Mick Mars, born Robert Alan Deal on May 4, 1951, has etched his name in the annals of rock history as the lead guitarist and co-founder of the iconic American heavy metal band, Mötley Crüe. Known for his gritty guitar riffs, distinctive sound, and a persona that embodies the essence of rock and roll, Mars has been a pivotal figure in shaping the sound and style of heavy metal and glam rock since the early 1980s.
A Guitarist Who Defined an Era
Mick Mars’ influence on the music industry extends far beyond his role in Mötley Crüe. His unique guitar playing, characterized by raw power and melodic sensibility, has inspired a generation of guitarists.
Mars’ style is a blend of traditional blues influences and the high-energy flair of heavy metal, creating a signature sound that is both aggressive and deeply rooted in rock tradition.
Innovator and Trendsetter
Mars has been recognized not just for his musical abilities but also for his role in defining the visual and stylistic elements of the glam metal genre. His look, often featuring a mix of leather, spikes, and an air of mystique, mirrored the band’s rebellious and larger-than-life image, which became synonymous with the glam metal scene of the 1980s.
Mötley Crüe and Beyond: A Legacy of Influence
With Mötley Crüe, Mick Mars helped to craft some of the most memorable and influential rock anthems of the 1980s and 1990s. The band’s high-energy performances, coupled with Mars’ powerful guitar work, have left an indelible mark on the music industry. From anthems like Kickstart My Heart to ballads like Home Sweet Home, Mars’ guitar work provided the backbone for the band’s diverse repertoire.
Mentorship and Collaboration
Beyond his work with Mötley Crüe, Mars has been a mentor and collaborator with many artists across various genres, showing a willingness to push musical boundaries and explore new creative avenues. His collaborations and guest appearances have further solidified his status as a versatile and respected figure in the music world.
An Inspiration to Aspiring Musicians
Mick Mars’ journey, marked by personal struggles and triumphs, has been an inspiration to many. His perseverance in the face of adversity, particularly his battle with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic, painful condition, has shown his resilience and dedication to his art.
Mick Mars’ impact on the music industry is multifaceted. As a guitarist, he has been a pioneer; as a band member of Mötley Crüe, he has been a part of one of the most iconic bands in rock history; and as an individual, he has been a source of inspiration for many. His legacy is one of innovation, influence, and an unyielding commitment to the spirit of rock and roll.
The Gibson Les Paul Custom: Mick Mars’ Initial Choice
When we talk about Mick Mars and his guitar arsenal, the conversation has to start with the iconic Gibson Les Paul Custom. Mars, known for his formidable presence in the legendary rock band Motley Crue, has always been synonymous with a heavy, cutting guitar tone, and the Les Paul Custom was his primary weapon during the band’s early years.
The Gibson Les Paul Custom, with its single-cutaway mahogany body and dual humbuckers, played a pivotal role in defining Mars’ signature tone. Its heavy and rich sound was perfectly aligned with Mars’ sledgehammer riffs, laying down a sonic foundation that would become the hallmark of Motley Crue’s music. Mars auditioned for Motley Crue in 1980 with one of his two Les Pauls, a testament to the instrument’s significance in his creative process.
During the recording and touring of Motley Crue’s first two groundbreaking albums, Too Fast for Love and Shout at the Devil, this model was Mars’ main guitar. This era marked the band’s ascent to stardom, with Mars’ Les Paul Custom being a central part of their musical identity.
The Gibson Flying V: A New Guitar for a New Era
As Motley Crue evolved, so did Mars’ guitar choices. This model entered his collection around the time of the Shout at the Devil tour. This guitar was not just an instrument; it was a statement piece, aligning with the band’s theatrical and occult-themed stage show.
Mick Mars used a custom-built Gibson Flying V on the Shout at the Devil tour, notable for its single humbucking pickup in the bridge position. The mahogany body and neck of the Flying V provided a resonant and warm tone, complementing the band’s heavier sound during this period.
It’s speculated that Mars may have requested an ebony fretboard for his Flying V, akin to his Les Paul Custom. This choice would align with his preference for a sharp, clear sound, as ebony fretboards are known for their bright tonal qualities. In various photographs, the fretboard appears almost black, hinting at this customization.
The introduction of the Flying V into Mick Mars’ guitar lineup marked a turning point in both his playing style and Motley Crue’s musical direction. This guitar, with its distinctive shape and customized features, was not only a tool but a symbol of the band’s evolution from traditional rock to a more theatrical and boundary-pushing form of hard rock music.
The Kramer Baretta Special: Mars’ Foray into Strat-Type Guitars
As Motley Crue’s music evolved, embracing the glam metal style popularized on MTV, Mick Mars expanded his guitar repertoire with the Kramer Baretta Special, his first Strat-type guitar. This era saw major hits like Home Sweet Home and Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room, with Mars’ guitar playing a crucial role in crafting these iconic tracks.
The Kramer Baretta, known for its association with Eddie Van Halen, featured a Stratocaster-like shape, a single humbucking pickup, and a Floyd Rose tremolo system, making it a favorite among shredders. Its design, with a slim mahogany body and a maple neck topped with a rosewood fretboard, was both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The iconic “hockey stick” headstock, reminiscent of the Gibson Explorer, added to its unique look.
The single volume control knob was a statement of simplicity and efficiency, while the sole humbucker, a high-output Seymour Duncan pickup, delivered the powerful, crisp tones that Mars favored.
The Kramer Telecaster: A Unique Choice in Mars’ Collection
Mick Mars’ exploration of different guitar styles led him to the Kramer Telecaster Custom. He described it as a transitional guitar, noting its uniqueness at the time since few were playing Telecasters. However, despite loving its appearance, Mars found the guitar notably heavy.
Throughout the late 80s, particularly in the Girls Girls Girls era, Mars frequently used his Kramer Telecasters. He had two main ones: a black and a white model, each uniquely adorned with a disembodied set of women’s breasts on the back. The white model featured a guitar neck pickup, while the black had only a bridge pickup.
These guitars, with their mahogany bodies, maple necks, and rosewood fretboards, were equipped with Seymour Duncan pickups and genuine Floyd Rose tremolo systems, providing Mars with the versatility and reliability needed for Motley Crue’s dynamic performances.
Mars performed various tricks with his Telecaster, notably in Kickstart My Heart, where he imitated the sound of a starting motorbike with three slow guitar slides. One of these Telecasters boasted a unique mirror finish, covering the entire front, adding to the theatrical and visually striking nature of Motley Crue’s performances.
The Evolution of Mars’ Guitar Collection
Mick Mars, renowned for his role in Motley Crue, has showcased a wide array of different types of guitars throughout his career, each reflecting a specific phase of the band’s musical journey. Mars’ choice of instruments has significantly contributed to the band’s evolving sound and stage presence.
Early Years: Shout At The Devil Tour (1983-1984)
Aside from the previously mentioned Gibson Flying V, Mars also wielded electric guitars from various brands, such as a B.C. Rich Warlock and a Guild Flying Star. The B.C. Rich Warlock, known for its aggressive and sharp design, complemented the band’s heavy metal image, while the Guild Flying Star added a unique visual element to Mars’ onstage presence.
Theatre Of Pain Era (1985-1986)
The Theatre Of Pain tour saw Mars experimenting with Hamer Explorers alongside Kramer Barettas and Kramer Pacers. The Hamer Explorers, with their distinct shape, provided a visual and tonal shift, aligning with the band’s more glam-oriented style during this period.
Girls Girls Girls Tour (1987-1988)
For the Girls Girls Girls tour, Mars predominantly used Kramer Custom Shop Telecasters. These custom Telecasters, known for their versatility and solid construction, allowed Mars to craft a more refined sound while maintaining the hard-rock edge Motley Crue was known for.
Dr. Feelgood Era (1989-1990)
The Dr. Feelgood tour showcased an array of Kramer Custom Shop mirror top Telecasters, along with a variety of Barettas and custom shop Kramers. The mirror top Telecasters, with their distinctive look, became a signature aspect of Mars’ stage presence during this era.
Decade of Decadence Shows (1991-1993)
During the Decade of Decadence shows, Mars’ collection diversified further with Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, Gibson Les Pauls, Charvel Super Strats, and Paul Reed Smiths (CE22). This period marked a return to more classic guitar models, indicating Mars’ evolving musical preferences and playing style.
Mötley Crüe Tour (1994-1995)
In the mid-90s, specifically during the Mötley Crüe tour, Fender Stratocasters were Mars’ main stage guitars. The Stratocasters’ versatility and classic tone suited the band’s musical direction during this time.
Carnival of Sins/Route of all Evil Tours (2005-2006)
During the Carnival of Sins and Route of all Evil tours, Mars returned to Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters, with the inclusion of a Chet Atkins signature model. This mix of guitars showcased Mars’ ability to blend classic rock tones with modern elements, reflecting the band’s enduring appeal.
Conclusion: The Enduring Impact of Mick Mars and His Guitars
As we reach the end of our exploration into the world of Mick Mars and his iconic guitars, it’s evident that his influence on rock music is both profound and enduring. Mars, a quintessential figure in the heavy metal and glam rock scenes, has not only defined a genre with his unique sound and style but has also inspired countless musicians and fans around the world.
A Legacy Carved in Strings and Wood
Mick Mars’ journey through the annals of rock history, armed with his diverse array of guitars, from the Les Paul Custom to his Kramer guitars, showcases a musician’s evolution paralleled with the changing tides of the music industry. Each guitar in Mars’ collection tells a story of a particular era in Mötley Crüe’s storied career, reflecting the band’s and Mars’ adaptability, innovation, and unwavering commitment to their craft.
More Than Just a Guitarist
Mick Mars’ impact extends beyond his musical talents. His persona, marked by resilience in the face of personal health challenges, and his dedication to his art form have made him an inspirational figure. His influence can be seen in the countless guitarists who emulate his style, in the fans who continue to find solace and excitement in Mötley Crüe’s music, and in the music industry that continues to celebrate his contributions.
A Sound That Echoes Through Generations
As we reflect on the legacy of Mick Mars guitars, it’s clear that his contribution to rock music is timeless. His signature tone, creative process, and the iconic imagery associated with his instruments have become integral to the fabric of rock and roll. Mars’ ability to blend power, melody, and emotion into his playing has cemented his status as one of the great guitarists of our time.
In conclusion, Mick Mars stands as a testament to the power of music to transcend time and trends. His guitars and guitar amps, much like his music, are not just tools of the trade but are symbols of a legacy that will continue to inspire and resonate with generations of music lovers. As Mars’ chords continue to echo through the halls of rock history, his influence remains as potent and relevant as ever, a true icon of the music world.