We’ve all had one of these, right? That guitar that you keep selling and then buying back, that one you don’t see as a keeper but that you find yourself missing when it’s not there. This guitar is just that for Joe Bonamassa. It was not made for him, but it certainly was a Custom-ordered guitar.
The unknown guitarist who asked for it wanted a cherry red ES-295 (a guitar that usually sports a gold top finish akin to the early Les Pauls) with three P90s instead of the usual two, a Bigsby (instead of the usual trapeze bridge) and an extra armrest (since the original ES-295 wasn’t flashy enough). Of course, the armrest had to match the pickguard. The result is a guitar that looks incredible, both familiar and very unique.
Joe has bought it in Nashville, and the guitar comes with his original receipt. He has used it extensively on his 2011 album Dust Bowl, one of his best releases that includes the excellent John Hiatt cover “Tennessee Plates”. After that, he sold it, but then decided to buy it back when it came up for sale. He has finally agreed to sell it to Matt’s Guitar Shop, probably realizing that he has done the album he was supposed to do with it. But as we all know, that sinking feeling can always rear its ugly head and if you buy that guitar, be prepared for Joe to try and buy it back from you someday!
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Sloe Gin
It is not easy to invent yourself as an adult artist when you have been a child prodigy. Joe was Danny Gatton’s student and protégé to B.B. King before he was even old enough to drive a car, and was touring with the band Bloodline (with other child prodigies, the sons of stars like Miles Davis and Robby Krieger) before he could vote. But it all could have ended there. Indeed, the other members of Bloodline have all disappeared into the ether of show business. But Bonamassa has always had an unstoppable work ethic, and by dint of touring he ended up imposing his own sound and solo discography.
It all began in 2000 with A New Day Yesterday, a completely honest blues album on which guests like Leslie West, Greg Allman, and Rick Derringer accompanied the young musician. At the time, Bonamassa played Strats and Telecasters, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence could still be in much of his phrasing. But little by little he found his own voice when he switched to a Les Paul and combined his Marshall Silver Jubilee with a few other boutique heads for a result as bluesy as it is fat and organic. It was also the time when producer Kevin Shirley began collaborating with Bonamassa. They first worked together on You & Me (2006) and still do to this day. Sloe Gin (2007) and Ballad Of John Henry (2009) are tracks that established Joe’s reputation as the saviour of the blues, the future of a style that was thought to be reserved for baby boomers on the eve of retirement.
Since then, Bonamassa has never slowed his touring pace. In fact, he has redoubled his inventiveness to vary his shows, whether in a tribute concert to Muddy Waters and Holwin’ Wolf, a tribute tour to the three Kings of Blues, or to the British Blues Boom. He also plays on the albums of singer Beth Hart as well as with the bands Black Country Communion (alongside bassist and singer Glenn Hughes) and Rock Candy Funk Party. At the same time, the collector’s instinct of the man who was born with a guitar in his hands (his father owns a store) has only intensified, to the point where he owns about ten sunbursts, two korina Flying Vs, and a staggering number of rare instruments. However, those guitars are not just stowed away in a safe place. They go on the road with Joe. After all, that’s what they were made for.