Townshend Named “Grandfather of Guitar Vandals”

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Pete Townshend photo by Chris Morphet/Redferns
Photo: Chris Morphet/Redferns

Pete Townshend has been described as “the grandfather of all guitar vandals” in a new post on Gibson Guitars’ website, which pays tribute to the top rockers to have wrecked their axes over the years.

The idea of turning a guitar into a “splintered mess,” to use a phrase from his ‘Who I Am’ autobiography, came after Townshend accidentally broke the head off his guitar during a gig at a venue with a low ceiling in 1964. Pete went on to smash Gibson SG Specials, Les Paul Deluxes and others all over the world. As he also said in the book, he would pay for the guitars out of his own money.

Paul Stanley of Kiss is also in Gibson’s guitar vandal list, acknowledging the part his guitar-smashing has played in the extravagant rockers’ shows for 40 years and more. Also in the top five are the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Green Day’s Billie Jo Armstrong and Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill, for a particular 2009 gig in which he vented his frustration at the sound by committing GBH (guitar bodily harm) on a 1972 Gibson ES-325. Fortunately, the company’s Repair & Restoration department brought the guitar back to life and restored it to working order within a month.

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