I’m no expert on guitars in general. I love ‘em and I know how to play ‘em but it pretty much stops there. If you know guitars you know how hard it is to find a genuine Gibson Byrdland, especially if you are looking for a Ted-Nugent-ready Byrd. Believe it or not, Ted Nugent really doesn’t hot rod his Byrdlands. As you likely know, the Byrdland was not designed with hair raising rock-n-roll in mind. The musicians behind the guitar were Billy Byrd and Hank Garland, and they were Jazz guys. So leave it to Ted Nugent to take a Jazz guitar and plug it into a rock-n-roll rig!
What is important about the Byrdlands, that is if you want a rip-roaring Ted-Nugent-ready Byrd, first off is the year it was manufactured. You really want to find one from the mid to late ’60s. One reason, according to The Nuge himself, believe it or not, he says the wood isn’t dry enough if it doesn’t have the age. The only argument I have with that is Ted’s Byrdlands sounded pretty Damn Good in the early ’70s!! If I am not mistaken, the pickups from that period are important too. Lastly, and I don’t think it has much, if anything, to do with sound but a Ted Nugent Gibson Byrdland Guitar is ALWAYS going to have a Florentine Cutaway. The Florentine Cutaway is the sharp point rather than rounded style toward the upper registry. The Florentine Cutaway makes it even more difficult to find this guitar.
As far as the sound goes, the bottom line is, you have to play it like Ted if you want to get that sound. If you don’t have the proficiency and feel the Ted vibe when you’re playing a Byrdland, the guitar will play you! Ted does use heavy strings, 10s, and the guitar needs to be set to pure perfection, but other than that, these are stock guitars. Oh, one more thing that is not stock. You must take off the cheesy plastic Gibson knob on the pickup toggle switch and replace it with a Gretch strap-lock knob. That’s just a good idea for any toggle switch!
I have spent decades working on my guitar skills playing Ted Nugent’s music and I still say nobody can come close to having mastered a Byrdland the way Ted Nugent has. In fact, I will say few people ever master anything the way Ted Nugent uses the hell out of every spec that can be yanked out of that Byrdland. The closer you watch him, the more masterful you realize he is with this instrument.
When I was younger, I had the original Byrdland #6 that had once, and now does again, belong to Ted Nugent. I wrestled with that guitar, occasional embarrassingly on stage and at that time hated what I now finally love about the instrument. When you plug it into a hot rock-n-roll setup, it just takes off screaming and squealing. If you don’t find out how to control the psychotic mind of its own the Byrdland has, you will find it incredibly burdensome. You have to become proficient with two major aspects of this guitar, and that is, first, volume control. If you don’t get good at using your volume control, you will have no control! The other is learning to use the feedback and keep it from sounding like a dying animal. It needs to sound like an animal high on life, not a dying animal!
Some people say there are sound differences depending on what finish you have on the guitar. I believe this to be true but have not played enough of the same models of one hollowbody guitar to confirm this. I will however tell you that Ted Nugent’s famous Black Byrdland has thick, curling, peeling, flaking paint on it, and when Ted’s guitar tech, Brian Ranks, suggested re-finishing it, Ted said, “You touch it and I kill you!” That Black Byrdland is just about broken in as far as Ted is concerned.
You can expect to spend an absolute minimum of $5,000 if you can find one of these Byrdlands these days. If it meets the criteria and is in good or excellent condition you may see a $10,000 or $15,000 price tag on it. If you have the money to spare, I say it’s a small price to pay:) Above is a picture of me with my most recent Byrdland. This is not one that Ted Nugent ever owned. I purchased this one from Elderly Instruments. I was fortunate as Ted’s guitar man Brian Ranks checked it out online for me and then lucky again that the same tech that sets up Ted Nugent’s Byrlands works at Elderly Instruments and set mine up for me. I told him to make it Ted Ready.
The only changes I’ve made since receiving my Byrdland is a hybrid set of guitar strings and a Gretch Strap-lock on the toggle switch. I think I am using 9 to 52. I have tried, I may be a wimp but I cannot get used to those thick higher strings.
Now that my skills have grown over many years, I love this instrument. I have many other guitars but I have had trouble putting this guitar down since I got it. You get used to the thick, rich sound that comes from it. I hate to say it, but my once favorite PRS even sounds wimpy to me now.