Kansas guitarist Rich Williams on why he never got into Strats: “They’re such a mystery to me”

“I’d watch guys like Eric Johnson play a Strat and it’s got such a beautiful sound, yet when I pick it up, it just sounds horrible!”

Richard Williams of Kansas

Image: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy

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Rich Williams, guitarist of legendary prog-rock outfit Kansas, recently revealed why Strats have never been his weapon of choice.

The musician was speaking to Guitar World, where he discussed some of his favourite guitars over the years, including a rare Gibson L6-S he used to play in the 70s.

“The guitar was straight out the box, too,” Williams said. “I did do a little work to it eventually where I moved the input jack to the bottom instead of the front, sort of vice-versa. I still had the six-way switch on it, and I think I might have added a tone control, too, where there was a switch. It’s been that way for so long, and I still have it.”

Explaining his love for five-way switching on electric guitars, Williams said that while he does have a PRS McCarty with a three-way switch, he’s “much more comfortable with a five-way on PRS guitars”.

“I really like [five-way switches] because it’s like going back to using the L6-S, but with the sound choices that are more like the Les Paul,” the guitarist said. “Having said that, sometimes I do like the Les Paul better because of the ease of the switch.”

Asked if he’s ever tried switching to a Stratocaster, Williams replied: “After the Gibson, I did buy a Strat, but I’ve never been a Strat guy. They’re such a mystery to me. I’d watch guys like Eric Johnson play a Strat and it’s got such a beautiful sound, yet when I pick it up, it just sounds horrible! It truly was not designed for me, but I did use it on a few things.”

“The Les Paul-style setup – from a PRS to a Les Paul to my Dean guitars, all of those, that’s where I feel more at home.”

Williams also looked back on his time with the Gibson ES-335, explaining in particular how his bandmates had opposed his use of the iconic semi-hollow electric.

“Prior to the L6-S, I was using an ES-335 but the band thought it was a cowboy guitar,” he said. “And because we were not a cowboy band, they made me trade it for that L6-S. The L6-S was probably worth $500, while the ES-335 was probably worth $25,000!”

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