“I had no illusion there. I knew he would clock it, of course”: Chris Shiflett on trying to convince Joe Bonamassa his Murphy Lab ‘59 Les Paul was genuine – and why it’s great for country music

Chris Shiflett Joe Bonamassa
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On his new solo EP, Starry Nights & Campfire Lights, Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett has ditched tube amps for a Quad Cortex. But he had some very specific guitars in mind to help achieve his desired tones. 

That included a Gibson Murphy Lab ‘59 Les Paul reissue, an instrument he tried – and subsequently failed – to fool avid gear collector Joe Bonamassa into thinking it was the real deal. 

“It was a half-hearted effort,” he admits during a new Total Guitar interview. “I had no illusion there, I knew he would clock it, of course.”

The rouse was attempted while Bonamassa guested on his Shred With Shifty podcast. But Bonamassa – as the second Reverb documentary filmed at his home-turned-museum Nerdville details – knows his onions. 

The new EP features two covers: a country version of Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song, and an Americana reimagining of Hanoi Rocks’ Don’t You Ever Leave Me. For the former, Shiflett was eager to emulate Scott Gorham’s recording tricks. 

“Pretty much all the rhythm tracks were done on a Telecaster, and there’s some acoustic stuff,” he details. “That was the meat of it. I did one pass of the solo, all the way through, on my Tele, and then at the halfway point, I overdubbed a Les Paul on top, because I was copying what Scott Gorham did on the original.

Joe Bonamassa Talks Les Paul Bursts, Dumbles, and the Blues | Shred with Shifty - YouTube Joe Bonamassa Talks Les Paul Bursts, Dumbles, and the Blues | Shred with Shifty - YouTube
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“I felt like it needed that little extra something. On my last run of solo shows, I brought a Les Paul, Tele, and Strat. Between those three I could cover all the sounds I needed to. The Les Paul was brand new, I just got it a few months ago from Chicago Music Exchange. It’s a Murphy Lab pretend 1959.”

Of the Murphy Lab build, Shiflett told MusicRadar :“It's kind of a little bit of a darker burst – it's not the real pink ones. It's kind of dark, and it's really light. It's seven, or a little over seven pounds. So it's just light as a feather, and that thing just, wow. It sounds incredible and plays amazing.” 

The Les Paul isn’t seen by most as the best guitar for country music, but Shiflett says otherwise of his Murphy Lab model. He believes too that opting for a left-field guitar choice and breaking out of genre borders paid dividends on the final track.

Chris Shiflett - "Cowboy Song" (Official Audio) - YouTube Chris Shiflett -
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“I love it for country,” he beams. “I went to go see Hank [Williams] Jr. a few months ago when he played in LA and [he was] playing an SG a lot of the time and [had] real crunchy tones. It was kind of inspiring in terms of guitar choices, amps, overdrives, and all that stuff.”

Shiflett’s new EP is a quickfire to his 2023 LP, Lost At Sea. Produced by Cadillac Three’s Jaron Johnston, in a wide-ranging Guitar Player interview, he said the pair got very experimental with the amps and pedals they used across the record.

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.