“It’s not out of the question... to have some made in the States would be wonderful”: Brian May is in talks with Gibson to produce new Red Special replicas

Brian May's Red Special guitar, as used in Queen
(Image credit: Future)

In February, when Gibson guitar legends like Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi gathered for the launch of the London Gibson Garage, Brian May was a surprise special guest. 

Rumors of a Gibson-made Red Special began to circulate almost immediately after May was announced as the firm's latest family member at the event, and have since intensified as guitar fans contemplate what this new working relationship could spell.  

Now, the Queen guitarist has revealed that talks about a production run have indeed taken place. 

May's iconic Red Special, a home-made solidbody carved partially from an 18th-century fireplace with the help of his father, has been the guitarist's ever-reliable sidekick throughout his career. 

There have been several production variations of the design produced over the years – including one finished in the “world’s pinkest pink” in 2020 – released under the Brian May Guitars moniker.  

The firm has been producing Red Special copies for the past two decades. It even expanded its range with a non-Red Special signature model for Arielle in 2021.  

(from left to right) James Bay, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, and Brian May at the Gibson Garage London kickoff event on February 22, 2024

(Image credit: Dave Hogan)

Going off comments made by the rock icon in the latest issue of Guitar World, it appears that Gibson and its Murphy Lab, which specializes in making brand-new builds seem like vintage guitars, will take the reins of production. 

“It’s not out of the question,” says May. “We have spoken about such things, and it would be lovely to have an edition of the Brian May guitar based in the States. After all, that’s where I started with Guild. 

“Guild made the first Brian May models, and then I went with Burns in [the UK]. And then things changed, and I just wanted to do it myself. Now we have our own Brian May Guitars company here, but to have the facility to have some made in the States would be wonderful.”

Gibson, which celebrates 130 years of business in 2024, is certainly well qualified for the job. The Gibson Custom Shop and Murphy Lab have, in recent years, reproduced Kirk Hammett’s legendary Greeny Les Paul and Jimmy Page’s EDS-1275 double-neck with painstaking accuracy. 

Brian May, Red Special guitar in hand, performs live in 1993

(Image credit: John Atashian/Getty Images)

Jason Isbell’s 'Red Eye' Les Paul, previously owned by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ed King, and Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr’s beloved 1956 Les Paul Junior are two of its latest faithful rebuilds. 

Both models have utilized the latest technological advancements to achieve a near-identical likeness to their original counterparts, right down to their wear. Could the Red Special be next in line? 

Brian May Guitars was launched in 2004, with May working in partnership with his long-standing technician, Pete Malandrone. Its lower-end Red Special replica currently sells for a fairly modest $849, but with Gibson at the helm, the world's most musical fireplace could soon get a more high-end and realistic replica.  

“The Gibson Garage is great,” May says, reflecting on its grand opening event. “Some people were saying, ‘Well, what the hell are you doing at Gibson? You’ve got your own guitar company.’ But actually, I have a great relationship with [Gibson] now.”

Naturally, May’s comments will whet the appetite of Queen lovers, and there are hopes that a US-made Gibson Red Special may not be too far away. 

Keep an eye on Gibson for further updates.  

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.