Friedman Auctioning Original R.I.P. Jackson Kelly™ to Benefit Becker

By Jeff Owens

May 11, 2011

Marty Friedman's original Jackson Kelly guitar is now up for auction.

Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman is auctioning off his first Jackson guitar; the Kelly model he used in the studio and on the road with the band in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with all proceeds going to the Jason Becker Special Needs Trust and ALS Therapy Development Institute.

Becker, an ’80s-era guitar prodigy, formed neo-classical/speed metal duo Cacophony with Friedman in 1986. The project lasted until 1989, when Becker joined David Lee Roth’s band and Friedman joined Megadeth. Shortly after joining Roth, however, Becker was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), which eventually left him paralyzed and unable to speak.

Even after the illness robbed him of so much, however, Becker continued to compose music with the help of computers, collaborators and an eye movement-based communication system devised by his father.

To assist Becker and to contribute to the fight against ALS, Friedman will soon part with an important instrument in the history of thrash metal.

“This guitar was the first Jackson I ever owned,” he said. “It was the first really good guitar I ever had. I bought it in Hawaii while I was in the band Hawaii. It was tiger-striped black and white at the time. I did several Hawaii recordings and concerts with it. At one time it had a flamethrower on the headstock. I recorded most of Cacophony’s Speed Metal Symphony (1987) with this guitar, if not the entire album. I did all of Dragon’s Kiss (Friedman’s 1988 solo album) with this guitar. When I joined Megadeth, I had it painted black and recorded Rust in Peace (1990) with it. On Rust in Peace I used only two guitars; this one and one other Jackson. I also used this to record Countdown To Extinction (1992). This was my number-two touring guitar for most of my Megadeth years, so in Megadeth alone this axe must have at least 1,000 shows under its belt. When I quit Megadeth, I retired this guitar, so it has been in its case in a climate-controlled lockup since then. I look forward to the new history you will create with this cool guitar.”

Becker remains an inspirational figure revered by his peers. When he released Perspectives—his first recorded work after losing his motor functions—in 2001, Joe Satriani called it “a triumphantly powerful and beautiful album,” and Steve Vai said, “Jason has discovered a brilliant source of inspiration within himself; his deep soul searching has resulted in a body of music that reveals courage and insight and is deeply moving.”

Friedman said that calling Becker a genius is “an understatement.”

“He doesn’t cater to trend, target audiences, marketing gimmicks or anything like that,” Friedman added. “He plays out the emotions from his heart and makes real music that is a salute to the human spirit.”

Becker’s most recent album, 2008’s Collection, is a mix of old recordings and new compositions, with guest appearances by Satriani, Vai, Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins and Greg Howe.

The auction is running right now on eBay. Visit www.jasonbeckerguitar.com for more on Jason Becker and his fight against ALS.