The result of an unusual collaboration, this guitar is one of the rare examples of a double signature model bringing together Johnny A. - ace session guitar player and current member of the Yardbirds - and blues prodigy Joe Bonamassa. Johnny A. has had his own Gibson signature model since 2003 - a radical design that remains one of the most inventive and interesting ones to have come out of the Nashville factory since the seventies.
It is a semi-hollow thinline, (the same formula as an ES-335) with a slightly smaller build (like an ES-339), and peculiar f-holes that recall Rickenbacker, a bigsby, and more importantly a double Florentine cutaway (same as an SG). Even the pickguard is sharper than usual, in the same spirit as the cutaways. This mix is very harmonious and bold, providing the instrument with a vintage look.
Joe Bonamassa comes into play in 2017 when the project was launched : creating a solid body version of the Johnny A. with a spruce top - the same wood as ES-335s or the brand’s acoustic guitars. The pickguard is more traditional, and the bridge is fixed. Although it was introduced at NAMM, the Johnny A. Spruce Bonamassa remained a very limited edition with its parallelogram-shaped inlays. On this prototype, we see the fretboard logo which has adorned Joe’s personal specimens for the Bonabyrd or the Blackburst, a guarantee that this guitar does come from his personal collection. A Johnny A. Spruce would be a rare find, but this prototype is simply one-of-a-kind.
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.