Peter Green’s 1959 Les Paul & how Metallica’s Kirk Hammett came to own it - Broke in London

Peter Green’s 1959 Les Paul & how Metallica’s Kirk Hammett came to own it

Guest post by Paul Miles

R.I.P Peter Green. Those who know, know that the best Fleetwood Mac was the incarnation boasting the supreme songwriting of Peter Green. Those who don’t would be flabbergasted to learn that it was the same band who wrote the exhilarating ‘Green Manalishi’ as co-opted by Judas Priest and later gained wider critical acclaim on Rumours. Behind every great guitarist is a great guitar and Peter Green’s exuberant style was aided and abetted by ‘Greeny’ a stunning 1959 Les Paul so named because of its psychedelic green hue. This guitar was played on such classic tracks as ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Oh Well’ and has what is referred to as a nasal sound, owing to Green’s experimentation with the neck pickup as he tried to emulate Clapton.

Most classic guitars like this, with such a place in the so-called rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame end up at a fancy auction, with enormous publicity and a brutal bidding war, but Greeny was, perhaps, always destined to be different and while Kirk Hammett is undoubtedly capable of beating off a lot of competition with his wallet, he was actually offered a chance to own Greeny completely out of the blue. He recalls the story of being in his London hotel room in 2014 when a friend, who deals in guitars contacted him to meet with an interesting guitar. He arrived with a guitar case and as soon as it was opened Kirk recognised the guitar as he noticed that the pickup screws were inverted – a tell-tale sign of Green’s tinkering.

Not all love stories are straightforward, however, and after picking it up and playing Hammett was not initially convinced, noting “After about 30 seconds, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is not your standard Les Paul…’ and I went to the middle position, because, you know, that’s the revered sound, and I started ripping out, and I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, this is a total contradiction.’ It sounded like an incredible Les Paul in the bridge position and in the neck position, but when you put it in the middle position it kind of sounded like a Strat through a 100-watt Marshall stack!”

And so, as Paul at Select Recording Studios, London notes “Kirk did what any one of us would do and called his friend…Jimmy Page, for a second opinion.” That night, he got hold of the Led Zeppelin guitarist and asked him what he thought of dear old Greeny. Jimmy was unequivocal in his opinion and told the Metallica man to go ahead and make the deal. Of course, praise for a guitar comes from few higher quarters than Jimmy Page and Kirk took his advice and six years on remains proud as punch that he owns Peter Green’s uniquely tinkered 1959 Les Paul. The guitar is rumoured to have cost over £2 million, but as a one of a kind piece responsible for some timeless playing, it will no doubt prove to be a sound investment.