Queen's lead guitarist Brian May and custom-built by him and his father, Harold. The Red Special is also sometimes named in reviews as the Fireplace or the Old Lady, both nicknames used by May when referring to the guitar.
A guitar that would define Brian's signature style, it was purposely designed to feedback after he saw Jeff Beck live playing his guitar in front of the amp and getting different sounds just by moving the guitar. He wanted an instrument that was going to be alive and interact with him and the air around him. He has used it 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 an 18th-century fireplace mantel.
Unlike the primary instruments of most musicians, the original Red Special was built by May along with his father. They began to work on the guitar in August 1963. The neck was constructed from wood from an 18th-century fireplace mantel that a friend of the family was about to throw away. The neck was hand-shaped into the desired form; this was difficult because of the age and quality of the wood. According to May, there are two wormholes in the neck of the guitar.
The neck was finished with a 24-fret oak fingerboard. Each of the position inlays was hand shaped from a mother-of-pearl button. May decided to position them in a personal way: two dots at the 7th and 19th fret and three at the 12th and 24th.
The body was made from oak from an old table, blockboard (strips of softwood sandwiched between two plywood skins) and mahogany veneer; the final result was technically a semi-acoustic guitar-the central block is glued to the sides and covered with two mahogany sheets to give it the appearance of a solid-body guitar.