. He has dozens of guitars, and a complete exploration of his collection is beyond the scope of this article, but there are a few that merit special attention. His appreciation for unusual quality, which has informed his musical sensibilities so well, is on display in his collection of odd guitars. He is a fan of instruments that many regard as old, obscure, beginners’ guitars, and others see as collectible. He owns several Harmony, Silvertone, Teisco Del Rey, National and Supro guitars. With so many unusual instruments, it is probably inaccurate to say any one of them is his signature guitar, but his Harmony Stratotone has appeared on every Black Keys album. It has been re-equipped with a pair of Lindy Fralin P-90 pickups and a Bigsby tremolo, and he currently keeps it in an open-G tuning.
Another favorite is his Harmony H78 with hot D’armond single coil pickups, a hollow body and a Bigsby tremolo that lends a distinctive sound.
He has a favorite 1964 Guild Thunderbird with a truly funky body style and a Supro with a Fiberglass Body. With all his quirky collectibles, it somehow seems a little strange that he has picked up a beat up 1953 Les Paul and used it extensively throughout their El Camino tour.