My Les Paul. A short story of an old friend

I bought it brand spanking new in the fall of 1971 for $550. It was a Les Paul Custom Sunburst. My dream of many years to finally own. That dream turned to a bit of a nightmare when I discovered the frets were the tiny “fretless wonder” model. It was thrown across the stage at the El Mocambo club in Toronto in a beer driven frustration when I played there with Mashmakhan in 1972. Me bad. It ended upside down in a 45 gallon drum of ice and cheap champagne bottles in Moncton New Brunswick when I was a member of “All the Young Dudes” when we played the last show opening for the “Bee Gee’s” in 1975. Me bad again. I had new jumbo frets installed in 1976 and that’s when it started to become a great guitar.

It has been on every April Wine recording I have ever done. It was on the Dudes Demos and the ill fated Dudes album. I used it at every Mashmakhan gig we did as well as my not so well promoted solo album in 1988, not to mention all the shows I did jamming with local bands and local solo projects over the years.

In 1978 I refinished it With the help of Pierre Laporte at his shop. I wanted it to resemble a 1959 Sunburst Les Paul. We shaved the neck to have a thinner radius and resprayed it in more of a faded reddish yellow finish. It was really coming to what I wanted it to be now. It has stayed that way to present day minus the beautiful wear and tear marks which today is called relic.

[quote]It has been on every April Wine recording I have ever done.[/quote]

The pickups have been changed at least 5 times. The original Gibson ones were replaced with Seymour Duncan’s. The neck pickup was always a JB model and the bridge was always a ’59 model. That’s what I always used or replaced when one would die from being soaked in sweat from live shows. I do sweat a lot playing live. This year I put in a set of Seymour Duncan Antiquity Pickups. I wouldn’t change a thing now. It is perfect for me. It has aged very well. The neck was cracked twice at the top but fixed properly. You would never notice.

In 2012, Ian Vance, the luthier at Lauzon Music in Ottawa, did a major restoration on the guitar. I had not been using it live in 5 year as I was playing Fender Eric Clapton model Strats. They were lighter and I did not want to take my now 40ish year old prize out ton the road. I had had a copy made of the Gibson by Brian Monty of Monty guitars to use in it’s place. That was stolen and still remains missing. After that happened I really didn’t want to take the Les Paul out the house. So it languished at home not being used at all. Worst thing to do to a guitar.


The neck will bow, the wood will dry out. Makes it rather unplayable. That’s where Ian came to the rescue. It took him about 6 months, but he restored it to better than new condition. He spent hours and hours working on it.

 Chapeau Ian!

 That being done, I had to bring it back on the road. It felt like old times with a good friend. A heavy good friend. That guitar weighs fourteen and a half pounds. All tone. I won’t bring it to the United States as they have a weird law called the Lacey Act which prohibits the importation of certain protected woods and ivory into the USA. There is no banned wood in that guitar, but all I need is some exuberance of a US Border Service officer to seize it as they can do and have done to other unfortunate musicians. That’s another story. Look it up. The Lacey Act. It’s controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department. Strange how Fish and Wildlife can be used in the same paragraph as a semi-vintage guitar. That’s the world we live in nowadays.

That guitar has shared the stage with The Rolling Stones, Rush, Styx, The Tubes, Foreigner, Marshall Tucker, Bee Gee’s Barry White, Matt Minglewood, Trooper, Kim Mitchell, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Journey, The Guess Who, Neil Young, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, UFO, Nazarath, Blue Oyster Cult, Boston, Kenny Logans, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Leonard Skynard, Rick Derringer, Loverboy, Kansas and many more I just cannot think of right now as we cruise at .79 Mach at thirty thousand feet on our way to Edmonton.

I often wondered what it would look and feel like when it got older. You see, I never planned to part with it.

Not all my reviews and stories will be close to 800 words, but this one is my favourite story. It has been my friend for 43 years. It has been almost everywhere my musical career has taken me. It is worthy of a good tale.

Photo by Mark Vesford

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