Warren Haynes Recalls Getting a Flawed Les Paul That Gibson Couldn’t Sell, Discusses String Action He Uses for Slide

Recently, Gov’t Mule guitarist and frontman Warren Haynes got together with Premier Guitar for their traditional Rig Rundown segment. And during the interview, Warrant went through a bunch of his guitars and other gear, revealing what he’s using for his live shows now. One particular guitar that stood out was a Gibson Les Paul that he was famous for while playing as a member of The Allman Brothers band.

Getting to this fine Les Paul, Warren shared a story behind the guitar that, as he reveals, almost ended up in the garbage somewhere. He said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“This has an interesting story. I’ve been playing this guitar for a long time. I usually keep this one tuned to drop D on the bottom. I played this guitar in the Allman Brothers a lot.

Allman Brothers Collection on Letterman, 1994-96 (Extended)

“The story with this guitar is… Years, years, years ago, I went to the Gibson Custom Shop and said that I was looking for a tobacco sunburst Les Paul. They only had a few at the Custom Shop at that time. And I played three or however many they had.

“And none of them had like that feeling like, when you play a guitar acoustically without plugging it in, you can always tell a really magical guitar. And none of them had that magic.

“And my friend Rick Gembar, who was running the Gibson Custom Shop at that time said, ‘Well, I want you to get one that you love.’ And he just happened to remember this guitar that had been hanging on the wall in his office.

Warren Haynes Inspired By Les Paul

“He said, ‘What about that one hanging on my wall?’ And they said, ‘Oh, well, it’s flawed, we can’t sell it.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well, there’s two extra screw holes in it where somebody put screw holes in the wrong place.’

“So they were just gonna scrap it. So it’s been sitting on his wall for like two years or something. It had no tuners, no pickups, no electronics. It was just wood.

When the interviewer asked him whether it was strung up, he replied:

“No, nothing, it was just a piece of wood. And he said, ‘How long would it take to put this guitar together?’ It had no tuners on. And they said about 15 or 20 minutes.

Warren Haynes ­with Joe Bonamassa | Guitar Center's King of the Blues 2011

“So we’re at Gibson, we sat around and tried some other guitars and played and stuff and they brought it out. And it sounded better than any of the guitars that I had been playing. And I was like, ‘Can I have this one?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’

“They couldn’t sell it. Legally, they couldn’t call it a Les Paul. And so, for me, for all the guitars that I had from that time period, this is my favorite one. And had that not occurred, this guitar would probably be in the garbage somewhere.

And, as Warren reveals, this is his go-to instrument for slide playing:

“I mean, it’s a really cool guitar all the way around, but I play slide on it a lot.

Dave Matthews Band feat Warren Haynes - Cortez The Killer

Going into more detail on the matter, the interviewer asked Haynes about his string action when playing the slide guitar. Particularly, he asked Warren whether he keeps the action higher compared to the guitars for conventional playing. And, interestingly enough, he revealed that the action is pretty much the same as with all the other guitars he uses, at least at this moment:

“I usually keep them the same. There are a couple of guitars where the action is a tiny bit higher, but I like to keep my action, what I refer as ‘too high for lead and not high enough for slide.’ So that’s what I’m comfortable with.”

“But this one, I use a little too low at the moment because I had it too high in the last few days and we just lowered it and I’m still kind of tampering. I’m gonna have to raise it back up just a tiny bit.”

Warren Haynes & Gov't Mule, "Cant You See" New Haven CT, 4/30/21

When further asked “Do you remember what pickups they put in it,” Haynes replied:

“I think they used to be classic ’57s. But I don’t know if they still are. [His tech confirms from backstage] They still are? Okay. And you know, I’m one of those guys that if it sounds good, I just leave it. I don’t really care what’s in a guitar. If I pick it up, and it sounds good, I’m like, ‘Okay, cool.'”

He also added:

“Some of my guitars have burst Buckers in them. We try a bunch of different stuff and if something sounds good in a certain piece of wood, then we stay with it.”

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

  • 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 and brands like Sam Ash.