The Cider Guitar

How Phil Campbells famous Strongbow guitar took the stage with MOTÖRHEAD

When it comes to Rock n´ Roll, Motörhead are gods. No question about it. Don´t even try to argue with me about it. Having worked for a lot of years in the music industry, I am lucky that I can call guitarist Phil Campbell a friend of mine. 

If you ever have been backstage at a Motörhead show, there are two things that never changed in all the years: Lemmy’s passion for whiskey and gambling, and Phil Campbell’s everlasting love for Strongbow.

For those of you not familiar with the brand, Strongbow is a dry cider manufactured in the UK and first launched in 1962. Over the years it has become the best-selling cider in the world.

Two years ago at a Motörhead gig in Munich, I was sitting backstage after the show, sipping an ice-cold Strongbow. Then it hit me like a thunderbolt. Why not create something special for my friend Phil! Lets do something that has never been done before. Create a custom-made Phil Campbell Strongbow Guitar.

Back home after the show, I couldn’t think about anything else. I wanted to do it, I had to make it happen somehow. I was on a mission. I wanted to create the ultimate surprise for Phil.

Having known luthier Dean Zelinsky and his quality builds for a lot of years, he was the first that came to my mind. Dean Zelinsky is the founder of Dean Guitars and his instruments have been played on stages around the world by the best of the best. When I gave Dean a call and explained him what I wanted to do, he said he loved the idea and would help me to make it happen. We created mock-up after mock-up until Dean and I both were satisfied.

But what is the best guitar worth without any matching pickups that deliver the sound that Motörhead is famous for? I called my friend Roger, who happens to be Phils guitar-tech. He explained to me that Phils brand of choice are Seymour Duncan pickups and that he uses the SH-1 and SH-4 combination in nearly every one of his guitars. Another problem solved.

I wrote an email to Evan Skopp of Seymour Duncan explaining the situation, and within a couple of days a brand-new set of pickups was in Dean Zelinsky’s hands to finish our project.

A couple of days later, having fought some wars with German customs authorities, the guitar was finally in my hands. When I first opened the case, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Mission accomplished.

Another couple of days later I visited Phil and the band at a festival in Germany. Phil knew that I was coming, but he of course didn’t know of the surprise. When he opened the case, I was quite sure that he felt the same way as me. That same day, without even soundchecking it, he used Dean Zelinsky’s Strongbow Custom live on stage for the first time.

Up until Lemmys death, Phil has used this gem on every Motörhead show around the world. Knowing the history behind the guitar, I feel a little bit proud when I see him rocking out on that beauty. To quote Phil: “This in one of the best-sounding Single-Cuts I have ever played in my whole career.”


For more info on Motorhead and Dean Zelinsky check out the following links: