What would you do if you either bought or were given a guitar that one of your idols owned? Many would choose to put it away in a hermetically-sealed case where it would be displayed for posterity; free from the environment, free from touch, and free from ever being played again. I never understood people like that. I mean, yeah it's cool to know that it's been preserved as it was the last time musician X touched it, but really wouldn't musician X be sad to know that the guitar is no longer being played? After all, that WAS why the guitar was built and bought in the first place... to be played.
I suppose this could be different if you were not a guitar player, and had no desire to play it. But if you play, it'd be a true shame to let the thing just sit. Now, you're probably all very familiar with the '59 Les Paul, a guitar full of vintage tone, looks, and most importantly, mojo. Because of these factors, the '59 is very rare, and as such, very expensive. Joe Bonamassa's favorite Les Paul is a '59 that he lovingly named "Principal Skinner". To be the top guitar in Joe's collection is REALLY saying a lot, and the '59 epitomizes this. He loves this thing so much that Gibson recreated it and named it "Skinnerburst" giving buyers today the chance to get the re-issue!
C'monnnnn just look at that! Most other guitar greats understand the mythical appeal of this elusive beast, and when the time comes to get one, it's wise to grab it when it's available, even though you may need to take out a mortgage.
Every once in awhile however, there are a few '59 Pauls that are more akin to being "the 59's of the 59 Les Paul"; even more ultra-rare than the already-rare beast. Principal Skinner is definitely one of these guitars, but did you know that Billy Gibbons' "Pearly Gates" is one of these unicorns?
I mean obviously! How about Jimmy Page's "Number 2"?
Or, how about Don Felder's "Hotel California" Burst?
(Fun fact, Nigel Tufnel's "Infinite Sustain" is another, perhaps THE most epic '59!)
Well, wouldn't you know it, but there is a '59 Les Paul, now known as Greeny, lovingly named after Peter Green of the original line up of Fleetwood Mac!
This was the guitar that spawned such hits as "Black Magic Woman" and "Oh Well". After Green had played it (after buying it for around $300) he sold it for the same cost to Gary Moore (plus an SG). Moore held on to the guitar for 37 years, becoming the fulcrum of his legendary warm yet trebly tone (a tone that was likely due to both his playing style along with a reverse-installed neck pickup, more on this later). This Green/Moore guitar eventually sold in 2006 at an auction for 2 million dollars... I'll give you all time to pick your jaws up off the floor.
So, recap, we have a guitar that got its start as Green's baby, who inspired Moore, who eventually ended up owning it before an auction found it a new home. Here is Gary Moore playing the guitar live:
"Moore acquired the guitar from “Greenie” in 1969 right after Green quit Fleetwood Mac. The student used his master’s six-string throughout his musical evolution, which veered into hard rock with his first solo disc in 1973, then artier but no less heavy turf with bassist/singer Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy, and went on to the fusion based Coliseum II. In the early ’80s Moore played on art-rock legend Greg Lake’s two solo albums, and in ’94 formed a group with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce."
-Gibson's Ted Drozdowski
So this guitar has tone-shaped Fleetwood Mac and Thin Lizzy, that's the CONDENSED version. That is TRUE rock n' roll blood right there... good lord.
Enter Kirk Hammett.
He had been eying this very guitar for quite some time, and was obviously in love, just not with the price. The Metallica legend knew that eventually it would be his however. After waiting for a time when the price was right, Kirk was able to get in touch with the seller and purchase this legendary guitar! Kirk (along with the rest of the 'tallica who are all clearly HUGE Thin Lizzy fans) is also a massive Peter Green fan; this could be his dream guitar.
The best news of all, is that Kirk is not going to be letting this thing sit in a case, rotting away. This guitar will be played by Kirk himself, both live, in the studio, and at Kirk's house where it resides. Talk about a true source of musical inspiration.
Since this tweet, this guitar has made plenty of appearances on stage at Metallica concerts, which is even cooler to see once you know the backstory of this axe. If you want to hear Kirk discussing this amazing story with two other guitar legends, here is the video that sums it up the best! Watch and enjoy:
Kirk really sums it up best:
“The best tribute is that it’s being played again instead of being neglected by people who only bought it for the investment.”
Unless, of course, you're Nigel Tufnel. Then the guitar can't be played.
Credit to Gibson USA for the great guitar porn!