1959 ES-140 1961 Les Paul Junior 2007 SG Classic 2011 SG Standard Exclusive 1969 SG Standard 1968 SG Special 2006 ‘60 Strat Relic 2005 Limited '66 Strat Closet Classic 1988 American Standard Stratocaster 1966 Jaguar 1965 Duo Sonic II 1966 ES-330 2009 USA '62 Wilshire Reissue 1971 ES-335 1997 Rickenbacker 360 1959 ES-140 3/4T (again!)
Instrument: 1999 Gibson Custom & Historic 1961/1962 Les Paul (SG) Custom
My wife and I didn’t get married until a few weeks before I turned 40. She was well worth the wait. Similarly, it took me decades to find my musical soulmate…
I’ve played guitar for about 30 years, several of them as a gigging and recording professional. I’ve owned 5 Les Pauls, 4 Strats, a Tele (briefly), a few hollowbodies, 3 acoustics, a 12-string, a lap steel, 4 basses, and at least one pointy product of the late 80s of which I’m not proud. Through it all, I’d never given a second glance to an SG. That changed last year when I attended both shows of an amazing 2-night stand by HoneyHoney at Eddie’s Attic, and spent the better part of both nights mesmerized by the sound and look of guitarist Ben Jaffe’s glorious reissue ’61 LP/SG Custom. (note: they were known as Les Pauls in 1961 & 1962, until Les had Gibson pull his name and replace it with SG, for “Standard Guitar”) I spent the next few weeks dreaming of SGs, occasionally browsing listings online, all while telling myself that I did not need another guitar, and that it was just a crush that I’d soon get over. And then one night I stumbled across a listing on Reverb.com that literally gave me chills – Classic White, triple-pickup Custom model with a Maestro Vibrola unit and very rare stock nickel hardware (which I greatly prefer over the usual gold). Against my better judgement, and after a few days of questions and negotiation with the seller, I nervously pulled the trigger…
I was nervous because I wasn’t at all sure what I was getting. I had never spent time playing any SG – for all I knew, I might hate the way they felt. I also preferred to put hands on an instrument before buying it, and as such had rarely purchased guitars online. Sure enough, upon its arrival I thought I’d made a mistake. The neck was wide and flat and a little chunky in the back - not at all like the thin, narrow “slim taper” LP or “thin C” Strat necks I was used to playing. To make matters worse, the balance of the guitar seemed all wonky, and it looked funny when I played it slung low like a Les Paul. What the hell had I done?
Within 2 days I was completely hooked. I shortened my strap by almost a foot and found that the guitar was incredibly comfortable and well-balanced. It was much lighter than my back-breaking LPs, and most importantly, sounded amazing through everything from a dead clean Fender Deluxe Reverb to a cranked Friedman Dirty Shirley. The neck profile that I was so worried about ended up being far more comfortable for my large-ish hands than those of my other guitars. My playing became cleaner, I had less hand fatigue, and I was able to pull off licks that I was never able to previously.
As the seller noted in his listing, the guitar itself has undeniable “mojo”. It was originally owned by a noted blind blues player in New Orleans named Bryan Lee – a cool coincidence given that my first and middle names are Brian Lee. Despite only being 18 years old, the guitar has been PLAYED, and has the battle scars to prove it. It’s like something you’d expect to see leaning in the corner of a Louisiana roadhouse, which is to say that it’s nice and broken-in. It features plenty of finish checking/cracking, numerous scratches and dings, yellowed patches, hardware patina, some random areas of mismatched white touch-up paint, and an odd little raised “nubbin” on the back of the neck around the 15th fret. (I think this was installed as a tactile position marker for the original owner, and was carefully located where it doesn’t affect playability) The original pickups were at some point replaced with Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbuckers, which sound great to my ear. Since buying it, I’ve lowered the action slightly, changed out the Vibrola bar, replaced the original Klusons with aged milk-bottle style Grover tuners, added straplocks and a custom strap, and housed it in a new plush, white-lined Gibson case to replace the ill-fitting Gibson Nighthawk case that it came to me in.
A year later, this is the only guitar I reach for, and it’s ushered in a very happy and productive period for me both as a player and as a songwriter. It truly is the guitar of my dreams and my musical soulmate – it just took me 30 years to find it…
It’s always a fun time to get out to The Guitar Shop in Port Credit, Ontario, just west of Toronto, Canada. I’d love to visit this shop more…it’s one of the best in the region, but I can only go shopping in the evenings after work and they close at 7 pm every day…sad for me ‘cos it means I only get there a few times a year. Anyhoo, let’s see what makes this shop so good:
1) The LP in the middle was completely refinished by Historic Makeovers in the style of “Lucy”. The colour is incredible.
2) There’s that Historic Makeover LP “Lucy” one more time.
3) I also LOVE Fano.
4) Toronto-based jazz musician Robb Cappelletto shows me his 2011 PRS Modern Eagle. You know you play your guitar A LOT when it is 4 years old and already the finish is wearing off! :D
Guitar Shopping this week at the big Long & McQuade store on Bloor Street in Toronto, Canada:
Various Gretsches, Godins and even a Taylor electric in there too!
Gibson Custom Trini Lopez ES-335 Reissue.
New finish on this SG. The tag said “Trans Black” but it sure looks brown to me!
I was ever to spend over 4000 dollars on a new guitar, which I would never do, but anyhoo: if I was ever to spend more than $4k on a new guitar, it might just be one of these - Gibson Custom Shop ‘54 Les Paul Gold Top, VOS.