Paul Kossoff's Guitars and Gear

Published : - Author : Dan Kopilovic

Paul Kossoff Gear Summary

Paul’s main guitar of choice throughout his career was always a Gibson Les Paul. In the early days, before he started playing in Free, he used a black Les Paul Custom, and then later with the Black Cat Bones, he acquired a late 50s Les Paul Standard model.

With Free, his two main guitars were also Les Paul. He had a Les Paul that he stripped down to bare wood, and used very often in live performances. The second Les Paul was just a regular late 50s model with a burst finish. This second guitar is still around and is currently owned by Arthur Ramm.

Paul Kossoff playing his Les Paul Standard guitar, the one he got from Eric Clapton.
Paul Kossoff playing his Les Paul Standard guitar, the one he got from Eric Clapton.

It’s also worth noting that Paul played another Les Paul, that he got from Eric Clapton in exchange for a Les Paul Custom. this guitar is easily distinguishable by its darker sunburst finish.

As far as amps, Paul was mostly a Marshall guy. For most of his career, he relied on a Marshal Super Major 1959, and this is the amp that he used on most of Free’s popular live performances.

For effects, he didn’t really use anything special and mostly played straight through the amp. On occasion, he was known to use a Leslie speaker.

Regarding strings and picks, unfortunately, there’s not enough information out there to determine the exact type and brand that Paul used.

This gear list is a result of years of research and constant updates. It's a hobby project with the goal to eventually have the most complete and thorough gear list on the web - but that is only achievable with your help!

GroundGuitar counts on your criticism and feedback. If you have any knowledge or notice any mistakes, be sure to let us know!

List of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Paul Kossoff (Free)

Paul Kossoff's Electric Guitars

  • 1958/59 Gibson Les Paul Standard

    Paul bought this guitar sometime in the early 70s and used it until his untimely death in 1976, with a small pause that occurred during a period when the guitar was damaged. Based on the fact that he owned the guitar for the most part of his professional career, it is certainly one of the most notable Les Pauls that he ever played.

    The damage to this guitar occurred at the end of Free’s final concert in 1972 when Paul tossed it in the air and walked away as it came down splitting the headstock into two pieces.

    After this guitar was damaged, Paul walked over to Arthur Ramm, who played in a band called Beckett which supported Free in early 1970. He asked him if he would be willing to swap his 1968 Les Paul Goldtop that he had laying around the dressing room for Kossoff’s broken ’59 Les Paul Standard.

  • Paul Kossoff’s 19?? Gibson Les Paul Standard (Natural, Stripped)

    19?? Gibson Les Paul Standard (Natural, Stripped)

    This stripped-down Les Paul Standard was most famously used by Paul on Top of the Pops on “Alright Now”, and during the Isle of Wright gig in 1970.

    Paul Kossoff playing the stripped/natural Les Paul at Top of the Pops.
    Paul playing the stripped/natural Les Paul at Top of the Pops.

    Much of this guitar’s history is still unfortunately a mystery. It was allegedly originally a late 50s burst with a Bigsby tremolo, which Paul (or more likely someone who owned the guitar prior to him) stripped down to the bare wood and then refinished with some clear coat. 

  • 1958 Les Paul Standard Darkburst

    Paul got this guitar in mid-1969 during a joint tour with Blind Faith. He and Eric Clapton swapped guitars, in which process Paul said goodbyes to his 1950s Les Paul Custom.

    Paul Kossoff playing a darkburst Gibson Les Paul in 1970.
    Paul with the Darkburst, 1970.

    It’s important to note that when this guitar appeared on auction at Christie’s, their researchers claimed that Clapton purchased the guitar in 1968 and used it on Cream’s Farewell tour and while playing with Blind Faith in the summer of 1969.

  • 1960s Eko 500

    This was Paul’s first electric guitar ever, purchased around when he was 16 years old. The exact model of the guitar is unfortunately unknown, but from the following quote from Paul we can take somewhat of a safe guess:

    I was about 16, and my first guitar was an Eko or something like with a lame gold finish and a billion knobs.

    Free Spirit: The Genius Of Paul Kossoff

    Guessing this was the year 1966, the models which fit Paul’s description the best are the 500 models and the 700 models. The 500 models were produced until 1965 and featured a Jaguar-style body, and the 700 models were made during the same time period but featured a very unique triple-cutaway design. Both of the models were available in a gold finish, and they were pretty much the same guitar in regard to the pickups and electronics used.

  • 1955 Gibson Les Paul Custom

    Just a few months after he bought the Les Paul Junior, Paul was able to make a step up and switch to a Gibson Les Paul Custom. This guitar was allegedly bought by Paul’s father David at Manny’s guitar shop in New York.

    Young Paul Kossoff playing his Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar.
    Young Paul Kossoff playing his Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar.

    This is quite an important guitar in Paul’s life as it represents a direction Koss was heading to. He clearly wasn’t satisfied with a single P90 Junior, and nothing but the ‘real’ Les Paul was going to fulfill his needs. This Custom model was still one step away from the real thing, which in Paul’s mind probably looked as a Les Paul Standard that he laid his eye on when he first saw Eric Clapton live with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at The Refectory in north London in 1966.

  • 1950s Gibson Les Paul Custom (Clapton)

    Very little is known about the origin of this guitar, but as far as trying to put things into chronological order – Paul acquired it around the time when Free was about to be formed.

    From then on the story goes that Paul traded this Custom with Eric Clapton around July or August 1969 for a dark-burst 1958 Les Paul Standard. The problem with this story is that no one knows for sure which Custom Eric ended up with.

    Eric had a three-pickup Custom that he often played on stage with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, with whom he toured in late 1969. Apparently, in 1979 he gave that guitar to Albert Lee. However, Albert Lee, even though he talked in a few interviews about this guitar, never mentioned that it was the one that originated from Paul Kossoff.

  • 1957 Gibson Les Paul Junior

    Not long after Paul bought his first electric guitar, a 1960s Eko 500, he found a job at Selmer’s music shop in Charring Cross Rd. in London. A couple of months’ worth of savings allowed him to make a switch to a more serious instrument, his first Gibson.

    The guitar in question was a 1957 Les Paul Junior finished in TV yellow. This particular finish was developed in 1954 by Gibson in order to solve the problem of the actual white finish appearing too bright and reflective on the old black and white TVs. This custom finish solved that problem, and it actually looked white when seen through an old TV set.

    Paul’s particular guitar was made in 1957 and featured a single cutout body and a single P90 pickup in the bridge position.

  • 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard

    Paul acquired this guitar when he was around 17 years old (circa 1967), at the time of playing in his first band Black Cat Bones. Although this is purely based on guessing – it is likely that he traded this guitar for his 55′ Les Paul Custom since that guitar basically disappeared from that point on.

    There are also some stories that the Custom ended up with Clapton’s management, so if Paul indeed swapped the Custom for this one, this guitar might have been actually played by Clapton as well.

    Paul was first photographed with this guitar presumably outside of his house when he was around 16-17 years old (we’re basing this assumption on the shortness of his hair, so take it with a grain of salt).

  • 1957 Fender Stratocaster

    Paul owned a white Fender Stratocaster in the 70s. The guitar was seen during the music video for the song “My Brother Jake” filmed in 1970,  and later on on the cover of Kossoff’s first solo album “Back Street Crawler”.

    At the time of Paul owning it, the guitar was finished in white and featured a maple neck and three single-coil pickups.

    Back Street Crawler - Paul Kossoff
    Back Street Crawler – Paul Kossoff (released in 1973)

Paul Kossoff's Acoustic Guitars

  • Paul Kossoff’s Guild Acoustic

    Guild Acoustic

    Kossoff owned this guitar towards the later part of his career. It was given to him by the members of the Black Street Crawler.

    As far as when exactly this was, Kossoff mentioned being sick at the time, so this was probably around September 1975 (thanks Chris for the info).

    I write songs on acoustic guitar. I have a beautiful Guild given to me by the band when I was sick. This is the best acoustic I’ve ever had. its better than the Gibson Hummingbird I had. I’ve never had a Martin, but I don’t think one would suit me. I dont play acoustic on stage, but id like to.

    Guitar Player Magazine, July 1976

    Unfortunately, the exact model of the guitar is unknown. If you happen to come across a photo of Paul with the guitar, please be sure to forward it to us (the image used here is only a placeholder).

  • Gibson Hummingbird

    According to an interview Kossoff gave to Guitar Player magazine in June 1976, prior to owning a Guild acoustic (which was his only acoustic at the time), he had a Gibson Hummingbird. Unfortunately, nothing else besides that is known about this Gibson.

    I write songs on acoustic guitar. I have a beautiful Guild given to me by the band when I was sick. This is the best acoustic I’ve ever had. its better than the Gibson Hummingbird I had. I’ve never had a Martin, but I don’t think one would suit me. I dont play acoustic on stage, but id like to.

    Guitar Player Magazine, July 1976

Paul Kossoff's Amps

  • 1966/67 Marshall JTM100

    In the early days of Free, Paul seemed to have used a 1966/67 Marshall JTM45/100s (mostly known just as JTM100) – as seen in the photos from the booklet of the “Tons of Sobs” album. 

    The amp is easily recognizable by the reverse JTM block logo, which is the reason why it’s also known as the “Black Flag”. He played the amp through a cabinet that he allegedly built with his father sometime during the Black Cat Bones era.

    Tons of Sobs booklet - Paul playing through a Marshall amp in the studio.
    Tons of Sobs booklet – Paul playing through a Marshall amp in the studio.
  • Orange Matamp OR100

    Paul was seen playing through an Orange amp during the Free: Doing Their Thing filmed in 1970. Since this is the only occasion where he played it, it is very likely that the amp belonged to the studio where the band was playing and was possible there just for promotional purposes.

    Based on the appearance and knob layout, this appears to be an OR100 model.

    Paul Kossoff with an Orange OR100 amp behind him,1970.
    Paul with an Orange OR100 amp behind him,1970.
  • Marshall Super Lead 100w 1959

    When Free went on their first tour Paul started using Marshall Super Lead 100w 1959 played through Marshall cabinets equipped with G12H speakers. This was the amp he was most often seen using on stage, including at the Isle of Weight, and at Top of the Pops.

    Paul Kossoff, Top of the Pops
  • Orange OR120

    This amp can be seen in the Beat Club footage, filmed sometime in 1970. Most likely, this amp belonged to the Beat Club film studio, since this was the only time Paul was seen using it (same scenario as the OR100 that he used that same year).

    Paul Kossoff on Beat Club with an Orange amp, 1970.
    Paul Kossoff on Beat Club with an Orange amp, 1970.

Paul Kossoff's Effects

  • MXR Phase 90

    Paul pretty much preferred a straight approach, meaning that he didn’t use any effects apart from the overdrive built into his amps. There is one photo of him standing right next to an MXR Phase 90 pedal during a gig, but it was probably not something he used on a regular basis (somehow I have managed to lose this photo, if you happen to come across it, please share it in the comments. Thanks!).

  • Leslie Speaker

    This was one of the few guitar effects that Paul utilized. Most notably it can be heard in the studio recording of Time Away.

    In case you’re not familiar with what a Leslie speaker is – it’s basically a custom speaker box that generates a “wobbly” sound by rotating a baffle chamber (“drum”) in front of the loudspeaker. This “effect” was originally designed for the Hammond organ, but people quickly started combining it with other instruments, including the electric guitar.

Paul Kossoff's Strings

  • Paul Kossoff’s Custom Guitar Strings

    Custom Guitar Strings

    According to the popular legend, Paul used Gibson Sonomatics for the three heavier strings, a really heavy unwound banjo string for the fourth, and a couple of heavy strings from a .013 set of Fender Rock n Rollers for the first and the second.

    However, according to our visitor Alen (see comments below), the bottom two strings were a .8 and a.11.

    Of course, none of this can be confirmed, so take it with skepticism.

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Paul Kossoff's Accessories

  • Paul Kossoff’s Guitar Picks

    Guitar Picks

    Unfortunately, it is unknown whether Paul had a strict preference when it came to guitar picks. When you look at the photos and the video footage available, he’s using a variety of different colored picks – most often white ones.

    These white picks were possibly the Herco nylon picks, which were popular among British guitarists at that time. Also, as claimed by Johnny Whiston in the comments, he also used Gibson picks – so it could’ve been those.

    In any case, Paul’s guitar pick preference is largely still a mystery and this is all just guesswork.

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