Gary Moore/Peter Green 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

This is one of the most famed electric guitars in rock and roll history. Prior to Gary Moore, the guitar was owned by Peter Green (Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac), who was one of the players responsible for popularizing the Les Paul guitar model.

This guitar, coupled with Eric Clapton’s Les Paul “Beano Burst”, and Jimmy Page’s “Number One” Les Paul, and a few others, is probably why the late 1950s Gibson Les Paul is nowadays seen by many as the “Holy Grail” of guitars.

The guitar with Peter Green

Peter Green purchased this guitar for £110 at the Selmer’s in Charing Cross Road likely sometime in 1965. At that time, Peter was already a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, as he recalls using his old Harmony Meteor for the band’s audition.

I stumbled across one when I was looking for something more powerful than my Harmony Meteor. I went into Selmer’s in Charing Cross Road and tried one. It was only £110 and it sounded lovely and the colour was really good. But the neck was like a tree trunk – like the tree trunk was spliced down the middle and half of it was used for your guitar neck. It was very different from Eric’s, which was slim: very fast action. I’ve never seen another guitar with such an old-fashioned neck.

If I had my time again I wouldn’t sell my Harmony Meteor, I’d progress on that because the sound was so lovely at the Mayall audition.

Classic interview: Peter Green, 1998

However, Kirk Hammet, who owns the guitar at the time of writing this, notes that Peter purchased the guitar in 1964 or 1965, while he was in a band called Shotgun Express.

He loved that out-of-phase sound and just kept it that way. I believe that Peter Green got this guitar somewhere in 1964, 1965; he was in a band called Shotgun Express with Rod Stewart.

Kirk Hammett Talks Buying Greeny Les Paul Surprisingly Cheap, Recalls Peter Green’s Odd Reaction to Seeing the Guitar

Eric Clapton, whom Peter Green replaced in the Bluesbreakers, left the band in the summer of 1965 and went on a trip to Greece. Upon returning he learned that his place has been filled by Peter, who obviously auditioned for the band in the meantime. This means that, if we’re to go along with Peter’s recollection, the guitar was purchased no earlier than the summer of 1965.

Returning to England in late October 1965, I found that my place in the Bluesbreakers had been filled by a brilliant guitarist, Peter Green, later of Fleetwood Mac, who had aggressively pestered John to employ him, often turning up at gigs and shouting from the audience that he was much better than whoever was playing that night.

Clapton: The Autobiography

As the story goes, Clapton rejoined the band for a short while, leaving Peter without a job. On July 6, 1966, Clapton formed Cream and decided to leave John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for good. Once again, Peter Green was chosen as a replacement.

Peter Green, 18 March 1970. Photo by: W.W.Thaler – H. Weber, Hildesheim

Peter would go on to play with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers until July 1967, when he left the band with Mick Fleetwood to form Fleetwood Mac. With John Mayall, he recorded one album, A Hard Road, which featured this 1959 Gibson Les Paul extensively.

With Fleetwood Mac, Peter used this guitar as his main, and it can be heard on all four albums he released with the band, Fleetwood Mac (1968), Mr. Wonderful (1968), Then Play On (1969), and Fleetwood Mac in Chicago (1969).

This 1959 Gibson Les Paul is featured on one of the blues-rock anthems – “Black Magic Woman”.

After leaving Fleetwood Mac in 1970, and stepping away from public life, Peter offered the guitar to Gary Moore, allegedly expressing a wish for it to continue having “a good life”.

Funnily, in his more recent years, Peter never returned to playing a Les Paul guitar but instead moved onto a 1960s Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion model, among others.

In the interviews, his opinion on the guitar varied from it being nothing special, to expressing high regret for selling it. Overall, it did seem that Peter felt a bit of nostalgia whenever the guitar was mentioned to him.

I never had a magic one, mine wasn’t magical. It might have looked similar to others from a distance, but it was an old-fashioned one with a funny-shaped neck—a kind of semicircle neck. It just barely worked.

The Deep Secret Behind Peter Green’s “Magic” 1959 Les Paul Tone

Actually, buying a Les Paul is one of my biggest regrets. I should have left that to Eric Clapton. I sort of overshadowed his breakthrough. But my Les Paul was a fabulous guitar. I wish I could get it back today. When you’ve got something really perfect, you don’t realize it at the time.

Guitar Player magazine, ‘Heroes of the Electric Blues’ (2004)

The “Peter Green” mod

This guitar is known for its out-of-phase sound, which is triggered when both the neck and the bridge pickups are active. This feature was a result of one of the pickups on the guitar having its polarity reversed. Nowadays, people who decide to do this on their own guitars often refer to it as the Peter Green mod.

It is, however, important to debunk some of the myths behind this mod. Many people consider the Peter Green mod to be simply rotating the neck pickup around 180 degrees – as Peter unintentionally did some time in the 60s. As the story goes, he took out the neck pickup and played the guitar only using the lead (bridge) pickup. He apparently got the idea from listening to Eric Clapton.

The pickups were strong, but I took one of them off. I copied Eric [Clapton]. I heard him play one night, and he was on the treble pickup all night long. It sounded so good, I thought I’d take my bass pickup off altogether. Try and wait for the same luck. As if it was luck! It takes a lot of genuine practice and worry to get a sound like that.

The Deep Secret Behind Peter Green’s “Magic” 1959 Les Paul Tone

When he went back to the shop (or did it himself, the story is not clear on this) to have the pickup reinstalled, it ended up being put in the wrong way around.

I put it back on the wrong way around so that the poles—the pickup screws—were facing in the opposite direction. People would say to me, “You got that special out-of-phase sound.” I don’t know what out-of-phase is. Phase for what? Phase—it sounds like a good name for a group.

The Deep Secret Behind Peter Green’s “Magic” 1959 Les Paul Tone
Peter Green with the Les Paul. Notice that the screws are facing away from the neck.

But, to achieve this out-of-phase sound, the polarity on one of the pickups had to be reversed – which, as noted, was the case on Peter’s guitar. It had nothing to do with rotating the pickup itself.

Now, the story of when this was done varies from source to source. Phil Harris notes that Green was unhappy with how the neck pickup sounded, and he took it back to Selmer’s, where he initially bought it, for it to be repaired.

And when it came back, the nack pickup was the wrong way around – and he thought – I better not touch it! Because, they must’ve done that for a reason. What had had happened is they rewired the pickup inside and put a new cable on it. But when they put it back togeather, they put the magnet the wrong way around – they reversed the polarity.

Phil Harris – Guitar Interactive – The Free Online Guitar Magazine

But, according to Jol Dantzig, who had a chance to examine the guitar in the 80s, this was likely a mistake from the factory. The internals of the pickup were all original at that point.

The magnet was reversed on one pickup. Because the pickup internals looked undisturbed, I concluded that it must have been a mistake at the factory. With Gibson having made over ten thousand electric guitars that year, the odds of the mistake showing up in Green’s guitar seems incredible. But strangely enough, Joe Bonamassa recently acquired an original ’burst with the same condition.

The Secret of Peter Green’s Tone, Jol Dantzig

Please note that Jol does not specify which pickup had the polarity reversed, neck or the bridge. If you happen to come across an interview where he does go into more detail, please be sure to forward it to us.

Based on Peter Green’s recollection of events, Jol Danzig’s version is more likely to be correct. It could be that Phil Harris is also correct, but the changes to the pickup (new wire) had to be done after Jol already inspected the guitar (sometime in the 80s, Phil Harris did so in the 2000s).

The guitar with Gary Moore

The guitar went from Peter to Gary sometime in the early 1970s (the precise date is yet to be established).

According to Harry Shapiro’s piece, Gary Moore: the story of Still Got The Blues, Gary first met Peter in January 1970, when Gary’s band Skid Row supported Fleetwood Mac. One night, they spent some time talking in a hotel room and became friends.

Sometime after Peter left Fleetwood Mac in May 1970, he went through a phase of selling his material possessions. Upon meeting Gary at The Marquee club, he asked him whether he wished to borrow his Les Paul for a few days and try it out. From that point on, and until the early 2000s, the guitar remained in Gary’s possession.

The guitar that I use is Peter’s actual guitar, and I’ve had that since virtually the time he left Fleetwood Mac. He let me have that in the early 70s. He let me have it for a few days and then he called me up and asked me if I wanted to buy it, and I said well there’s no way I’d be able to afford a guitar like this.

He said if you sell your main guitar, and whatever you get for that, give it to me, and it would belike swapping guitars. It wasn’t a money thing, he just wanted it to have a good home.

I sold my guitar and gave him the paltry amount, which wasn’t anywhere near what the guitar was worth. But he let me have it. I said, well, if you ever want it back, you can have it, and he said – well, I’ll never ask you for it.

Gary Moore on Peter Green – YouTube

Gary used this guitar as his main in the early years, and almost exclusively until the late 70s. It can be heard all over his first two solo albums Grinding Stone (1973) and Back On The Streets (1978), and in his work with Thin Lizzy and Colosseum II. As years went on he started experimenting with different guitars, so it’s hard to determine on which specific song the guitar was used.

Contrary to the popular myth, Gary’s perhaps best-known song, Still Got the Blues, did not feature this particular guitar, but another 1959 Gibson Les Paul purchased in 1989. Regarding that specific album (Still Got the Blues, 1990), the Peter Green Les Paul was used only on Midnight Blues and Stop Messin’ Around [Gary Moore: the story of Still Got The Blues].

The main guitar is a 1959 Les Paul Standard – the same guitar I used on Still Got The Blues. I’ve had it since 1989 and I use it live a lot. It’s not pristine by any means, but it’s a really great guitar and I’ve used it on lots of albums since Still Got The Blues. In fact, “Still Got The Blues” was the first track it was used on. That’s the first song we did that day, and I thought it was a good indicator of what the guitar could do.

Gary Moore Still Got the Blues – Again!

The guitar was however used, on what would generally be considered his second best-known song, Parisian Walkways.

The mods/changes

During its time with Gary, the guitar had a few modifications done on it. According to Phil Harris, who was at some point, the “custodian” of the guitar, the guitar had a bridge and the tuning pegs both replaced. The original vintage bridge was changed for a nearly identical reissue ABR-1 model, and the pegs were replaced by nickel-plated Sperzels.

Furthermore, the original plastic guitar jack socket plate was replaced with a metal one, and the two bottom control knobs were replaced with 60’s style reflector knobs. When asked by Phil Harris about the reasons for the change, Gary’s response was exactly what one would expect from him –

I’m fu–ing playing it, not collecting it. And I find it easier to set the bottom knobs because they are slightly taller than the top knobs.

Peter Green 1959 Les Paul Guitar Review With Phil Harris Guitar Interactive Magazine

But, perhaps the most important thing that happened to the guitar while it was with Gary is that the headstock was broken at some point. Again, according to Phil Harris, Gary was in a car accident, and a van ran into the back of this car, where presumably the guitar was kept.

According to a YouTube commenter by the name of gchampi2, the damages were more serious, both to Gary and the guitar (gchampi2 – if you ever happen to read this, please be sure to get in touch).

The “cracked headstock” was a little more serious than Phil makes out. In Gary’s shunt, the neck ended up in 3/4 pieces & Gary ended up in the hospital. The repair involved pretty much the complete re-assembly of the neck, re-assembly of the fretboard, replaced binding, lots of careful gluing and a metal pin or 2. How do I know this? My brother was the repairer.

gchampi2 – YouTube comments
Phil Harris talks about the history behind the Peter Green/Gary Moore Les Paul.

As already noted, the guitar remained with Gary until around mid-2000s. Allegedly, Gary ran into some money issues and decided to sell it at that point. The whole business of guitar changing hands was supposed to be kept private, and Gary wasn’t particularly happy when the news started going around.

I don’t really want to talk about that because it was supposed to be a very discrete sale and now it’s all over the fkin’ web. I’m really unhappy because I didn’t want to part with it in the first place. Then that fing t**t shot his mouth off; it’s like having your trousers pulled down in public.

Classic Rock magazine, 2006 issue (exact number needed)

The buyer was Phil Winfield of Maverick Music, and the alleged price was somewhere around 1 million dollars. From that point on it becomes unclear how many hands it changed before it finally ended up with Kirk Hammet of Metallica.

The guitar with Kirk Hammet

Kirk was approached with the prospect of buying this guitar in 2014 by Richard Henry of Richard Henry Guitars. According to Kirk, at first, he wasn’t interested because he expected the guitar to cost a fortune.

I said, ‘Bro, I’m not interested in a guitar with a price tag of $2 million’ and he said, ‘No, it’s all poppycock. It’s not $2 million, it’s not even $1 million; that’s all rumors. I said, okay, maybe you should bring it over, and he brought it to my hotel room with an amazing amp, which didn’t help very much.

I had that guitar in my hand for like maybe a minute and a half, and I just knew, I just freaking knew I wasn’t going to give it back.

Let There Be Talk #513: Kirk Hammett/Metallica
Kirk Hammet talks about how he ended up with Peter Green/Gary Moore Gibson Les Paul

Hammet ended up using the Green/Moore Les Paul on Metallica 2016 Hardwired… to Self-Destruct album, and often uses it live even to this day.

At some point, he even met up with Peter Green, and presented the guitar to him, upon which Peter perhaps jokingly replied that the guitar couldn’t possibly be his –

I said to Peter, ‘Hey man, I have a friend of yours in this bag.’ And I pulled it out, I showed it to him, and he said, ‘That’s not my guitar,’ which is his stock answer whenever he’s asked about Greeny. And the reason why he said that is because he doesn’t see the red in the finish. So, he says, ‘Oh, that’s not the guitar, my guitar was red.’ His friend who was just sitting across the room says, ‘He knows that’s his guitar.’

Let There Be Talk #513: Kirk Hammett/Metallica
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