How The Red Special got its name

Brian May's original Red Special
Brian May’s original Red Special

Brian May reveals the unlikely way the Red Special got its name


Alongside the release of an updated edition of his book The Red Special – co-written with Simon Bradley – Brian May has unveiled the origin of the name of his iconic guitar. May famously built the guitar by hand alongside his father, when he was just a teenager.

Back in the 1960s when he built it, he didn’t know how it would feature on every single Queen album and at historic concerts, including Live Aid and the closure of the 2012 London Olympics – among countless others. The updated version of the book includes two new chapters, exploring the guitar’s repairs and its role in the film Bohemian Rhapsody.


“I remembered that at the time we finished the topcoat of varnish, my Dad had wanted to christen her as the Brian May Special, and I had poo-pooed the idea; now I realised that it wasn’t so uncool to give her a proper name. So one day in a radio interview, when someone asked me what I called the guitar, the words Red Special just tumbled out before I’d had time to think. And from then on, that was her name. There are now a few thousand Red Special replicas in the world, but my first love still keeps some of her mystery. She is, after all, a one-off!”


The updated edition contains two new chapters, further celebrating the journey of the iconic guitar that Brian built with his father in 1963, has treasured and played all over the world for over 50 years… and is now available – –  and – Amazon