Mike McCready, lead guitarist for rock icons Pearl Jam, is one of the main reasons why I picked up the guitar. His blues inspired leads are one of the many highlights of Pearl Jam's live show. His guitar style blends that of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn with a splash of Stooges style punk rock. As you'd expect then, McCready's guitar rig has always been 70's rock inspired.
McCready uses a wide range of guitars. Throughout his career with Pearl Jam, McCready's rig has consisted primarily of a range of Fender Stratocasters as well as the occasional Gibson Les Paul or Fender Telecaster. McCready seems to have a thing for '59 Stratocasters as well as '62 reissues. Keeping track of McCready's Strat and Les Paul collection is all but impossible, so I won't bother trying. Suffice to say, he seems to have plenty of both.
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In the studio, McCready has at times opted for other guitars in certain situations. For example, in a Guitar School interview from May 1995 he is quoted as saying he used a Gibson 335 for the blistering Animal solo, and a hollow body Gretsch Country Gentleman for Glorified G.
During the Ten era, McCready used Strats and Les Pauls, with Marshall heads and a Fender Bassman 4x10. It's difficult to find any reliable information on the exact Marshall heads he used around this time period, although it is possible that they were either JCM800's and JMP 50 watt plexi's, or even a combination of both. In terms of effects, he used a Dunlop Crybaby, Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, a volume/pan pedal (to switch between the Marshall dirt and Fender clean), a SansAmp Distortion, Dunlop Rotovibe and T.C. Electronics Multieffects Unit.
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It would seem that not a great deal changed between Ten and Vs. although McCready did add a MXR Phase 100 to his board.
Following the release of Vitalogy in 1994, McCready's rig underwent some fairly significant changes. In an April 1995 interview with Guitar World, McCready's tech, Jeff Ousley talks in more detail about the guitars used by McCready to that point in time.
"He uses a lot of guitars: a maple-necked, hard-tail '56 Strat, a rosewood-necked '59 Strat, and a maple-neck '58 as well as a couple of '62 reissue Strats that we got from a Fender Custom Shop and two '52 reissue Telecasters. [...] He also owns a bunch of Les Pauls. There's the '72 three-pickup Gibson Les Paul Custom that he smashed on MTV when they did 'Rockin' In The Free World' with Neil Young. [...] I've picked that guitar off the floor many times, but I guess that extra pickup holds it together. [...]
There's a Tom Petty model Rickenbacker 12-string that Tom gave Mike, which he uses on 'Not For You' and "Corduroy.'
Finally, there's a '68 Telecaster with a Bigsby that he uses in Mad Season."
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McCready's 1995 era rig featured a Sony WRR-840 wireless feeding a Rocktron Rack Interface buffer/splitter. The Interface used the "wireless through" output to send the audio signal out, in a loop, to McCready's effects board and then back.
In the same 1995 interview with Guitar World, Jeff Ousley also spoke about McCready's signal flow.
"From the interface, we go to an original Uni-Vibe, a Dunlop wah pedal with a built-in preamp that provides four different tone selections, an old Boss analog delay pedal and then to an Ernie Ball Stereo Volume pedal set in the 'pan' mode. One side of the pan pedal.. which feeds our clean amp.. goes back to one input of the rack interface, while the signal from the other side of the pan pedal goes to an old, puke green Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer. That signal then also goes back to the rack interface and into the dirty amp. When the pan pedal is all the way back, Mike just gets the clean amp, and when he pushes it all the way forward all he gets is the dirty amp. "The dirty amp is one of three Marshalls: a '68 50-watt Marshall plexi or one of two '69 100-watt Marshall Super Tremolos that have had the tremolo disconnected by Sal Trentino, who services all our amps and also does Neil Young's work. They're all four- input amps, so I jump the channels to get a little more gain." "The clean amp is a Mesa/Boogie Studio Preamp that runs into a VHT G2150 Classic power amp and two 300-watt Marshall 1960 4x12 cabinets."
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The Dunlop wah pedal referred to was the Dunlop Crybaby 535 Wah, whilst the old Boss analog delay pedal was the Boss Analog Delay DM-3.
There were only minor changes between the Vitalogy rig and the one used around the time of No Code in 1996-97. Amplifier wise, McCready made a couple of changes, for his clean tone in particular, going back to a Fender Bassman Combo 1959 Reissue 4x10 and adding a Fender Twin Tweed 2x10, Marshall Plexi 50 Watt Head, Matchless HC-30 Head.
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The Dunlop Uni-vibe, MXR Phase 90 and the MXR Dyna Comp popped up during the Yield era, whilst the Dunlop Crybaby 535 Wah, Boss Analog Delay DM-3, Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer and continued to form the back bone of his pedal board, as they continue to today. The image below is said to show part of McCready's Yield era pedal board.
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There appears to have not been a great deal of change between the Yield and Binaural rig, with the exception of a Fender Blender that was used on Nothing as it Seems.
His board changed somewhat during the recording of Riot Act, with a list of the gear used in the studio, as posted on the old Pearl Jam Synergy website listing the following pedals as being used by McCready in the studio: Dunlop Crybaby "535" wah-wah, MXR Phase 90, Hughes and Kettner Rotosphere, Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, Greedtone Distortion, Boss DM-3 Delay, Boss OC-2 Octave. On the road for the riot act tour McCready added the Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler to his board.
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For the 'Avocado' era to know, McCready's board includes the following: Dunlop Crybaby "535" wah-wah, Hughes and Kettner Rotosphere, Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, BOSS BD-2 Blues Distortion (Keeley Modded), Line6 DL4 Delay Modeler, and the Line6 MM4 Modulation Modeler.
The image below is reportedly the latest version of McCready's pedal board.
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McCready's guitars are usually strung with GHS Boomers 0.010's or 0.011's, whilst he uses Dunlop Tortex 0.88mm picks.
If you were to summarise the secret to McCready's tone (beside his actual playing!)it would go something like: Strat or Les Paul, into classic rock amp (Fender/Marshall), via wah, boost, modulation, delay pedals.
If you have any comments, corrections or additions to this guitar rig, please feel free to post them in the forum here.