Jimi Hendrix’s 1955 Gibson Les Paul Customaccess_time First seen circa 1969
According to Larry Lee, this guitar was purchased by him and Hendrix in 1963 when they played in a band called Bob Fisher and the Bonnevilles. When Larry was invited to join Gypsy Sun and the Rainbows in 1969, a week prior to Woodstock, Hendrix allegedly gave it to him since he had no instrument of his – being just recently released from the army.
All this is based on the info provided by the EMP Museum (recently renamed to Museum of Pop Culture) in Seattle, the current owners of the guitar. We assume that the info has been originally provided to them by Larry Lee, who sold the guitar through Sotheby’s in 1991. For photos visit this thread on MyLesPaul forums: Jimi Hendrix’s 1955 Les Paul Custom
The interesting thing to point about this guitar is that it has a Bigsby Vibrola tailpiece and a replaced neck pickup. The original pickup on a ’55 Les Paul Custom, the Alnico V, has staple pole pieces, while the pickup in Jimi’s/Larry’s Custom looked like a P90. This same type of a pickup, of course, was fitted in the bridge position on these models.
The story of the Larry Lee/Hendrix Les Paul
There are some things in Larry’s story that don’t seem quite right. First is the part where Hendrix keeps this guitar for six years from 1963 to 1969, all the while not using it once during any of the performances. Also to remind you, it has been reported that he only traveled with one single guitar to the UK, so the possibility of him having this Les Paul Custom stored someplace, even home in the US, is extremely unlikely.
It is important to note at this point that Jimi did use a Les Paul Custom in early to mid-1968, but that most certainly was not this guitar. Besides having very different specs, that Les Paul is also accounted for and can be seen at the Hard Rock Cafe & Restaurant in Chicago.
So although there’s no reason to doubt the latter part of the story, where Hendrix gives it to Lee so he’d have a guitar to use with the Gypsy Sun, the former just makes no sense. First of all, why would the guitar end up with Jimi in 1963 when they both allegedly purchased it together? And even if that really happened, where was it for those six years? Why did Hendrix swap from one guitar to another in 1964 and 1965, at times even forced to pawn them because he was broke, but he never once picked up the Les Paul?