“It was terrifically ugly… but I plugged it into a Bassman and fell in love with it immediately”: Steve Hunter hated the look of his '59 Les Paul TV Special – but tonally, it was love at first strum

Steve Hunter and Lou Reed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After his 1973 concept album Berlin bombed, Lou Reed's guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner helped him get his groove back by recording the Rock 'n' Roll Animal live album, which revived Reed's savage spirit.

Hunter reflects on this pivotal point in Reed's career in the latest issue of Guitar Player, paying close attention to a notable '59 Gibson Les Paul TV Special that featured heavily during this time – and that he came to own under rather strange circumstances. 

Hunter's Gibson SG (and Bob Ezrin's Martin acoustic) was stolen from the studio while the pair were on a dinner break during the Berlin sessions. Thankfully, the studio's insurance paid out for replacements, with Hunter quickly striking up an affinity for a TV Special in a Manhattan music store. 

“It was terrifically ugly, but in a good way,” he says. “It had one pickup, a P90. I plugged it into a Bassman and just fell in love with it immediately.  

“I bought it on the spot. I loved playing it and used it till the neck broke, unfortunately, which was common with a lot of those Les Pauls.” 

From the initial rehearsals ahead of the Rock 'n' Roll Animal tour, it was clear to Hunter that the assembled band had something special. 

“When we got together and played for the first time, you could sense, 'Oh, wow, this can be a really powerful band,’” he remembers. “We felt our job was to make that power and angst come out of the music so that Lou could ride on top of it. We really wanted to make it just slam.”

To pick up the new issue of Guitar Player – which features an extensive chat with Hunter – head over to Magazines Direct

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.