The Greatest Guitar Finds: “O’ Canada”
In 2001, I purchased the greatest 1959 Gibson Les Paul that I have ever touched. I remember it like it was yesterday…the phone call that provided me with one of the best Bursts I would ever have in our store.
It starts with my friend Francis* and his girlfriend Danielle*, who lived in Montreal, Canada. Every so often, Francis would come up with a guitar for me and I would pay him a “finders fee”. Through these dealings, we had become fairly good friends and one day he called me and told me an unlikely, yet incredible story…
Francis and Danielle had been on the couch watching TV late one night when Francis fell asleep. Danielle flipped the channel and landed on “Swap & Shop”, a local shopping program that offered various privately saleable items. This could include anything from cars to home furnishings and more. That night, a listing came up for a 1959 Les Paul with an asking price of $2,000, being sold by the original owner. She jumped up, immediately taking the phone number down, and woke Francis. He initially waved her off, certain that the guitar would be a reissue or have something wrong with it. Danielle insisted that he call to be sure. He blew it off, but in the morning she brought it up again. Francis gave in and called. Against all odds, on the other end of the phone was an older gentleman who had purchased the guitar new in 1959. Francis moved quickly: he got up, dressed, and left to meet the man immediately. Upon arriving, he was blown away to find that it was, in fact, a 1959 Les Paul…the “holy grail” of electric guitars.
Since it was 2001, $2,000 was an unbelievable price for a guitar like this. Francis excitedly called me within a few short hours of his purchase and told me this whole story. Francis told me that he would never get a deal like this again and wanted to sell me the guitar. He asked me, sight unseen if I would pay him $200,000 for this guitar ensuring me that it was one of the nicest Les Pauls he’d ever seen. He mentioned to me that this may be his only chance at a “home run” find and that this would help him send his kids to college. I said, “Well if it’s everything you say that it is, I would have no problem paying that to you.” I trusted him because if there’s one thing about Francis, he knew guitars!
I felt it was important to go see this guitar in person, so I booked a flight on Air Canada and arrived roughly 8 hours after our initial conversation. We went to his flat, and the moment I saw the guitar, I immediately knew it was well-played but perfectly original. To this day, the top is one of the greatest tops I’ve seen on a Burst. It’s got multiple layers of deep flame and it’s faded to a beautiful honey burst. Upon inspecting the guitar and seeing that it was everything Francis said it would be, I paid him on the spot and flew the guitar back to New York with me that day. I had the guitar for a while before it went into the Songbirds collection. It resided there for years, though it hadn’t been displayed while the museum was open.
When the Songbirds Museum closed, I was lucky enough to get this guitar back. I’ve had well over 100 Sunburst Les Pauls made between 1958-1960 in my life and let me tell you, this is THE one. If I was still in the business of collecting guitars rather than selling them, this would be the one I would take to my grave..it is fantastic in every way. While “Bursts” are nearly always referred to as the “Holy Grail” of electric guitars, not every single one plays great, looks great, and sounds great. Like any other manufactured item, there are good ones and bad ones. This one happens to be the most exceptional one I have had the privilege of owning. While this Burst is on hold for a client, we are thrilled to have this story to share with you all.
For information on any of the Bursts in our inventory, call us at 516.221.0563!
* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.