At Matt’s Guitar Shop we love a good guitar mystery. And mysteries can obviously be found on vintage guitars, but also when it comes to obscure custom shop exclusive limited runs. We already had one of these SG Ultimate in the collection, which makes our collection the only one who can boast having two among the very few Ultimates made by the Gibson Custom Shop. They have been custom-made for the Neiman Marcus catalogue, a high-end store based in Texas, and could only be ordered through them.
This is the first Gibbons-designed SG with a Flying V headstock, the one that showed the ZZ Top man how cool this mixture could get and convinced him to design a few more of those lovable monsters. This eccentric original has a two-level two-color top with gold hardware (including a very cool sideways vibrola), simple dot fretboard markers (no extra bling was needed), a backplate shaped like the state of Texas and BFG’s signature where the neck meets the pickup, were the Les Paul name would have been on the very first SGs.
Here’s where the mystery lies: this is Prototype number 2, and the other one we have is prototype number 3. On #3, the serial number has been handwritten with a sharpie on the back of the headstock. On this #2, it has been stamped. We were able to track down number 1, on which the number has been stamped, and number 5 on which it has been handwritten. This raises many questions: how many of these are there out there? Are they all numbered as “Prototypes” or have there been actual non-proto models? And which ones are handwritten or stamped serials? We’d love to know, just for the sake or guitar geekdom.
Group : ZZ Top
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Just Got Paid
Billy Gibbons is the boss. The boss of guitarists with his sensual tremolo and the fat sound like a burrito he gets from his Les Paul. The boss of singers with his rocky and twangy sound. The boss of bandleaders with ZZ Top, his trio whose lineup has remained the same since 1969. The boss of engineers, with an impeccable sense of staging. And finally the boss of collectors, with several hangars filled with several thousand guitars that he has acquired over the years. Legend has it that he would have a copy from every year of every model from the major brands, and that may not be just a legend... In any case, the guitars that we know he has are enough to turn heads. From “Mistress Pearly Gates”, the famous Les Paul 59 that has always been with him, to his 54 hardtail Strat that we often hear in addition to Pearly Gates, along with his many custom hotrod guitars.
His career began in 1967 with The Moving Sidewalks, one of the few psychedelic Texas rock bands inspired by the 13th Floor Elevators. They opened for Jimi Hendrix before breaking up in 1969, when Gibbons founded ZZ Top.
The trio began with rich and traditional blues rock before going in a more electronic direction, starting with Degüello in 1979. That direction was confirmed with the Eliminator/Afterburner/Recycler trilogy. Three albums where the blend of Gibbons’ blues with the synthesisers and drum machines of the time produced a result that won over many fans, whether they came to trio’s music through singles like Gimme All Your Loving and Rough Boy, or through the band’s excellent videos that were often played on MTV. Since then, ZZ Top has reinvented its music once again with a fatter, more organic, and fuzzy sound. Gibbons has made multiple appearances as a guest star on other musicians’ albums. He has also released two albums under his own name: Perfectamundo, which explores Cuban music, and Big Bad Blues, which returns to his first loves, between Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. The circle is complete.