Warren Haynes Reveals How He Ended Up Buying a ’59 Gibson Les Paul

Blues rock guitar legend and Gov’t Mule leader Warren Haynes recalled how he ended up purchasing his 1959 Gibson Les Paul despite initially not being into overly expensive guitars. These Les Pauls made in 1959 and 1960 are often referred to as “The Holy Grail” of guitars, with prices going well into six figures.

Appearing in an interview with Dean Delray, Haynes discussed the matter, sharing a few details behind his prized ’59 LP. The instrument has been in his possession since around the 2000s as he recalls. And, of course, it doesn’t usually go that far from his home.

Let There Be Talk episode 726 / Warren Haynes, Gov't Mule, The Allman Brothers

“My friend Ronnie Proler in Texas, he’s a collector,” Warren began explaining when asked about this guitar and where he got it from. “And it’s just a gorgeous instrument.”

And the instrument also came with a name:

“It was named Maddie before I got it, so I still call it Maddie. I’m not the one that named it.”

“But it’s beautiful. Farmer used to say that it has the best bass pickup he had heard. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it’s such a beautiful-sounding instrument.”

Warren Haynes' "Illegal" Les Paul That Was Played with the Allman Brothers

This LP also found its way onto The Allman Brothers Band’s final shows. Haynes was a long-time member of the legendary blues group and was one of the guys involved in the final lineup:

“I played it a lot in the final Beacon [Theater] shows, and I played it a lot in the studio, but I don’t want to bring it too far from home.”

When asked whether he had been looking for one of these for years or if it had happened when he had enough money, Haynes replied — “All the above.” However, as he explains, he wasn’t necessarily into expensive guitars and saw no point in having one. Warren explained:

“When I joined The Allman Brothers in ’89, I remember somebody had a ’59 that they wanted to sell me for $15,000. I was like, ‘I will never pay $15,000 for a guitar, are you crazy?'”

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“And now you look back and go, ‘Wow, I could have gotten a ’59 Les Paul for $15,000.’ [Laughs] If my whole life was like that, well, I’d love to have one, but it sure is a lot of money.”

Of course, it’s not like he was just offered one of these and decided to purchase it. As he adds, he tried out a lot of ’96 LPs, but Maddie was special:

“Ronnie has been such a great friend through the years and helped me find the right one, and it just worked out. I looked at a lot — I played probably 30 or 40 of them. I’m really happy with the one that I wound up with, but I don’t see myself as one of those people that will continue down that road.”

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Some years ago, Haynes also got his signature Gibson Les Paul. During the interview, Haynes was asked to share more details about the model to which he replied:

“My signature model is a ’58 body and a ’59 neck. It has Burstbucker 1 in the rhythm position and Burstbucker 2 in the treble position.”

“And it has this buffer preamp with a switch that you can turn on and off. That enables you to get all the treble back when you turn the guitar down really low on the volume knob. So that offers a lot of tone variations beyond what would be in a normal Les Paul.”

“I’ve gotten so used to playing those guitars that they’re the most comfortable for me to play. I know how to navigate those guitars more than anything.”

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“We’re also working on a signature Firebird and maybe another signature Les Paul,” Warren added. “I have a great relationship with Gibson, and they allow me to give a lot of input and explore different options. And you know, I’ve been a Gibson guy my entire life.”

When asked about the matter of “’58 body and ’59 neck” and what it actually means, Haynes replied:

“You know, that’s a good question because I’m basing it on what I remember. Brian Farmer, my old guitar tech that passed away, that’s the way he used to describe it, because he helped me with a lot of the design work and stuff. I don’t know if there’s a difference in the curve or not.”

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“That’s something that I can easily be corrected on,” he added, “but that’s what Farmer used to always say — it’s a ’58 body and a ’59 neck. But I could be so wrong that it’s the exact same thing. [Laughs]”

Asked about the choice of a maple top and how he ended up with a flamed instead of a plain option, Haynes replied:

“Yeah, we talked about doing a plain top in the beginning and then possibly doing a flame top later on. It was just something that got batted around [and] that seemed to be the preference. I’ve really become fond of the plain tops, although my real ’59 is a beautiful burst.”

Warren Haynes' 12-String Gibson Les Paul

Photo: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi (Gov’t Mule – Leverkusener Jazztage 2017-6479)

Author

  • 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.