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Tuesday, 24 March 2015 14:38

Keith Richards and Ron Wood Visit the Gibson Factory in 1975 | GALLERY

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One day in July 1975, the folks at Gibson’s factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, got a surprise visit from a pair of Rolling Stones.

The group was then in the middle of its Tour of the Americas ’75 summer jaunt when they performed in Kalamazoo. Upon their arrival, Keith Richards and Ron Wood decided to pay a visit to the Gibson Guitar plant, then located on the city’s north side.

As Al Jones writes on, the Gibson folks didn’t have much time to plan. Tom Fetters, chief operating officer for the plant, got the call in the morning and soon after was picking up Richards, Wood and their entourage in a rented limo from a private hangar at Kalamazoo County Airport.

Fetters recalls that the guitarists “were rather ragged.”

Jack French, an instrument repairman with Gibson from 1961 until 1984, says Richards had trouble staying upright. “He’d walk a few feet and then fall down.”

All the same, Fetters says Richards and Wood “were very interested in the process required to manufacture guitars and they interacted directly with the people on the manufacturing floor.”

The tour lasted 90 minutes, including time spent by Richards and Wood trying out some new guitars in the company’s soundproof booth in the final testing area.

And though it was a no-smoking building, they enjoyed cigarettes as they played, as the pictures below document. “Nobody was going to tell them they couldn’t light up,” Fetters says.

Richards and Wood already had a strong history with Gibson products. In the mid Sixties, Richards played a 1959 Les Paul Standard, a 1961 Epiphone Elitist Casino and Firebirds with both reverse and nonreverse headstocks. He continued with a 1957 Les Paul Custom in the late Sixties and early Seventies as well as a mid-Sixties ES-330 and a Flying V. In more recent years he’s played a 1964 ES-345, a ES-350 and an ES-355. His acoustic guitars have included a 1965 Heritage and various Hummingbirds.

Wood for his part has used an L5S, Les Pauls, SGs, Firebirds and an SJ-200 acoustic.

Gibson operated in Kalamazoo from 1896 to 1984, when it moved production to Nashville. The story is one in a series of stories about Kalamazoo’s guitar-making heritage. Check out their feature for more details and photos.



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