Bob Marley’s 1970s Gibson Les Paul Special
This is reported to be Bob’s favorite electric guitar, used extensively throughout his career. There’s even a rumor that Marley was buried with this exact guitar by his side, but the truth is that the guitar is safe and sound at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica.
Marley bought the guitar in May 1973, at the Top Gear music store on Denmark Street, in London. The guitar was previously owned by Dan Armstrong, a well-known guitar luthier and the creator of the famous Ampeg Dan Armstrong Lucite acrylic guitar.
While the guitar was with Armstrong, he did a few modifications to it. He added an ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic bridge, modified the fretboard so it had large block inlays instead of the standard dot ones, and added a white plastic binding around the headstock.
Bob Marley used the guitar as such for around a year when he returned to Top Gear with it after the toggle switch was damaged. Apparently, the guitar fell face down from a guitar stand, and the toggle switch went straight through the body to the back.
According to Tony Bacon’s research on this guitar, the repair was done by Roger Giffin, who at that time worked at Top Gear. A new toggle switch was installed, with a noticeably larger “poker chip” cover.
The guitar remained in this state until 1978 when it was sent to Roger Mayer. Bob requested something unique done to it, but also something that will not influence the sound itself.
Roger decided to install a custom-made brushed hardened aluminum pickguard and replace the switch plate with one that was more uniquely shaped. He also replaced the tuners with Schallers and re-wired the guitar completely. The original P-90 pickups were however not touched.
According to Roger, the guitar was sent to him right after the One Love Concert, which was on April 22, 1978.
Bob’s guitar first came to me after the One Love Concert and as it went on, nobody else touched the guitar except for me. If anything that had to be done they’d fly it to me, then fly it back again.
Then Bob asked, “Can you design something for the guitar Roger without changing the guitar that makes it one of a kind, that makes it unique?” That’s when I came up with the different scratch plates which was done in brushed hardened alaminium and the switch plate just to give it a completely different look to anything else, because that’s what Bob wanted.
(Also,) with the guitar being in Jamaica you have to change the petentiometers quite regularly. You \bviously have to use the best capacitors and make sure the thing isn’t getting salt corrosion in it or anything. I changed the machine heads at the top, the Gibson ones weren’t that brilliant, sort of a version of the Kluson, which is pretty crap, and so we put some German Schallers in it. I basically kept the next straight, filed the frets down and keep them profiled correctly.Roger Mayer
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