Guitar Picks and More Guitar Picks

by Jessica Letkemann on April 5, 2003

Ah, the mundane guitar pick. Not something PJ fans think about much. But truth is, these little monogrammed pieces of plastic have reflected PJ members’ tastes and senses of humor since back in the day. Over the years, a color scheme has even emerged, as you can see below (guess it’s easier to tell whose is whose that way). Gathered here are just a few of the various customized PJ picks the guys have had made and used, each one worth a closer look. Skip ahead to Artifactor Updates!

Mike McCready: Green has obviously been McCready’s color since the early days. The first two above are opposite sides of the same pick. Face side is a nice stadard Ten-era PJ logo and the Stickman to mark his tribe. The reverse is Mike’s signature, and in teensy letters below it says “This is my…” as in “This is my … pick!” (originally because of the small lettering, we thought it read “This is why …”.)

Examples three and four are the two sides of a Mike pick from circa 1994-5. The front is the Pearl Jam angel logo that first appeared in the artwork of Vitalogy (and subsequently turned up on PJ stickers during that time). Mr. Potatohead, on side b (with Mike’s surname typed below it), is a nod to one of his favorite collectibles. Decked-out Potatohead figures regularly adorned Mike’s amps in 1994 and 1995 (until he tossed them to the Chicago crowd at Soldier Field in July of ’95), and a Ten Club newsletter #7 from early 1995 even held a “decorate a Potatohead” contest in honor of his collection. Click these links for scans: large and close-up.

Last pick on the right is the standard pick Mike’s been using since the No Code tour in the fall of 1996. All of the guitar playing members of Pearl Jam got matching sets made in their signature color with their first names on it. More on that below. Also, additional McCready picks are in the update.

Stone Gossard: If McCready is lime pickwise, fellow guitarist Stone Gossard is lemon. Just as Mike had a PJ logo/Stickman faced pick, Stone’s yellow version (first two examples above) has a particularly Gossardian customization on the back. In this case, we get Stone’s wavy “SG” signature under the hilarious words “Scully is God.” Stone was paying homage to his wily, pot-smoking guitar tech during the Ten and Vs. days, a guy known simply as Scully (check out 4/20/92 in New Orleans for a funny, off-key, onstage rendition of “Happy Birthday” to this much mentioned tech.

Matching the McCready pattern again, around the time of Vitalogy, Stone adopted the yellow version of the “angel” logo pick, and used his flipside (examples three and four above) to show a drawing of a “square” very Stone-looking little guy with glasses and a square body and the letters S.T.E.V.E. beneath it. Don’t know what that stands for, probably an inside joke, but our money is on it being some kind of reference to that other tall thin bespectacled Seattle guitarist Steve Turner of Mudhoney, who is also very Stone-looking.

Last pick on the right, again, is from that bandwise matched set mentioned above. Just like Mike (and the rest of the band), he’s been using this “Stone” pick (in his signature color of yellow) since ’96.

More yellow, more Stone Gossard. The first two are opposite sides of the same pick, a variation on the Stickman/Scully is God one above, wavy “SG” signature minus the Scully reference. Picks three and four above, again the two sides of the same pick, appeared around 1993. Face side is that once-ubiquitous Rat logo that used to be all over PJ’s stuff (see drummer Dave A.’s outfit on MTV Unplugged, or better yet, have a look on the “Rats” page of the Vs. artwork). What does the Rat mean? Well, it’s the official logo of a cool company called Rat Sound, the people who have been Pearl Jam’s soundcrew since 1991. You know that chick who comes out and checks the mics? That’s “Rat” Karrie Keys. And that’s just naming one of them. On the reverse side, you already recognize Stone’s handwritten “SG.”

The fourth version of the handwritten “SG” backed pick is examples five and six above. The front side is that “school scrawl” PJ logo that turned up around 1992.

Both Ed and Jeff started out with black picks before they migrated to signature colors. The picks above, clearly, are Ed Vedder picks. The first one is the black Ed version of the Rat Sound logo pick. It came with a couple of different reverse sides; the monkeywrench/tomahawk drawing you see in pick three and the EV/lightbulb you see on the fifth pick above (more on those in a minute).

Pick two is “EV kielbasa king.” We laughed pretty hard when we saw that one, and yes, we’re sure it’s an Ed pick, but we haven’t the foggiest idea what it means. It’s even more confusing when you consider that Ed’s a vegetarian, though he is from Chicago (a kielbasa haven if ever there was one). There are some other hilarous bawdy things that “kielbasa king” brings to mind, but, well, uh, we’ll leave those guesses to your imagination. Sorry, Ed.

Examples four and five are the a and b sides of the same circa 1992-3 pick and we’re fairly sure Ed drew the lightbulb and the tomahawk/monkeywrench himself. The latter may look somehow familiar to you, even if you’ve never seen this pick before, and that’s because it’s a line drawing of the tattoo Ed’s got on his left calf in March 1992 (it’s the logo of the environmental activist group Earth First!. This pick was the first in his signature color orange.

Pick number six is Ed’s version of that bandwide matched set PJ members have been using in 1996. Of course, his is orange and it says “Ed.”

Jeff Ament: Jeff, as mentioned before, started out with black picks also. Examples one and two, two sides of the same pick, reprise the Rat Sound logo Ed and Stone also used, but a symbol of one of his lifelong passions is featured on the reverse: a simple basketball. The basketball (and what turned out to be Jeff’s signature color: blue) cropped up again on the mid-90′s pick shown in examples three and four (which also exists in white-on-black). Side a is Jeff’s John Hancock, which he has doodled into a little self-portrait of himself with a basketball. Side b is a very college sports-esue Pearl Jam logo.

Example five, which had nothing on its reverse side (just like his bandmate’s versions of this pick), is also in Jeff Ament blue. As you probably already guessed, this is Jeff’s version of the 1996 set. Example six, which breaks the color trend, is a way-cool Jeff wordimage debuted in Australia earlier this year. The b-side is below.

-Jessica Letkemann / Two Feet Thick

lot of fans have written in and pointed us in the direction of a ton more Pearl Jam pick examples and information. Thank you! The yield? Read on.

We’ve discovered that most of Pearl Jam’s picks through the years are made by Dunlop, a leading pick company, who color codes their picks by thickness (picks are customized after they are bought blank by the band). Cross referencing between PJ gear info and Dunlop pick info, we have a hunch that the fun color coding by band member (Mike = green, Stone = yellow) probably has more to do with the pick thickness each guy prefers than with, say, Ed having some random love for bright orange.

Mike McCready: Some are green, some are not, but these three are all Mike’s. Examples one and two are two sides of the same pick. This time there’s a friendly-looking monkey above “McCready” on the face with the Rat Sound rat logo (There’s a yellow Stone rat logo backed pick above). This rare monkey/mccready pick is also of unknown vintage. The word “Tortex” in even smaller type beneath the “McCready” is a reference to the brand. It’s a Tortex brand pick made by Dunlop. Additionally, for those guitar players out there, Mike’s picks are generally “medium”, specifically .88mm thick. Switching over to yellow now, Mike’s been playing with the palm tree/”Mike McCready” pick (examples four and five) since the Australian leg of the 2003 world tour. The palm tree is the front, and Mike’s outlined name is the back.

Stone Gossard: You are probably familiar with Brad, the side-band Stone has been in since 1992. Picks one and two above were minted in 2002 and they feature the Welcome To Discovery Park Brad logo. Stone used these, in the yellow and orange pretty interchangable, for the fall 2002 US Brad tour and the winter 2003 Australian Brad tour. They got shelved when the February 2003 Australian Pearl Jam tour started. The reverse of both the yellow and orange variety is blank.

Examples three and four above are two sides of the same pick. Though they’re orange, we’re sure they’re Stoney’s. On the front, “Lucky Lucas Pick” is printed in white and black. As to who Lucky Lucas might be? We don’t have any idea, but we’d hazard to guess that the smiling boy on the backside of the pick (example four) is the Lucas in question. This Lucas pick seems to be the current Stone pick of choice: he’s been using it since February ’03. And back to you guitarists, if you’re curious, Stone’s picks are generally “medium,” specifically .73mm thick.

Jeff Ament: Examples one and two , the front and back of the same pick, are a black version of the blue Jeff “self-portrait with basketball” sig/megaphone PJ logo (back) pick that’s in the Jeff section above this update. Example three is a black version of the blue 1996 “jeff” bandset pick (also in the above Jeff section). Jeff’s picks are generally “thick” (specifically 1.0mm). Last pick on the end is the b-side of the brand new ’03 “Jeff Ament Basso” pick in the above section. Reiterating the “bass” theme, it’s a bass clef.

Odds and Ends: We don’t have any more Ed picks to present right now, but it seemed worth mentioning that he usually uses “thin” picks, specifically .60mm ones. Additionally, Mike also had a version of the green “Potatohead” pick in white lettering instead of the black we have above. The green “Potatohead” pick also exists with a “school scrawl” PJ logo on the back instead of a rat. There’s also a black version of the yellow “S.T.E.V.E” Stone pick, and a yellow version of the green 1996 “mike” bandset pick. More picks to come!

Thanks to Mike Baker, Lynn Taylor, Peter Trahms, Chris “Maos” Nagano, Nick Rosenstrauch, the folks at CloudsRollBy.com and Brian Hyland for info contained in the update!

PLEASE NOTE: Right, there’s a bunch of cool, and even rare Pearl Jam picks pictured above, but please understand that we don’t necessarily own them. We’re really sorry we can’t give you one. If you want to get your hands on some Pearl Jam picks, PJ shows are the best place to get them. Mike in particular has been known to throw handfuls (a la Cheap Trick), into the crowd. Ed tends to hand one or two out per show. Stone rarely does. And Jeff’s picks are the hardest of all to get. Additionally, the techs dismantling the stage after a show will generally pick up any picks laying around and hand them out, so stick around.

Last but not least, if you have any additional information about the picks described above or caught any errors, we want to hear about it. And if you have an item you’d love to see in the Artifactor, please let us know.

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

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