Interview: REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato Discusses His New Signature Les Paul Axcess Standard Guitar

James Wood
Jul 12 · 4 min read

You won’t find any bright yellow or purple guitars on stage with REO Speedwagon. That’s because the band who’s sold millions of records and is synonymous with some of the biggest, most infectious guitar riffs in classic rock history likes to stick with tradition. It’s a big reason why guitarist Dave Amato wanted his new Gibson Custom Shop Dave Amato Les Paul Axcess Standard to be modeled after his favorite guitars.

Amato’s new Axcess Les Paul is sure to appeal to historic Les Paul enthusiasts. It features a two-piece figured maple top with a beautiful “Boston Sunset Fade” finish that pays homage to the guitarist’s hometown. It also boasts the latest in Axcess construction elements, like swept nickel plating and an extra-chunky, contoured heel and Apex headstock. And where Amato’s original Signature HD-TV Axcess model had only one pickup, this new beast offers-up a ferocious pair of ’57 Classic Plus humbuckers as well as a uniquely designed White Ebony fingerboard and Floyd Rose tremolo.

You can currently catch Dave Amato using his new Signature Les Paul Axcess Standard on tour with REO Speedwagon. I recently spoke with him about his new guitar and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your new Signature Axcess Les Paul come about?

For me, the most popular guitar has always been a Sunburst Les Paul. So when Gibson approached me about doing a two-pickup model, I told them we needed it to be a cool, flaming Sunburst model. Phillip Wharton, the Custom Shop manager who worked with me on my first guitar, also did this one. It’s an upgraded Axcess with a lot of “historic” components and features the best parts that Gibson makes. It has dual ’57 Classic Plus pickups in the bridge and neck with CTS volume pots and Bumblebee capacitors. We did a lot of research to make the best guitar we could and I’m really proud of it.

What’s your ideal set up using this guitar on tour?

I run it through my mid-80s JCM 800 2210 Marshalls and 4x12 cabinets with 35-watt Celestions. Those ’57 Classic Plus pickups just roar. It can get down and dirty with a lot of sustain and then you can back it off and it’s really clean. I actually start the set with it and play the first four or five songs. I have traditional Les Pauls I use on a few songs but I love to sway a little bit with the Floyd Rose on songs like “Back on The Road Again” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out.” I can lay on the bar and it just locks in and stays completely in tune.

What are REO’s tour plans like this summer?

We’ve done a lot of shows so far this year and have a lot more to go. Over the last few years we’ve played with bands like Def Leppard, Styx and Don Felder and also did a run with Chicago. Now we’re out doing different markets and playing in a lot of beautiful theaters and casinos and fans have been coming out of the woodwork. It’s been phenomenal.

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

Whenever I have a few weeks off from REO I’ve been subbing for a show in Las Vegas called Raiding The Rock Vault with guys like Howard Leese (Heart), Hugh McDonald (Bon Jovi), Robin McAuley, Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt) and Jay Schellen. We do 60s-80s music and songs like “Stairway To Heaven” and “Hotel California.” It’s a fun show.

Is there anything you haven’t done with REO Speedwagon that you’d like to see happen some day?

As a kid from Boston who came to L.A. and hacked it out with everyone I’d personally love to one day see this band get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That would be the ultimate. But it’s not just about us. Bands like Styx, Foreigner and Ted Nugent, who was the biggest draw in the late-70’s, also deserve to be there. We’ve all sold a bunch of records and are still out there working and pulling in big crowds. Bands like Journey and Def Leppard are starting to open the doors so we’ll see. But even if it doesn’t happen I’ve had a great career. I’ve been with REO Speedwagon for thirty years and we all get along better than ever. It’s a happy family and it really shows on stage. I’m going to be leaving again soon for three more weeks of touring and have a Gibson endorsement and Signature guitar. So I count my blessings every day. When people ask me “What does it all mean?” I tell them it’s a dream come true.

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