Slash: ’Just Because a Les Paul Was Made in 1959 Doesn’t Necessarily Mean It Has to Sound Good’

It may be controversial to point it out, but if a Gibson Les Paul was manufactured back in 1959, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it sounds good. If Guns N’ Roses legend Slash says that, then there’s probably some truth to it.

While chatting with Guitar World recently, Slash reflected on his famous use of Les Paul guitars over the years. When asked whether he remembers that Les Pauls would be his guitars of choice, especially knowing that he also used stuff like B.C. Rich Mockingbird, he said:

“They are definitely magical instruments, but that’s actually a complicated question. I think all guitar players, or at least most of us, start off by trying to find the instrument we’re most comfortable with. We all go through that period of trial and error. I think I ended up with the Les Paul because the first electric guitar I ever got was a Les Paul copy made by a company called Memphis Guitars.”

“So I just naturally gravitated to a Les Paul not knowing that much about guitar sounds at the time. I really didn’t have any experience or any real knowledge of what everybody was doing or about equipment in general. But it seemed like I was attracted to what I thought a Les Paul sounded like.”

When asked who infliuenced him to pick up a Les Paul, he said:

“There were a few guys who influenced me when it came to playing Les Pauls. I’d seen Eric Clapton holding one, as well as Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons… A lot of players who had a great sound using those guitars.”

Slash Gave Joe Perry Back His Prized Guitar | CONAN on TBS

“I specifically remember hearing Whole Lotta Love from Led Zeppelin II when I was seven years old. And I attributed that sound – from what I felt was the coolest record I’d ever heard at that point in my life – to the Les Paul.”

“Still, to this day, I’d say it’s one of the coolest records ever made. And I knew it was a Les Paul making those guitar tones because I saw pictures of Jimmy Page holding one – so that’s what made me associate the Les Paul with that kind of sound. Looking back now, I think that connection was pretty accurate! So I knew I was attracted to the sound of a Les Paul.”

“I had that copy for a while and eventually it broke. I went through a myriad of different guitars to see what they sounded like, just exploring when it came to my tone. I ended up going back to the Les Paul and I’ve been with that ever since.”

The Collection: Slash

When reminded that Jeff Beck was also one of the famous Les Paul players, he replied:

“Yeah! Jeff Beck was another big one for me. I remember seeing the cover for [1975 album] ‘Blow By Blow‘ and thinking, ‘Okay, he uses a Les Paul, too!’ Even though there’s a lot of Strat on that record as well, at the time I didn’t know any better!”

Of course, Slash is known for his legendary ’59 Gibson Les Paul that previously belonged to Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and which he eventually returned to its rightful owner. However, what many people may not know is that the guitar in question was also owned by The Allman Brothers Band legend Duane Allman. When asked about this particular guitar and when also reminded that Eric Johnson has allegedly owned it at one point, he said:

“Yeah, Duane and Eric owned it too, which is crazy! I was in Japan when I got the phone call from the office in LA saying that there was a guy who had a guitar I might be interested in. I was a big fan of Aerosmith and I remember the Live! Bootleg record had a couple of pictures of a Les Paul that looked different.

Slash | The Slash Collection

“It wasn’t your typical red sunburst finish. I thought it was just really faded and beaten up, because it had gone brown, but it was what we now call Tobacco Burst or Dark Burst. But anyway, I thought it was the coolest looking Les Paul I’d ever seen. So fast forward to Guns N’ Roses’ first tour of Japan and I got this phone call saying there’s this guitar available and that it was an old ’59 which had belonged to Joe Perry.

“I was like, ‘Well, get them to send over pictures’ – because I started to get pretty excited. I was wondering: could that possibly be that same guitar I know from the Bootleg record? When I got back to LA, in my mailbox was an envelope stuffed full of polaroids and it was that same fuckin’ guitar! So I bought it for eight grand!

“The guy probably didn’t know what he had or just wanted to unload it. I kept that guitar for a long time and used it for various things. I used it in the November Rain video and some other stuff, but yeah, like you said, I eventually ended up giving it back to Joe.”

Joe Perry holding his 1959 Les Paul Standard Darkburst.

Eventually, Slash ended up giving that guitar back to Aerosmith legend Joe Perry. But, of course, there’s always that talk about 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitars and how they supposedly magically add to the supposed sonic pleasure that we hear. But, according to Slash, the year of production isn’t necessarily the trait that one should pay too much attention to. Asked about another 1959 Gibson Les Paul that he owned, Slash said:

“That guitar, besides the one I gave back to Joe Perry, was actually the first ’59 I purchased. At the time, it was just a ’59 Les Paul that was available. But since buying it I’ve realised it’s a guitar that always sounds amazing. It’s one of those guitars that has that real magic tone to it.

“I mean, just because a Les Paul was made in 1959 doesn’t necessarily mean it has to sound good. I’ve heard ’59s that don’t sound good and ones that sound incredible. I own a couple that sound really amazing, and this is one of them.”

Photo: Ed Vill (Guns n´Roses Palacio de los Deportes 30-11-2016 (31623633961))


  • 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.