Joe Perry Says Some ’59 Les Pauls Don’t Feel or Sound Good, Reveals He Used to Prefer Fender Stratocasters for Studio Sessions

Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, well-known for his use of Gibson Les Paul, revealed that he preferred to use Fender Stratocasters in the studio back in the 1970s. On top of all that, he also revealed that some of the famed “Holy Grail” Les Pauls from 1959 didn’t really seem all to great to him either.

In a recent interview with Total Guitar, Perry said that he wasn’t really that impressed with some of these ’59 Les Pauls that often reach astronomical prices on the market. Reflecting on these guitars, he said:

“I’ve played some ’59 Les Pauls that frankly didn’t feel that good or sound that good.

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Sure, the investment is another thing and Perry doesn’t deny the value from that aspect. But is it really worth the price? He explained:

“As an investment, they’re always going up, but I’ve had the chance to play two or three side by side and some of them don’t sound the same as the others.”

When asked what is it about his particular ’59 Les Paul that made it so great, known for its tobacco sunburst finish, Perry simply offered:

“It’s a combination of so many things and they just got it right.”

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Another somewhat shocking and unexpected thing that was revealed in another part of this interview was the revelation that he actually didn’t play Les Pauls on Aerosmith’s early recordings, back from the 1970s. Instead, it was Gibson’s fierce competition, Fender Stratocaster guitars. At least that was the case with studio recordings.

Recalling the good old days in a newly published section of this same interview, Joe Perry explained how he still played Gibson Les Paul guitar but preferred Fender Strats for studio work with the band. He explained:

“I played Les Pauls pretty much throughout the ’70s. But I recorded most of my stuff with Strats. I always loved having the vibrato arm, and it seemed easier to get different tones out of a Strat.”

Joe Perry and His Guitar

He also added:

“I was more concerned about writing songs than I was about the particulars of which amp I used or whatever.”

But don’t worry — he still had a Les Paul on some of the important tunes from back in the day. He assured us by saying:

“That said, I would say with a fair amount of confidence I used a Les Paul on Eat The Rich [from 1993’s Get A Grip], Toys In The Attic [1975], Pandora’s Box [from 1974’s Get Your Wings] and Nine Lives [1997]. I would bet that at least one of my [guitar] tracks on Walk This Way [also from 1975’s Toys In The Attic] is a Les Paul, and then everything I did after that was with the Strat.”

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Explaining why he still preferred to use Les Pauls in live settings, Perry offered:

“The tone you could get out of a Les Paul was heavier. And it was easier to get to get distortion with less noise. I think a lot of the reason that guitar plays so well in general is because it has its roots in Spanish guitar.”

As far as Gibson Les Pauls and Joe Perry go, he’s one of the artists associated with the legendary guitar model. And not only that — he’s also super famous for using a 1959 Les Paul. But, as years went by, he sold his old guitar with a tobacco sunburst finish at some point in the early 1980s.

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However, this instrument eventually found its way into the hands of none other than Guns N’ Roses’ Slash. But since Slash is also one of the biggest Aerosmith fans out there, he ended up giving it back to Joe Perry as a gift for his 50th birthday.

Funnily enough, the story goes that Perry found out about Slash owning his Les Paul after someone showed him a guitar-based magazine with Slash holding Perry’s old ’59 tobacco burst ’59 Les Paul. He has been looking for the instrument for many years since he was kind of pressed to sell it in the early 1980s due to the expenses caused by his divorce.

Although bothering Slash about it for years, even offering more money than it was technically worth, the Guns N’ Roses axeman ended up giving the guitar up to its previous owner.

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Of course, Gibson also made some Joe Perry Les Paul models over the years. And, in 2019, the company and the Aerosmith guitarist announced the release of the new goldtop model. Perry then said of it:

“After working on this guitar with Gibson for close to 3 years, it is finally here! After several decades of playing many different guitars I think this one represents the nearly impossible task of bringing the best of all of them into this new signature model.”

In another interview, Perry also reflected on some of the guitar model’s specs by saying:

“It’s the best of the Stratocaster and the best of the Les Paul.”

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“Because I love the sound of the Les Paul and, ultimately, I love the way a Les Paul feels, but I love the ergonomics of a Strat. I love the whammy bar.”

“So this new guitar I’m playing is a Les Paul from Gibson’s Custom Shop, with one pickup and a vibrato arm on it.”

“It’s balanced and works great and stays in tune. And it’s got a [Chandler] Tone X for tone control – it has what looks like a tone knob, but actually when you pull it out it brings the Tone X into action [a 16dB boost with a midrange sweep].”

“So you can either set it to a cool tone or get a wah-wah thing out of it. Right now, that guitar gives me a lot of stuff to play with.”

Photo: daigooliva (Joe Perry 1)


  • 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.