Signature model guitars have a special allure: the aura of a certain artist’s musical magic. But which are the most alluring?
Judging by the reactions of players at trade shows, festivals, auto races, and other events visited by the Gibson Custom Shop’s traveling 40-foot exhibit trailer, the five six-string Signature mojo machines that draw the most interest are:
Zakk Wylde Les Paul Bullseye
This Bullseye beauty is a hard-core rock guitar with active pickups, an EMG-81 and an EMG-85, and an unfinished maple neck — Wylde’s variation on the Les Paul Custom. Since it was first issued in 1999 the guitar’s been a magnet for Ozzy and Zakk influenced shredders.
Take a closer look at the Zakk Wylde Les Paul Bullseye.
B.B. King Lucille
B.B. personally oversaw the development of this refined take on the classic ES-345, including the elimination of f-holes to reduce uncontrolled feedback, a TP-6 fine-tuning tailpiece, and ebony good looks. Typically these guitars are plucked off their display mounts by older players who grew up on blues, but lately the genre’s been reaching a younger audience — and so have Lucille models. This guitar sports its name on its headstock and has stereo/mono jacks. And of course there’s the Vari-Tone, a six-position midrange notch filter. The Lucille is a larger bodied guitar, yet its lighter weight and burnished tone make her loveable for fans of Les Pauls and SGs.
Take a closer look at the B.B. King Lucille.
Johnny A. with Bigsby
This guitar is a real attention getter on its own terms and offers some fairly unique characteristics. The fully hollow body is one-piece mahogany and the inside is flat in the back to increase natural projection. The Bigsy vibrato tailpiece that A. uses is optional, but not so the guitar’s distinctive 25-inches long scale neck abetted by double cutaway horns. And the neck’s profile, at A.’s insistence, is slightly flatted in the back for easy playability. When the guitar’s on display jazz, blues and rock players all relate to its blend of tone, feel, and light weight. And this six-string, birthed in 2003, is often described as “art deco” for the modern-yet-classic look of its crown shaped inlays, angular pick guard and singularly shaped f-holes.
Take a closer look at the Johnny A. with Bigsby.
Slash Les Paul
Although there are several Slash Les Paul models available, the granddaddy — and big draw in the Custom Shop’s traveling display — is the dark tobacco burst model introduced in 2004. Slash, of course, was almost single-handedly responsible for the skyrocketing popularity of Les Pauls in the ’80s. But this is a distinctive beast, with a pair of Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro pickups and a Fishman Power Bridge to provide an optional acoustic guitar sound. A mini three-way switch between the rear two pots — one a third volume control, for the level of the acoustic setting — allows toggling between acoustic and electric settings. But most players who pick up the Slash model wanna blast — and often the classic intro to “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
Take a closer look at the Slash Les Paul.
Peter Frampton Les Paul Custom
When players pick up this baby, it really comes alive. The Frampton Paul has three humbuckers and a chambered, lightweight body. And it’s unusually wired to get that distinctive out-of-phase style Frampton sound. The middle pickup is always on, but has a dedicated master volume knob so it can be dialed in or out. That tone should theoretically appeal more to players influenced by classic rock, but the variety of tones this black beauty produces captures the ears of just about anybody who hears or plays it.