From 1988 to 2008, Slash’s Les Pauls Through the Years
Although Slash was relying on a battery of Les Pauls by the time he recorded Guns N’ Roses’ monumental debut Appetite for Destruction in 1987, he got his most famous guitars the year after. Just before the band embarked on the two-year tour that made stars of them, Slash contacted Gibson and ordered the pair of Les Pauls that would be his favorites for years to come.
Considering the pedigree of Les Paul players, it’s not surprising that the then-23-year-old chose that particular guitar.
“I had always thought Les Pauls were just cool-looking,” Slash explains. “I was automatically drawn to that style, and all my favorite guitar players played Les Pauls—guys like Brad Whitford and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Jimmy Page. There was one period where Eric Clapton was using a Les Paul, there was another period where Jeff Beck was playing Les Pauls. That list actually goes on and on. I just always thought it was the coolest, understated-looking electric guitar. There are other guitars that are cool-looking, but this is the one that I just felt the most comfortable with.”
Two years later, in 1989, Slash ordered his first Custom Shop Les Paul. Actually, he ordered four, all built to his personal specs by the Custom Shop’s J.T. Riboloff. With comfortable necks, jumbo frets, and chrome Schaller tuning pegs, they use the iconic ’59 Les Paul Standard as their foundation.
Today, Slash has more than 100 six-strings of all kinds in his Gibson-heavy collection, but he’s usually seen in the studio with one of his late ’50s Standards, a ’56 Goldtop, or one of the more contemporary Les Pauls—including those from his ’89 Custom Shop order—that he typically uses on stage.
Slash’s love for Les Pauls spawned two Gibson signature models in the ’90s: a special edition Snakepit Les Paul with the band’s top-hatted reptile logo and an inlaid snake curling up the neck, and the classically tailored Slash Signature model in Dark Tobacco Sunburst with Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro humbuckers and a Fishman powerbridge. Epiphone also released a version of the Snakepit guitar.
Those models are now joined by four more Slash guitars: one from Epiphone, one from Gibson USA, and two limited-edition models from the Gibson Custom Shop. Slash was intimately involved with the design of all these instruments.
“I’ve worked with Gibson on a couple of different Slash models over the years,” Slash says. “I don’t really need to reinvent the wheel so we just pick out different things like the finish or the different types of knobs or the pickups. The most specific thing is the neck has to be what I feel the most comfortable with, and we’ve managed to get that down to a science.”
Epiphone’s new entry is the Slash Signature Les Paul Standard Plus Top featuring Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro humbuckers, a classic-style contoured neck with a long tenon, a solid mahogany body with a maple top, and the Dark Tobacco Sunburst finish Slash favors. “It’s modeled after the Gibson Les Paul Slash model,” Slash says. “I was really happy to get involved [with Epiphone] because there are a lot more people that would be interested in getting a good guitar for a little less money—something that actually sounds really good, and will last a long time, and be able to provide you with everything you need out of a really good quality guitar.”
Gibson USA is also debuting a new, one-piece mahogany body Slash Signature Les Paul Standard, replete with a neck cut to Slash’s specifications and adorned with his trademark skull and crossbones, top hat logo, and signature on the headstock. “I’ve got two of these on the road as my main guitars, and they sound amazing,” Slash says. “[The neck] just feels really comfortable for me. You can pick it up and wrap your hands around it, and it doesn’t feel too obtrusive. It’s all the best qualities of Les Pauls rolled into one. It’s a pretty badass guitar.”
On the higher end, the Gibson Custom Shop is making two limited edition Slash Les Pauls available—the Inspired By Slash Les Paul Standard: Aged by Tom Murphy and the Inspired By Slash Les Paul Standard: Vintage Original Spec.
The Murphy-aged Inspired By Slash Les Paul is a recreation of the first guitar Slash received under endorsement from Gibson and played on the Appetite for Destruction tour as it is today, right down to the cigarette burn on the body. The model is hand-made under the supervision of expert Custom Shop luthier Tom Murphy.
“This one is basically identical to the one that I have now,” Slash says. “It’s Murphy-aged so I actually got this confused with the real guitar at one point when they first made it. It comes with all the scratches and belt buckle nicks and cracks in the neck that the original had. It’s pretty amazing. It looks exactly like it.”
The Vintage Original Spec Inspired By Slash Les Paul Standard, too, is an exact replica of Slash’s ’88 Les Paul Standard—as it was just after he first received it and had it refinished. “This is the replica of the original 1988 Les Paul I had before I beat the hell out of it,” Slash says. “It’s sort of a trip for me to see it because it looks exactly like the guitar after I had it refinished in 1988. This is what it looked like when it was brand new.”
Continuing to expand his Gibson signature line is a source of pride for Slash, who—when pressed on the subject—laughs and says, “I guess I do feel like I’m part of a club with a handful of people that are Les Paul players.”
But, Slash is quick to keep the focus on the guitar itself. “There’s a certain sound that a Les Paul has,” he says. “It’s a very warm-sounding guitar and can be very attacky. It has almost no limitations.”