Although Santana’s endorsement opened the door for the Yamaha SG models, other artists were soon attracted to their sound and feel. Leading rock, blues and fusion players like John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Robben Ford, and Larry Carlton were a few of the better known ones.
Rockers Dave Meniketti from Y&T (originally called Yesterday & Today) and Kerry Livgren (Kansas) used the Yamaha SGs, as did veteran Delta bluesman Steve Cropper, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, and Foreigner’s Mick Jones. While all these players may have been encouraged to check out the Yamaha SGs after seeing Santana playing them, they wouldn’t have ended up using them if not for the superior sound and feel.
The SG Line Grows
In response to the demand, Yamaha began to offer variations of the SG models, with additional features. Like their proprietary “Bi-Sound” circuit, whereby “push/push” knobs on the Tone controls would allow either or both of the humbucking pickups to be converted to split coil operation. Thus, a guitarist could access a single-coil-like tone popular for blues, r&b and funk styles.
One model, the SG100-24, introduced in 1983, incorporated a 24-fret neck, providing a full 4-octave range (low “E” to high “E”) without bending any notes. However, by that time, the market had begun to change.
Guitar’s Changing Role
One major factor was the new wave, or new romantic sound. Heavily dependent on synthesizers, electronic drums, and programmed sequences, this trend put the guitar in a completely different, often subservient role. On the other side was the revolution sparked by burgeoning guitar god Eddie Van Halen, whose radical, pointy-headstocked, modified Strat like instrument drove electric guitar manufacturing in an entirely different direction.
While Yamaha continued to make a number of high-quality guitars, they didn’t again see the cohesion of a model like the SG2000, which bridged so many musical styles. Their leading endorsees — Ty Tabor (King’s X), Frank Gambale (Chick Corea’s band), jazz impresario Mike Stern, and others — each play a unique model. But everything works in cycles, and, due to a growing desire, Yamaha has reissued several models of the SG (now re-named “SBG”) line.
Yamaha SBG Guitars in the New Millenium
Recently released is the SBG2000, a recreation of the guitar made famous by Carlos Santana. Like it’s ancestor, it sports a Mahogany body with a neck-through design, an Ebony fretboard, and the brass sustain plate under the bridge. Each of its two humbucking pickups are controlled by a Volume and Tone knob; the Tone knobs have push/push switches to split the pickups.
Also available are the SBG1000 and SBG3000, both of which are set neck (as opposed to neck-through) models, and neither of which has the brass “Sustain” plate. (Ironically, both of these models have a warmer sound and more sustain than the SBG2000, which was — according to Santana’s requests — specifically designed to maximize both qualities).