The Red Special is an electric guitar popularized by Brian May with the very first built by him and his father, Harold, when May was a teenager in the early 1960s. The Red Special is also sometimes referred to, by May and by others, as the Fireplace or the Old Lady.A guitar that would define May's signature style, it was intentionally designed to feed back after he saw Jeff Beck playing live and making different sounds just by moving the guitar in front of the amp. He wanted an instrument that was going to be alive and interact with him and the air around him.
As his main guitar, 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.[note 1] The name Fireplace is a reference to the fact that the wood used to make the neck came from a fireplace mantel
In celebration of the instrument's 50th anniversary, a book about its construction and history, Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-Made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World, was written by Brian May with Simon Bradley.