Jeff Buckley’s 1976 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Chronologically looking, this was the second Les Paul that Jeff owned and played. However, it was the first legitimate Gibson model, since the first guitar was according to most sources, a knockoff.

Jeff’s First Les Paul

At this point, it is important to establish histories behind the two Les Pauls. For the longest time, people (including us) thought that the Les Paul that Jeff received for his 14th birthday was the same one that he used later on in the 90s.

However, there were some inconsistencies in that version of the story. Most importantly, it didn’t make sense that Jeff would leave a perfect Gibson Les Paul guitar at home and then buy an Ovation Viper (his second electric guitar), and then go on to borrow a Fender Telecaster (the one that he used for the most part of his career). If he had a Gibson, he would certainly use it.

As it turns out, according to Jeff’s friend, Jason Hamel, who was kind enough to provide some details about the guitar, the first guitar was actually a copy/knockoff. This is also confirmed by Jeff himself, in a recently discovered interview with Gitarre & Bass, from October 1995 (thanks Mica).

I got an electric guitar at thirteen – a black Les Paul copy that sounded pretty good. Yes, that’s how it started…

The Oppressive Lightness of Being Crazy, Gitarre & Bass, October, 1995

Jeff’s Second Les Paul

In 1995 Jeff started using a black Gibson Les Paul Custom. According to the info provided by The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, which now owns the guitar, it was purchased that same year by Jeff in a Wisconsin state guitar shop [Intimate Audio – Jeff Buckley Tribute].

Embed from Getty Images

Jeff used this Les Paul a couple of times live, mostly in 1995. It was seen during a concert played at Asbury Park, New Jersey, and during the Glastonbury Festival in Britain.

Neck Broken Off

According to one of our readers, in July 1995 Jeff’s Les Paul came to him for repairs in Amsterdam. The neck completely separated from the guitar, and the repair needed to be quick.

I remember in July 1995 Amsterdam I was called by Paradiso that Jeff Buckley’s Les Paul’s neck was separated from the body (that time I did guitar repairs for Paradiso especially quick emergency things like broken necks etc). It came off clean because it was not a very good fitting by Gibson, it was lined up to fit tight with little pieces of wood and could not make good contact with the glue. Probably it came loose during the plane travel or the smashing around on airports. Because I had only a couple of hours to fix it I used superglue like always in that kind of situation, it worked very well.

Years later I helped Gary Lucas with his Gibson acoustic and he finds out that I was the guy who glued the neck of Jeff’s Gibson – a nice coincidence!

Rob H. via email

Jeff played in Amsterdam on July 11, 1995, but unfortunately, very few photos were taken that day – none of them showing Les Paul in particular.

Gibson Les Paul Today

Just recently, this guitar was seen on display at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum during an exhibition which also included Jeff’s black wool coat, jodhpurs, white V-neck T-shirt, and handwritten lyrics and poems. The Les Paul seems to be a permanent donation to the Museum from the Jeff Buckley Estate.


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4 years ago

Jeff himself said that his first Les Paul was a copy in this interview

” I got an electric guitar at thirteen – a black Les Paul copy that sounded pretty good.”

Jason Hamel
Jason Hamel
4 years ago

I was Jeff’s best friend. His Les Paul was a copy, not a Gibson. He bought the Viper in 1982. I’m sure he had the Les Paul copy way before he turned 14.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jason Hamel

Any idea what brand or model was the LP copy, just out of curiosity, Jason?
I’ve been going through an LP copy research phase since picking up a couple of Japanese Les Paul guitars over the years. I got a nice ‘Pearl’ natural finish one and a white Fernandes ‘Super Grade’ (both set neck type). I wonder where Jeff’s old LP copy is now?