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Monday, August 17, 2009

Hong Kong's Air Pollution Problem (PIC)

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20070917AHKG02 HONG KONG CHINA : (COMPOSITE) A composite photo showing two views of the Hong Kong skyline taken from the same viewpoint in Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon; the top image taken at 6pm on 20 June 2007, when Hong Kong`s `Air Pollution Index` reading was `Low`; the lower image taken at 6pm on 17 September 2007 when Hong Kong`s `Air Pollution Index` reached `High to Very High`, 17 September 2007, Hong Kong, China. A new study released Monday by Hong Kong think tank `Civic Exchange` stated that drastic action needs to be taken to reduce air pollution in the city to attract and retain foreign investment, as well as protect public health.

5 national parks to see before you die

Our national parks exert a primal pull on visitors from around the world who come by the millions to drink in the natural wonders. The astounding beauty of these wild places, preserved for the benefit of future generations, is almost spiritual for many. In addition, the parks offer limitless possibilities for outdoor adventures such as hiking, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, rock climbing, horseback riding and wildlife spotting.

There are 58 national parks in the United States. Each offers a unique experience, and a visit to any is worthy. But some are worthier than others. Here are my picks for five essential national parks that you must see before you die.

-- Debbie K. Hardin, Travel Muse, distributed by Tribune Media Services






See the original image at msnbc.msn.com Manson follower Squeaky Fromme released from prison

Manson follower spent decades in prison for trying to shoot President Ford
The Associated Press


Manson follower goes free
Aug. 14: "Squeaky" Fromme, who spent decades in prison for trying to shoot President Gerald Ford, was released from prison Friday. NBC's Ann Curry reports.

Nightly News


FORT WORTH, Texas - Three decades after basking in the national spotlight as "Squeaky" the infamous Charles Manson disciple who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford, the now 60-year-old woman slipped quietly out of a federal prison Friday after being released on parole.

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme eluded the media as she left Fort Worth's Federal Medical Center Carswell in one of the many cars streaming in and out of the front gate Friday morning. She previously refused interview requests, and prison officials would not say where she planned to live or what she planned to do after more than 30 years behind bars.

It was a far cry from her antics that captivated the nation's attention in the 1970s: shaving her red hair and carving an "X" into her forehead after Manson was convicted of orchestrating a mass murder, wearing a red robe when she pulled a gun on Ford, and being carried into her trial courtroom by marshals when she refused to walk.

In September 1975, Fromme pushed through a crowd, drew a semiautomatic .45-caliber pistol from a thigh holster and pointed it at Ford, who was shaking hands with well-wishers while walking to the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Secret Service agents grabbed her and the gun, and Ford was unhurt.

Fromme was a college student before joining Manson's "family," where she reportedly got her nickname because of her voice. She was never implicated in the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others, for which Manson is serving a life term in Corcoran State Prison in California. By many accounts, Fromme took over the group after that because Manson had always relied on her.

During her own trial, Fromme either refused to attend or had outbursts. Her attorney John Virga argued that she simply wanted to call attention to environmental issues and Manson's case and never meant to kill Ford. A few bullets were in the gun but not in the chamber.

"She was very articulate and soft-spoken ... but you could see a noticeable change in her demeanor when you mentioned Manson," Virga told The Associated Press on Friday. "I think she was an example of a young woman who was led astray and got caught up in someone she shouldn't have."

Fromme was convicted and got a life term, becoming the first person sentenced under a special federal law covering assaults on U.S. presidents, a statute enacted after President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination.

She later was sentenced to 15 years in prison, which was tacked onto her life term for threats against the president, after escaping in 1987 from a women's prison in West Virginia. She was recaptured two days later a few miles away after a massive search. Fromme had said she escaped to be closer to Manson after hearing rumors that he was dying.

Fromme was granted parole in July 2008 for "good conduct time" but was not released until Friday because of the additional time for her escape, prison officials said.

She will be on supervised release for two years, where general conditions include reporting regularly to a parole officer, not associating with criminals or owning guns or leaving the area, said Tom Hutchison, a U.S. Parole Commission spokesman. He declined to say where Fromme will live or if she will have to meet additional conditions sometimes imposed on parolees, depending on their crimes.

Future unknown
It's unclear if Fromme will return to California. Some of her relatives who still live there did not immediately return calls to The AP on Friday. Virga, who has not communicated with Fromme since the trial, said relatives did not attend the trial but that Fromme always spoke highly of her mother and siblings.

Fromme had been at the Fort Worth prison since 1998. The facility specializes in providing medical and mental health services to female offenders and also has a maximum-security unit, a minimum-security camp and an area for low-security inmates, said Carswell spokeswoman Dr. Maria Douglas, declining to say where Fromme had been housed.

Prison officials previously said she was placed in the maximum-security unit for inmates who have escaped or been involved in assaults.

Fromme started out at the West Virginia prison, then was transferred to the prison at Pleasanton, California, in 1978 after officials said she had become a "model inmate." But she was sent back to West Virginia in 1979 as punishment for hitting another inmate with a hammer while the two tended a garden on the prison grounds. She later was moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and then to Marianna, Florida.

Fromme declined a recent interview request from The AP.

In 2005, Fromme responded to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's interview request with a 35-line letter in elegant cursive handwriting, the newspaper reported. At the time she had not sought release, although she became eligible for parole in 1985.

"I stood up and waved a gun (at Ford) for a reason," she wrote. "I was so relieved not to have to shoot it, but, in truth, I came to get life. Not just my life but clean air, healthy water and respect for creatures and creation."

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32416452/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/


© 2009 MSNBC.com

The first guest on NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" will be ... Jerry Seinfeld.

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Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno (Getty)

Comedian booked for Sept. 14 premiere

By Nellie Andreeva and Matthew Belloni


An NBC spokesman confirmed that Seinfeld will appear on the premiere of "Jay Leno" on Sept. 14. He is expected to sit down for a chat with Leno as well as do stand-up.

Seinfeld, who appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" six times, has always been a marquee draw for late-night talk shows.

"The Tonight Show" featuring the cast of "Seinfeld" the night of the series' finale in 1998 drew 15 million viewers, the show's third-largest audience ever.

This time, Seinfeld is expected to promote his stand-up act at Caesars Palace on Dec. 26 and 27 as well as a "Seinfeld"-themed story arc on the next season of Larry David's HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which premieres Sept. 20.

Additionally, Seinfeld has a reality series for NBC, "The Marriage Ref," slated for midseason.

It is not clear yet if Seinfeld would participate in any of the new segments on the show. With his background as an avid car collector, Seinfeld might be tempted to take a spin on the show's track for "Green Car Challenge," where celebrities will race alternative-fuel vehicles.

On the first "Leno," Seinfeld will be joined by previously announced musical guests Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West.

Red-Band Trailer For 'Legion' is Intense

This is the red-band trailer for Legion, starring Paul Bettany, Charles S. Dutton (who has actually killed a man), Dennis Quaid, and Adrienne Palicki. It was directed by Scott Stewart, co-founder of the FX company The Orphanage, which has an amazingly solid track record. It opens looking pretty cool, but then it flashes the Screen Gems logo and I’m like, “Uh oh,” because most Screen Gems movie are old smelly ox cock. But if I’m honest, I have to admit I almost pissed myself in terror a couple times during this. Towards the end, an old lady comes in Roc’s restaurant and she’s all like, “Your baby’s gonna burn,” and everyone’s like, “What?” and then OH MY GOD SHE BIT THAT GUY ON THE NECK KILL IT WITH FIRE KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!

After God loses faith in humanity, the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) is the only one standing between mankind and the apocalypse. He leads a group of strangers who must protect a woman who is pregnant with Christ in his second coming.

It’s post apocalyptic… because God hates you. Nice. I like the twist. And it’s been a long time since a trailer ripped my face off and effed the nostril hole like this one. Legion, rated P for pants sh*tting.

[via /Film]

Bugatti Unveils The Grand Sport Sang Bleu At Pebble Beach


December 31st, 1969 The Bugatti Veyron Sang Noir is still one of the most iconic of the limited-edition Veyrons, but today it gets some in-brand competition: the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Sang Bleu. Just as the Sang Noir followed its name to a black-on-black theme, the Sang Bleu uses blue carbon fiber to invoke its namesake color. Designed as an homage to the marque's heritage during its 100th anniversary celebrations, the Sang Bleu is also far more exclusive than the 15-car Sang Noir run, since it's a one-off exercise. Accenting the blue carbon fiber is a wide expanse of polished aluminum along each front fender and door. Bugatti calls this approach a 'new dimension of « Art – Forme – Technique »', the company's core values statement. The alloy wheels are inspired by the rims of the Grand Sport Roadster, and feature a Midnight Blue and Diamond Cut two-tone finish. Inside, the car gets a Pebble Beach-special design, with Gaucho leather trim accenting the exterior's materials. Like all Veryons, the Sang Bleu features a potent 1,001-horsepower W-16 quad-turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive powetrain. It shares the rest of its technical specification with the Grand Sport on which it's based. Stay on the lookout for live shots from Pebble Beach, coming shortly. Until then, enjoy the official studio image gallery below. [Bugatti] Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Sang Bleu

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Sang Bleu

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Sang Bleu

Enlarge Photo

The Bugatti Veyron Sang Noir is still one of the most iconic of the limited-edition Veyrons, but today it gets some in-brand competition: the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Sang Bleu.

Just as the Sang Noir followed its name to a black-on-black theme, the Sang Bleu uses blue carbon fiber to invoke its namesake color. Designed as an homage to the marque's heritage during its 100th anniversary celebrations, the Sang Bleu is also far more exclusive than the 15-car Sang Noir run, since it's a one-off exercise.

Accenting the blue carbon fiber is a wide expanse of polished aluminum along each front fender and door. Bugatti calls this approach a 'new dimension of « Art – Forme – Technique »', the company's core values statement.

The alloy wheels are inspired by the rims of the Grand Sport Roadster, and feature a Midnight Blue and Diamond Cut two-tone finish. Inside, the car gets a Pebble Beach-special design, with Gaucho leather trim accenting the exterior's materials.

Like all Veryons, the Sang Bleu features a potent 1,001-horsepower W-16 quad-turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive powetrain. It shares the rest of its technical specification with the Grand Sport on which it's based.

Stay on the lookout for live shots from Pebble Beach, coming shortly. Until then, enjoy the official studio image gallery below.

[Bugatti]

Don't Speed in Sweden


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Is The Bike City An Alternate Universe, Or A Glimpse Of Your Urban Future?

  • Amsterdam is the future - if you think that cities devoted to bicycle transportation are the next step in urban evolution.

    Over the past two days I've been exploring Amsterdam, a city known for its unconventional transportation network. People get around scooters, motorized bicycles, cars, and even on canal boats, using canals mostly built during the city's great expansion in the 17th century. But most of all, they ride bicycles.

    In fact Amsterdam is truly a bicycle city, with every road containing bike lines – and even some with traffic lights aimed only at bicycle riders. Amsterdam has become a bike city for a couple of reasons: First, it's almost entirely flat; and second, many of the brick-paved roads and bridges are so narrow that they seem uniquely suited to bike and scooter traffic (though cars still zoom down most of them too).

    Amsterdam bike riders do not fetishize their rides. Bikes are cheap, heavy, and practical, with wide, comfortable seats. Chains are surrounded by metal guards so that you can ride in pants or skirts, and you'll often see people riding one-handed, cigarettes or umbrellas held in their free hands. There are no fixies here, and no ultra-expensive made-to-orders. People hack their bikes together, adding saddlebags to the back or baby chairs and carts to the front. Every intersection rings with the sounds of bells, the bicycle equivalent of honking. And every wall, pole, and bikerack is a crazy jumble of handlebars, wheels, and seats.

    Perhaps the most amazing bicycle structure in the city is the free bike parking lot outside the central train station, on the harbor in the old city. This is a touristy area, but most of the bikes belong to local commuters. From a distance, the three-story structure looks almost furry because so many small pieces of metal are sticking out all over it. Though built to hold about 1700 bikes, the place regularly packs in 7000-8000 bikes, according to a bike lot attendant I spoke to.

    Outside the bike lot, a white truck with an open bed lies in wait. It belongs to a group that enforces bike parking laws, cutting chains and confiscating bikes parked in illegal spots (chained to signs, for example) and putting warning stickers on bikes that have been parked for more than a few days in the parking lot. Impounded bikes are taken to an area at the edge of the city, and are released to their owners for 10 euros.

    For many of us, a bicycle parking lot like this is an unprecedented sight. We're used to multi-layer car parking lots which cost a tremendous amount per day. But a free parking lot packed with bikes? For people who dream of a bicycle-dominated future, this is like a glimpse of the future, or an alternate world.

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U.S. Seeds New Crops to Supplant Afghan Poppies

QALAI BOST VILLAGE, Afghanistan -- The Obama administration is overhauling its strategy for eliminating Afghanistan's flourishing drug trade, a key source of funds for the Taliban. Its plan hinges on persuading farmers like Mohammed Walid to grow something other than poppies.

Associated Press

A Marine in a dried-up poppy field during a mission in Dahaneh, Helmand province, on Thursday. The U.S. has been pushing farmers to switch to other crops.

Mr. Walid's tidy fields here in southern Afghanistan once were full of poppy bulbs, the core ingredient in opium. He replaced the poppy with wheat and corn after receiving free seed from a U.S. government program, starting about two years ago. Today, he grows enough of both crops to feed his family and sell the remainder at a nearby bazaar.

"I tell my friends that I've gone into a different business," he says, looking out at his farm. "It's the same fields, but everything else has changed."

Obama administration officials say the U.S. will largely leave the eradication business and instead focus on giving Afghan farmers other ways of earning a living.

The new $300 million effort will give micro-grants to Afghan food-processing and food-storage businesses, fund the construction of new roads and irrigation channels, and sell Afghan farmers fruit seed and livestock at a heavy discount. The U.S. is spending six times as much on the push this year as the $50 million it spent in 2008.

"We're trying to give the farmers alternatives so they can move away from the poppy culture without suffering massive unemployment and poverty," says Rory Donohoe, the U.S. Agency for International Development official leading the drive. "The idea is to make it easier for farmers to make the right choice."

Still, building a viable alternative to Afghanistan's opium economy will be challenging. Corn and wheat can be less profitable than opium. Taliban fighters, who are closely allied with the traffickers, have threatened farmers who drop poppies for other crops. When U.S. officials opened a new distribution center for the seed program last year, Taliban militants promptly rocketed it.

Afghans go to the polls on Thursday to decide if President Hamid Karzai deserves a second term. National security reporter Peter Spiegel says the election comes at a time of increasing security concerns in the troubled region.

The new U.S. push comes alongside a stepped-up military effort to crack down on Afghanistan's drug lords. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report this week disclosed that the Pentagon had begun hunting 50 drug traffickers suspected of ties to the Taliban. The military is trying to capture or kill each of the men, according to the report.

On Thursday, U.S. aircraft and missiles pounded Taliban mountainside positions around Dahaneh, in Helmand province, the heart of Afghanistan's drug trade, according to the Associated Press.

Senior Obama administration officials say bluntly that earlier U.S. efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's poppy fields have failed. The Bush administration initially envisioned spraying herbicide on the poppies from planes or tractors, but that was vetoed by the Afghan government. Instead, Washington paid American contractors and Afghan security personnel hundreds of millions of dollars to slash and burn individual poppy fields.

The eradication effort has been widely unpopular in Afghanistan and hasn't discernibly hurt the drug industry here. Afghanistan accounted for 12% of the world's opium production in 2001, according to the United Nations. By 2008, it accounted for 93%.

Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters in Washington late last month that the U.S. "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars" on eradication. "All we did was alienate poppy farmers," he said. "We were driving people into the hands of the Taliban."

Michèle Flournoy, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a recent interview that the U.S. was focusing on crop substitution as a way of taking advantage of Afghanistan's fertile soil and long history of growing fruit, wheat and other exportable crops.

U.S. officials note that a similar USAID program in eastern Nangarhar province has helped that region go poppy-free. According to U.N. figures, Nangarhar had 18,731 hectares, or about 46,000 acres, of poppy fields in 2007. In 2008, it had none.

U.S. and Afghan officials also argue that the plunging price of opium -- which has dropped from $225 per kilogram of dried opium in January 2005 to $75 per kilo in April -- means many farmers could make more money selling wheat or corn.

"The farmers don't get rich on poppy," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, in a recent interview. "If you can protect the farmer and give him the ability to get to market he's going to do fine with other crops."

[Afghanistan]

It's easy for poppy farmers to earn a living: Opium traffickers show up at their farms and pay cash for entire harvests. Wheat and corn farmers have to process and store their crops, drive the harvest to the nearest market, and find their own buyers. Local corn and wheat prices have fluctuated wildly in recent months, whipsawing many farmers.

Mr. Walid says converting his fields to corn and wheat has required significant expenditures on equipment, field laborers, and fertilizer. The current price for corn is so low that he is barely covering his costs, he says.

Mr. Walid owns his own tractor, so he can ferry crops to nearby towns. But most of his neighbors have no way of bringing their wares to the markets, he says, adding "With poppy, the buyers come to you."

Mr. Donohoe of USAID sees the antidrug push in both economic and moral terms. "The narcotics industry has completely distorted the local economy," he says.

Mr. Donohoe travels around Helmand province with a notebook full of statistics detailing the potential financial benefits of converting farms to corn and wheat from poppy. At the same time, he says, his work is fueled by the knowledge that drug proceeds help fund an insurgency that is regularly killing U.S. and British soldiers stationed at his small base in nearby Lashkar Gah. "I want to see the drug trade here go down to zero," he says flatly.

Helmand long grew more wheat than any other part of Afghanistan. The widespread cultivation of poppy fields is a relatively recent innovation, and Mr. Donohoe believes the change can be reversed. "The idea that farmers here don't know how to grow wheat is absurd," he says. "They did it for decades."

Still, the extra money in this year's $300 million effort may not be enough to turn the tide in Helmand, where Afghanistan's drug trade has deep roots. In Lashkar Gah, Helmand's most populous city, many of the biggest houses belong to narco-traffickers and poppy farmers.

For many farmers, the question of what to grow comes down to cold economics. According to a recent U.N. report, the average poppy farmer in southern Afghanistan earned $6,194 in 2008. Farmers in the south who grew other crops earned just $3,382. The U.N. and U.S. estimate that $500 million of opium is grown each year in Helmand alone.

Mr. Walid supports 23 people with his agricultural earnings. Corn and wheat prices are so low he will have to plow over his fields and replace them with poppy if market conditions don't improve: "I won't have a choice," he says.

As he spoke, he took a small bag of hashish and a thin box of rolling paper out of his front pocket and began making himself a cigarette.

"For later," he said, winking.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A7

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit

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Top 10: Legendary Guitars

Top 10: Legendary Guitars

Legendary Guitars

TOP 10 LIST

By Devin Pratt

© Wikimedia Commons

These iconic guitarists have owned hundreds of different instruments over the years, but the one thing all these men have in common is a deep love for that one special ax. Whether it’s a well-aged acoustic or a banged-up electric, certain guitars have the uncanny ability to become just asfamous as their owners.

From the international theft of George Harrison’s “Lucy” to the raging inferno that gave birth to B.B. King’s “Lucille,” these are the stories behind the most celebrated six-strings in the music industry.

Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
10

B.B. King's "Lucille"

One night in the 1950s, B.B. King was playing a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. In those days it wasn’t uncommon to light a barrel of kerosene to keep the building warm. Unfortunately, that night a fight broke out between some rowdy locals and the barrel of kerosene was knocked over, causing a massive fire.

Once safely outside, B.B. realized that he had left his cherished guitar in the dance hall. He quickly ran into the blaze and grabbed his Gibson before the roof collapsed. Later, it was revealed that the men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. From that moment on B.B. christened all of his guitars “Lucille” to remind him never to fight over a woman.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
9

Keith Richards' "Micawber"

Supposedly named after a character in Charles Dickens’ book David Copperfield, Micawber has been Keith’s main guitar since Exile on Main Street. Of course, when asked about the meaning behind the uncommon name, Keith coyly says: "There's no reason for my guitar being called Micawber, apart from the fact that it's such an unlikely name. When I scream for Micawber everyone knows what I'm talking about."

The 1952 butterscotch Fender Telecaster is kept in the Human Riff’s trademark open G tuning, so it’s always ready to tear through such classics as "Before They Make Me Run,” "Brown Sugar,” and "Honky Tonk Women.”

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Les Paul Guitars
8

George Harrison's "Lucy"

Dubbed “Lucy” in honor of red-headed comedian Lucille Ball, this cherry-hued ’57 Les Paul was given to George Harrison by Eric Clapton in 1968. As a favor to George, Clapton played the instrument during the recording of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

In the ‘70s, the legendary guitar was stolen from Harrison’s home and ended up in the hands of a Mexican musician who purchased Lucy from a music shop in California before returning to his native country. However, Harrison was able to get his beloved guitar back by trading a ’58 Les Paul and a bass to the musician in exchange for Lucy, which he owned until his death in 2001.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Fender
7

Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Lenny"

In 1980, Stevie Ray Vaughan came across this 1965 Fender Stratocaster in a pawn shop in Austin, Texas, and instantly fell in love with the vintage instrument. Unfortunately, back then he didn’t have the $350 asking price. However, Stevie’s wife, Lenora “Lenny” Vaughan, rounded up $50 from seven of their closest friends and bought the guitar for the Double Trouble front man’s 26th birthday. Overwhelmed with emotion, Vaughan stayed up late that night writing a song. The next morning, Lenora woke up to Stevie playing the newly penned instrumental, “Lenny” for her.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
6

Willie Nelson's "Trigger"

In 1969, Willie Nelson sent one of his banged-up guitars to a repair shop in Nashville. The owner told him he couldn’t fix it but he had a Martin for sale that he thought Willie might like. Nelson bought the N-20 for $750 over the phone, sight unseen. After its delivery, he immediately fell in love with the guitar, naming it “Trigger” after Roy Rodgers’ trusty horse.

Willie played the Martin so much over the years that he wore a large hole in the top. However, the country star came to appreciate the unique sound so much that he refused to have it repaired.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
5

Neil Young's "Old Black"

Neil Young has owned this 1953 Gibson Les Paul since obtaining it from musician Jim Messina back in 1969.

Old Black, which got its name due to the fact that it began life as a goldtop but was later the recipient of an amateur black paint job, has been a headache for Young’s guitar tech, Larry Cragg. The old Gibson frequently goes out of tune and Young refuses to re-fret the fingerboard -- but when the stars align, Old Black can still produce one of the most distinct sounds in the music industry. “It's a demonic instrument. Old Black doesn't sound like any other guitar," Cragg once said.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Les Paul Guitars
4

Billy Gibbons' "Miss Pearly Gates"

The ZZ Top guitarist is known for his big beard and an even bigger guitar collection. However, the ax that has always held a place in his heart is his coveted 1959 Les Paul.

As the story goes, ZZ Top gave their old 1930s Packard to a friend, Renee Thomas, to drive to L.A. for a movie audition. After landing the role, Renee and the band jokingly called the Packard “Pearly Gates” because they figured it must have had divine powers. Renee ended up selling the car and wiring the money to Gibbons on the very day he received a called about a ’59 Sunburst Les Paul that was found under the bed of a man who had recently passed away. The guitarist ended up loving the Gibson so much that he purchased it that day and dubbed it “Miss Pearly Gates.”

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
3

Eddie Van Halen's "Frankenstrat"

Musicians have long debated whether a Fender or Gibson deserves to be called the best guitar in the world. Van Halen front man Eddie Van Halen simply combined the two to create his legendary Frankenstrat guitar.

In the 1970s, Van Halen was able to buy the ash body for $50 because there was a large knot in the wood. He then found a maple neck for the guitar for $80, bringing the grand total of his prized ax to a whopping $130. Eddie then utilized everything at his disposal, including bicycle paint, masking tape and wax to give the Frankenstrat its unique look. The crafty guitarist even cut up an old vinyl record to serve as a pickguard.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
2

Hendrix's "Woodstock" Strat

In his short lifetime, Jimi Hendrix was able to singlehandedly change the sound of rock through his innovative guitar style and inexplicable raw talent. An intense performer, Hendrix was known to “sacrifice” his guitars by lighting them on fire. Fortunately, the 1968, the Stratocaster he played during his legendary rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock was spared this fiery fate.

After Jimi’s death in 1970, the guitar was put into storage until it was sold at auction to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for $1.3 million.

PUB. 07/24/09
Legendary Guitars
© Wikimedia Commons
1

Eric Clapton's "Blackie"

In 1970, while visiting a music shop in Nashville, Clapton came across a rack of old Fenders. He ended up purchasing six of them at $100 apiece. Once he returned toEngland, he gifted three of the guitars to fellow rockers George Harrison, Pete Townshend, and Steve Winwood, and kept the rest for himself. Clapton decided to experiment by seeing if he could assemble a “Super Strat” out of the best parts from each vintage guitar. The end result was the legendary “Blackie” Stratocaster, named after the guitar’s black finish.

For more epic rock trivia, check out our list of Rock 'N' Roll Urban Legends, or our list of Top 10: Rock 'N' Roll Front Men.

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