The Red Special is the electric guitar that was designed and built by Queen’s guitarist Brian May and his father, Harold, when Brian was a teenager in the early 1960s. The Red Special is also sometimes referred to, by May and by others, as the Fireplace or the Old Lady. A guitar that would define May’s signature style, it was intentionally designed to feed back after he saw Jeff Beck playing live and making different sounds just by moving the guitar in front of the amp. He wanted an instrument that was going to be alive and interact with him and the air around him.
May has used the Red Special almost exclusively, including on Queen albums and in live performances since the band’s advent in the early 1970s. The name Red Special came from the reddish-brown colour the guitar attained after being stained and painted with numerous layers of Rustins’ Plastic Coating. The name Fireplace is a reference to the fact that the wood used to make the neck came from a fireplace mantel.