Guitar Stories: Tim May’s Iconic Role in the ‘Back to The Future’ Guitar Scene

Guitar Stories: Tim May’s Iconic Role in the ‘Back to The Future’ Guitar Scene

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Guitar Stories: Tim May's Iconic Role in the 'Back to The Future' Guitar SceneGuitar Stories: Tim May's Iconic Role in the 'Back to The Future' Guitar Scene

In the world of iconic film moments, it’s hard to top Marty McFly’s electrifying performance of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” in the beloved classic “Back to The Future.”

Every ’80s movie enthusiast has etched that scene, where McFly rocks the high school dance, into their memory. Yet, as guitar aficionados have fervently discussed for years, there’s a surprising twist to the tale that goes beyond the film’s time-travel premise.

Amidst the temporal paradoxes and retro-futuristic charm of the film, the choice of Marty’s guitar raises an eyebrow for anyone versed in the history of these six-stringed instruments. You see, the Gibson ES-345 that McFly wielded onscreen didn’t even exist in 1955, the year the scene was set. They introduced it in 1958. So, what guitar did they use to create that iconic performance?

Behind the curtain of cinematic magic, the real hands that brought Johnny B. Goode to life belonged to Tim May, a seasoned session and jazz guitarist. And, to everyone’s astonishment, he didn’t wield a vintage Gibson but rather a Valley Arts S-style guitar.

Furthermore, this specific Valley Arts guitar featured a Floyd Rose, introducing an unexpected twist to the classic tune. Crafted by Mike McGuire, this unique guitar held the serial number 25 in its run, making it an unsung hero in the realm of movie memorabilia.

Recently, the folks at the Vertex Effects YouTube channel had the privilege of sitting down with Tim May himself. They have allowed him to share insights about his guitar choice and even treat us to a short performance.

The host Mason Marangella, sets the stage as he reflects on the significance of that pivotal scene. “One of the most important scenes in the entire movie is at the end when Michael J. Fox, Marty McFly, has an ES-345 that he’s playing – a red one – and he’s playing the song Johnny B. Goode to this group of high school students at like a prom,” he remarks.

“It turns out, it was not actually Michael J. Fox who was playing that, it was actually you playing Johnny B. Goode, and on this very guitar.”

Tim May steps in to shed light on the rationale behind his guitar choice. “This was the guitar, and the reason I chose this guitar was because I had a choice of my Les Paul or my 335, and the direction I was given was ‘okay, we want to go in this performance from Chuck Berry ’50s style to the current’, which was like Van Halen and that sort of thing. ‘And we want to accomplish the history of the guitar, from there to there’. So we played a few takes and I just did whatever I did, and it seemed to work.”

He further explains, “I chose this guitar because I was doing the hammer-ons…” Marangella interjects, “You do almost like an Eruption by Van Halen sort of tapping thing at the end,” to which May responds, “Yeah, yeah! And I needed the Floyd for that, the Floyd Rose. It worked out good. It covered all the bases for me.”

Curious guitar enthusiasts, May discloses that he played the guitar through a Fender Blackface VibroLux from the ’80s, further enhancing the enigmatic recipe that shaped the iconic sound.

If you’re eager to dive deeper into the world of Tim May and his remarkable career, including stints working with luminaries such as Lionel Richie and Blondie, you can watch the full video on the Vertex Effects YouTube channel. It’s a delightful journey through the untold stories that make cinematic magic and guitar legends all the more fascinating.

Find the guitar secrets in the video below!

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