Greta Van Fleet’s Jake Kiszka Shares Odd Story of How He Acquired His $20k Gibson

Jake Kiszka, the guitarist for Greta Van Fleet, recently looked back on the band’s beginnings and how he ended up getting a guitar that’s now his main axe. The instrument in question is his prized 1961 Gibson Les Paul Standard with a Vibrola tailpiece. Although referred to as Les Paul models, these double-cutaway guitars would later be rebranded as SG.

In a recent chat with, Jake went back to the band’s first tour and recalled an odd story about how he got this particular instrument which he refers to as the “Beloved”:

“When we first left Michigan, Josh [Kiszka, vocalist] and I must have been 20, and Sam [Kiszka, bassist] and Danny [Wagner, drums] were like 17 – and we just hit the ground running.”

60th Anniversary ’61 Les Paul SG with Jake Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet

“One of the stops along that first tour was Chicago, and so of course we stopped off at Chicago Music Exchange while we were there.”

“Now, due to the fact that we had grown up in a town of 5,000 people in the middle of a bunch of farm fields, the access we had to instruments was pretty limited, so being in this massive instrument shop that had everything – vintage, contemporary, you name it – it was like, ‘WOW!’”

According to Jake, the owner of the shop was more than welcoming and offered them to try any instrument that they wanted:

“And the owner was taking us around and he was like, ‘If you see anything you like, let me know and we can pull it…’ And so I was walking around being like, ‘Well this is cool, this is cool, this is also cool…’”

My First Gibson: Jake Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet

However, one guitar caught his attention:

“But then I stumbled on that guitar, and we took it back to his apartment, which was right down the street, and plugged it in… And it was like divine intervention because that was the sound that I’d been trying to find pretty much my whole life.”

“Going all the way back to being that kid picking up a guitar at three years old, it was that sound – that was it.”

Greta Van Fleet - The Indigo Streak (Live)

And after trying out the instrument, the owner of the store wanted him to have it and pay him back whenever:

“I hadn’t even owned a tube amp up until that point, I was playing solid-state stuff! We hadn’t even really made our name, we were just starting out touring, and he just said, ‘What you heard, I think I heard it too… take this guitar on the road with you and you can just pay me back when you can.'”

Bear in mind, this is before Greta Van Fleet made any notable success as they were pretty much only starting out. And this was far from a cheap one:

“This guy just let this kid take a $20,000 guitar out the door! And a year later I was able to pay him back, but I have him to thank for that still – we’re friends to this day!”

Greta Van Fleet - The Archer (Official Audio)

The original Les Paul was manufactured until 1960. Eventually, Gibson would continue making guitars under the Les Paul name but with this completely new super-light double-cutaway design which would eventually get its name SG, which stood for “Solid Guitar.” This alternate Les Paul model lasted until 1963 when the contract of the legendary jazz musician Les Paul with Gibson expired.

So these 1961 to 1963 Les Paul/SG guitars are quite a catch. And it wasn’t a surprise when Jake would get contacted by Gibson when they reissued the model. He continued:

“A little while ago, when Gibson came out with the reissued ’61 SG with the sideways tailpiece, they were like, ‘Well who do we go to for this?’ And I guess it was obvious that they were gonna come see me!”

Does the Epiphone 1961 Les Paul SG Standard Issue live up to Gibson guitar standards?

“So, I did some championing of that guitar, but now they’re actually coming out with a more basic model, which is really exciting for me to be involved in because kids can afford it! It’s an Epiphone, and it’s cool because I know people will play it and cherish it – it’s amazing.

As he reveals, there’s also been talks about doing a Murphy Lab edition of the instrument, which would be a reissue that’s deliberately made to look aged. However, Jake doesn’t think that the idea would work:

“There was some talk about doing a Murphy Lab version of my number one, the Beloved, but it was just really funny because that thing has seen the face of war! I don’t know if anyone would be willing to pay $10,000 for basically half of a guitar.”

“They were talking about doing it. But they said they would have to invent a new scale of relic’ing – it’d be destroyed!”

1961 Gibson SG Les Paul | CME Vintage Demo | Joel Bauman

Elsewhere in the interview, Jake also mentioned the guitar store owner again when talking about the recording process of their latest album “Starcatcher.” He said;

“Remember that guy from Chicago Music Exchange that I was talking about? Well for this record, I called him up and I said, ‘Hey, I wanna try just a bunch of weird, outrageous stuff!’”

“And so he brought down a literal truck full of guitars, and we laid them out in RCA Studio A, and I opened every single case. Then every song, I’d walk up and I’d grab a different guitar and see how it felt.”

Greta Van Fleet Starcatcher World Tour opener - Nashville TN 7/24/23

“So the expanse of guitars on this record is amazing. He brought like, the third ES-335 ever made, which was pretty amazing. That guitar wiped out every other guitar in the entire studio and anything that I’d brought, so I used it a lot. Then on Fate of the Faithful, there’s a B-Bender ’63 Telecaster – so there was an assortment of stuff!”

Photo: Stefan Brending (2018 RiP – Greta Van Fleet – by 2eight – 3SC7091)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.