Angus Young

BIOGRAPHY – Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong, born February 17th 1972, was raised in Rodeo, California. He came from a large family, being the youngest of six children. Music ran through Billie Joe’s veins since birth, his father being a jazz musician. Tragically however, his father died of esophageal cancer on September 10th 1982. An event that inspired Billie Joe’s hit song years later, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

His interest in music started at a young age. He attended Hillcrest Elementary School in Rodeo, where a teacher encouraged him to record a song titled “Look for Love” at the age of five on the Bay Area label “Fiat Records”. In 1987, Billie Joe formed a band called Sweet Children with childhood friend Mike Dirnt at the age of 15. In the beginning, Dirnt and Armstrong were both on guitar, with John Kiffmeyer on drums and Sean Hughes on bass. After a few gigs, Hughes left the band in 1988; Dirnt switched to bass and they became a three-piece band. They changed their name to Green Day in April 1989, allegedly choosing the name because of their fondness for marijuana. That same year, they recorded the EPs39/Smooth, 1,000 Hours, and Slappy, later combined into the compilation 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours on Lookout! Records. Billie and the band continued to tour independently while promoting their first album, until they hit the studio to record their second studio album; Kerplunk.

After gaining much success with their indie releases, Green Day was sought after by many major labels. They passed on every one until an A&R representative named Rob Cavallo from Reprise Records met with them. They quickly signed a record deal and with their next album, Dookie, the band broke through into the mainstream, and have remained one of the most popular rock bands of the 1990s and 2000s with over 60 million records sold worldwide. In 2009, their hit American Idiot became a musical on Broadway.

Today, Armstrong mainly uses Gibson and Fender guitars. Twenty of his Gibson guitars are Les Paul Junior models from the mid- to late-1950s. His Fender collection includes: Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Telecaster, a Gretsch hollowbody and his copies of “Blue”. He states that his favorite guitar is a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior he calls “Floyd”. He bought this guitar in 2000 just before recording their album Warning.

Armstrong also has his own line of Les Paul Junior guitars from Gibson, modeled closely after “Floyd,” Billie Joe’s original 1956 Les Paul Junior.