Confessions of a Gear Addict – Eric’s Arsenal #1 (1981 Les Paul Custom)

I thought it might be fun to go through some of my personal instruments and amps to reveal some of their secrets…Â I’ll add new stuff periodically.

1981 Les Paul Custom

There really is no question in my mind as to which guitar gets to go first.  My 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom has been with me for 20 years and is the apple of my gear eye.

1981 Les Paul Custom

1981 Les Paul Custom

I bought it in 1988 from a guy (Steve?) that worked at Nillson’s Guitar World in Overland Park. I was 16 at the time, had been playing for 2 years and had a severe case of Les Paul fever.  Funny, It wasn’t Jimmy Page, Gary Moore, Slash, Mick Ronson, Randy Rhoads or any of the LP guitar heroes that inspired me to follow the Les Paul/Marshall path… it was Mike Tobin (former Mass Street Employee) and his band Kill Whitey. I saw Mike three times in about a month and decided that I had to have that gear. Anyway, this guy Steve calls me and says “I hear you like Les Pauls…”  I bought the guitar without playing it (no pickups or strings) for $700 which seemed like sooo much money then. (thanks Mom)

Steve gave me an old passive neck pickup out of a Jackson Soloist (it was the 80s) and I put an EMG 85 in the Bridge. Threw some D’Addarrio 9s on it and it was good to go. Awesome.  I played this guitar for years like that.

Every battle scar tells a tale...

Every battle scar tells a tale...

I moved to Lawrence in 1990 and it wasn’t long before I found Mass Street Music.  In about 1993 I had the Jackson neck pickup replaced with an EMG 60 for phat necky goodness.  It was around this time that I learned of the rarity of the tuners… they feature a sweet little flip-out arm for quick string changes (see pic). I think Gibson only did this for 2 or 3 years. I’ve seen these tuners go for $50 a piece on E-Bay.

Rare Flip-out tuner

Rare Flip-out tuner

Around 2001, I asked Mass Street’s Repair Shop maestro Mike Horan to do something drastic.  I had a new bone nut made, replaced the shredded tune-o-matic bridge, replaced the old EMG 85 bridge pickup with a deadly EMG 81, and had the guitar re-fretted with huge Dunlop 6000 fret wire. This last mod was a gamble on my part- I knew I liked big frets, but LP Customs are often referred to as “fretless wonders” because of the low frets Gibson uses. I knew the guitar would be waayyy different and it was scary waiting for the results.

EMG 81/60. James Hetfield has been ripping me off.

EMG 81/60. James Hetfield has been ripping me off.

The results? Best rock guitar ever. We’ve been through a lot together and this LPC has never failed to sing its wanton song of rock destruction.  It can do everything from the heaviest palm muted thrash to sweet, singing, uber-sustain lead work… the cleans are lovely as well. It has earned its place at the top of my mountain of gear.  -Eric


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply