Of all the great original 1959 Standards out there — a pretty small number to begin with — Joe Perry’s Les Paul has long been acclaimed as one of the finest.
The rich, road-worn character of this guitar, serial number 9-0663, is utterly moving, and it seems to throb with the wealth of music and experience earned over decades of being played on stages and in recording studios around the world.
In Perry’s own words, “It’s got everything a great Les Paul is supposed to have. The neck isn’t quite as fat as, say, a ’54 Goldtop, but it’s still got a good, meaty neck. It’s not a high-output guitar, so it’s got a lot of tone … And it’s got all the natural sustain and warmth, and when you turn it up it growls.”
As stunning a tone monster as this guitar is, however, the story of its passage in and out of Perry’s hands over the years is equally riveting. Slash, Boston-area guitar legend Billy Loosigian and Eric Johnson have all owned number 9-0663 over the years, as it did the rounds through the various ups and downs of Aerosmith’s career.
Perry doesn’t remember exactly how he acquired the guitar, but believes it was in a “midnight swap.”
“Back then, that kind of thing happened constantly,” Perry explains. “One night we played a show with the New York Dolls and I remember trading Johnny Thunders a guitar for a two-pickup TV Model with P-90s. I loved the way it sounded, and I had something he liked so we just swapped. That went on all the time.
“I didn’t have many guitars back then. At one point I had a white three-pickup Les Paul SG that somebody leant me. Once I got that ’59 Les Paul, it was my Les Paul. I only had one that I really counted on. I had a couple Juniors and a three-pickup black one that came and went. 1959 Les Pauls are spectacular instruments and this was my first one.
“Apparently the majority of Les Pauls made in 1959 have been accounted for. [Noted guitar collector] Perry Margouleff tells me about 80-percent of them have been located and people track down more of them every year, but most of them are in collections and aren’t going anywhere. But every one of these guitars has a story. They are 54-years-old now, so that’s a real lifetime of experience for a person or an instrument.”
An important part of the story of Perry and this gorgeous Les Paul is a 35-year separation. And Slash, Eric Johnson, jazz guitarist Gerry Beaudoin and Boston rock legend Billy Loosigian all figure into it, too.
Stories of how the guitar left Perry’s hands differ. He recalls needing cash and selling it $4,500, but is unsure of further details. Others, including Loosigian, suggest that it was sold to the owner of now-long-gone Cambridge, Massachusetts music shop East Coast Guitars, along with some other gear, by Perry’s first wife Elyssa after their divorce.
Loosigian strolled into the Elliott Street shop one day, where he’d worked for a time, and saw the guitar on the counter. “I recognized it as Joe Perry’s immediately,” he says. “I bought it for $4,200 and a trade-in Firebird 1. I restored it. It had pits all over the fingerboard, Japanese style plastic tuners and brass speed dials. Also, there were no covers on the pickups. I fixed all that, put on Kluson tuners and Gibson pickup covers and had it refretted.”
Thanks to Gibson Custom and Perry, you can now own the closest possible thing to Joe’s most prized guitar, in the form of one of a very limited run of replicas based on exclusive access to the original. The Joe Perry 1959 Les Paul was created from painstaking examination and measurement of the original guitar and delivers the full tone, feel and look of this highly prized ’Burst. It is available now in a limited run of 50 guitars aged and hand-signed by the artist, 100 aged guitars, and 150 finished in Gibson’s VOS process.
The recreation starts with a solid, one-piece premium lightweight mahogany body married to a hand-selected maple top. The guitar is finished in an exclusive Faded Tobacco Burst with Historic “Vintage” aniline red and dark walnut dye on the back, sides, and back of the neck, just like the original The hand-aged examples show characteristic wear that authentically matches the playing wear on the original, while the VOS guitars display a gently-aged patina in the finish and hardware.
The neck is carved from a single piece of quarter-sawn mahogany and profiled to a full and sweetly rounded ’59 shape derived from precise measurement of Joe’s own guitar, then topped with a one-piece rosewood fingerboard inlaid with period-correct cellulose trapezoids. A set of Kluson Deluxe tuners, a lightweight aluminum stopbar tailpiece, and ABR-1 bridge complete a period-correct hardware complement, while vintage cream binding, gold Top Hat knobs, and a cream plastic pickguard enhance the guitar’s vintage looks.
The Joe Perry 1959 Les Paul sounds every bit as phenomenal as it looks and feels, thanks to a pair of Custombucker humbucking pickups designed to closely match the original PAFs in Joe’s guitar. Each is made with an Alnico 3 magnet and wound with accurate plain-enamel 42 AWG plain-enamel wire to specs determine by close measurement of the original pickups, with a neck pickup that reads around 8k ohms and bridge pickup that’s slightly hotter at 8.5k ohms for plenty of authentic growl.
Controls include the traditional independent volume and tones, with “bumble bee” tone caps on the latter, and a three-way Switchcraft axial toggle selector. Put it all together, and it’s like making this well-traveled, rock-history-making Les Paul your very own—but the Joe Perry 1959 Les Paul is only available in strictly limited numbers, so reserve yours now at your authorized Gibson Custom dealer.
Each guitar includes a Brown Custom Shop hardshell case, along with Certificate of Authenticity, owner’s manual and adjustment literature, and Gibson Custom’s Limited Lifetime Warranty and 24/7/365 Customer Service.
For more about this guitar, check out its page on Gibson.com.
To read Perry's account of this guitar's history, head here.