Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,

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Lot 147Y
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,

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Amended
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Honduran mahogany body and neck, flame maple, two-piece carved ⅝ inch top, rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays, the neck with scarf joint repair, headstock with Grover machineheads, two PAF humbucking pickups original to the time of Paul using the guitar, pickup covers removed briefly but returned, original cream pickup surrounds stamped M69, neck pickup is 8.52 ohms and bridge pickup is 7.43 ohms, bridge pickup volume control replaced but the 500k tone control is an original by Centralab, neck pickup controls also by Centralab and linked by Sprague bumble bee capacitors .022 400v, of the early paper-in-oil capacitor style with small seal tube at the end, from the first batch produced from around the mid-1950s to the end of the decade, 'Barrel'-type control knobs present on the guitar during the time that Paul played it, nut width 43mm, weight 8.68lbs, in 'California Girl' (Cali Girl) fire-damaged/restored case made by the Stone Case Company, sold with a letter of provenance

Footnotes

  • This 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard was owned by the late Paul Kossoff from 1970 until his death in 1976. There is a black and white promo video of Free performing their classic hit, All Right Now, with Paul playing this guitar, believed to have been purchased just after the original recording of the track. A photograph of Paul with this guitar onstage in Copenhagen in from December 1970 was taken by Jan Persson (this image is available on request).

    Kossoff is considered by many as one of the greatest and most influential of British rock guitarists. Queen's Brian May has been quoted as saying: In the early days of Queen, we loved the music of Free, and frequently played their songs in sound check, and at home for fun. Joe Bonamassa, one of the latest generation of players to be influenced by Kossoff, when asked to name his favourite Les Paul player, replied: It would be Paul Kossoff, for the simplicity. It was so devastating. If you had to boil down what a 59 Les Paul should sound like, it's pretty much Paul Kossoff on 'Fire And Water' or 'Mr Big' or something like that. Big, but clean and clear. Really rocking. He and Free were a lesson in space in the music. Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser worked so well together and Kossoff would fill the holes. They really were such a brilliant band. (The Million Dollar Les Paul, Tony Bacon, (Jawbone Press, London, 2008) pp.260-1). Kossoff himself is quoted as describing his playing style thus: You don't play a billion notes, but you play a few goodies, hopefully, like Freddie or B.B. do. I like to move people: I don't like to show off. I like to make sounds as I remember sounds that move me. (Op. cit. p. 106).

    The Les Pauls produced between 1958 and 1960 are now generally considered to be not only the best of the Les Paul models, arguably reaching their zenith with the 59 model, but also the most desirable electric guitar ever made. It is thought that around just 1,450 in total were made in that brief production period.

    The vendor of this lot, was the guitarist in the group Beckett, who supported Free on a number of occasions in the early Seventies, and got to know Paul. (Beckett's singer, Terry Wilson-Slesser, would later join Back Street Crawler, the band subsequently formed by Kossoff). The night before Free were to split up, Kossoff threw his 59 Les Paul into the air, breaking the neck, and walked offstage. In the dressing room Kossoff spotted the vendor's refinished 1968 Gold Top Les Paul and asked if he could borrow it. The vendor remarked "Well, you've just broken yours!" to which Kossoff replied,"I've got this other one", gesturing to the stripped-finish Les Paul that had been used at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. The vendor replied that if the Sunburst 59 Les Paul was repaired he would prefer that one.

    Many months passed and finally Kossoff had the neck on the Sunburst Les Paul repaired by Sam Li. Sam Li was a well-known guitar repairer who had worked on Peter Green's Les Paul; he also built a guitar that was bought by the father of Slade's Dave Hill in 1968: that guitar was then used on every Slade hit. The neck, from the 5th fret, and headstock were replaced, accounting for the lack of a serial number. When Kossoff picked it up from Li he decided to keep it instead of carrying out the swap with the vendor.

    The vendor returned the stripped-finish Les Paul to Kossoff in exchange for his own but was disappointed to discover that Kossoff had decided to keep the Sunburst 59 Les Paul. However, they both kept in touch and met up whenever Kossoff was in the north east of England. At one stage Kossoff also swapped the Sunburst 59 Les Paul with John Porter, bassist with Roxy Music, for a Black three-pickup Les Paul Custom. Porter then loaned the Sunburst guitar to Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, who can be seen using it in an edition of BBC TV's 'The Old Grey Whistle Test'. Kossoff eventually had the Sunburst Les Paul returned by Porter and he used it with in his new band, Back Street Crawler.

    After Kossoff passed away in March 1976, the vendor subsequently bought this guitar via Kossoff's girlfriend, who had always known that he had liked it. Kossoff's father, David, agreed it should go to the vendor and approved the sale.

    The damage to the case resulted from a fire at a gig played by Free; a roadie had to run back into the building to save this guitar and others before the fire really took hold. Unbelievably, the roadie then went back into the building and retrieved this case, which was on fire when he found it. The pink plush interior at the headstock was burned and a new section was replaced on top of the lid. Paul Kossoff had this same case throughout the time he owned the guitar, and the case displays the wear and tear of those years of travelling.

    Reference:
    www.gibson.com
    www.youtube.com

    Literature: The Million Dollar Les Paul, Tony Bacon, (Jawbone Press, London, 2008)

    Bonhams would like to thank Steve Clarke of 'Guitar & Bass' Magazine and famousfrets.com for his assistance in cataloguing this lot. For an in-depth article on the guitar with full technical detail by Steve Clarke, see 'Guitar & Bass' magazine, August 2015, volume 26, number 11.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the catalogue cover image illustrates this lot, not lot 149.
Contacts
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
Paul Kossoff/Free: A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard with sunburst finish owned by Paul Kossoff, 1970-1976,
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