Owned by Eric Clapton and then given to his friend George Harrison, this 1957 Les Paul Goldtop-refinished in cherry red and better known as "Lucy"-is one of the most historically important electric gu... Read More
Owned by Eric Clapton and then given to his friend George Harrison, this 1957 Les Paul Goldtop-refinished in cherry red and better known as "Lucy"-is one of the most historically important electric guitars in the world.
"I think I bought it in New York," says Clapton. "There was a lot of time spent in New York in the '60s, when I was traveling around with Cream. I remember bringing it back from America and wanting to give it to [Harrison] because I already had a Les Paul." Clapton clarifies, "But I had played it a bit-I didn't just buy it and give it to him-I played it for a while, and was really fond of it. But it might have been that I preferred the neck of the '60 Les Paul. I didn't know-I assumed that each guitar was a one-off, and they weren't made in a series like that, that a '60 would be like this and a '59 like that. I had no idea at the time that that's how it worked."
Lucy was played extensively by George Harrison over the last two years of The Beatles, including landmark recordings on the "White Album," Let It Be and Abbey Road. Clapton also wielded the cherry red Les Paul on his historic "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" solo-at George's invitation. Clapton recalls, "When he asked me to do the session for 'Gently Weeps,' he picked me up from where I was living in London and said, 'We're gonna go over to the studio. Do you wanna come along?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'Well, I want you to play on something.' And I didn't have a guitar-I had just gotten into the car with him. So he gave me this to play."
When asked about his inspiration to pick up a Les Paul in the first place, Clapton's response is immediate and simple. "Freddie King," he says. "He was the first guy I ever heard play in that kind of B.B./T-Bone Walker style, single-line playing with bended notes. I had the single of 'Hide Away'-someone turned me on to that-and on the B-side was a song called 'I Love the Woman' which has probably got the most iconic, short, single chorus blues solo you'll ever hear. And I heard that luckily enough when I was 16, 17 ... and that was it." Clapton adds, "I thought that, when I next saw a Les Paul in a shop in London, that was the same one [as King's], but it was a sunburst. Going back and looking at the album, I'm not sure if [King played] a sunburst. It could've been a Goldtop. But that became the standard-I had to get one."
Loaned back to him in 1973, Clapton played the storied Lucy Les Paul again at his comeback Rainbow Concert. "God, I forgot about that," he laughs. "I must've borrowed it back. There was a lovely movement that took place there to try to kind of kick-start me into action because I was sliding out the back door so fast. It may have been George's part of the deal-to give me the guitar, to give me some impetus. At the time I wasn't playing, I was just off ... out of the loop." After having been recovered from a robbery attempt that same year, Lucy has remained in the possession of the Harrison Estate ever since.
The man who was once called "God" in the London Underground gives glowing praise to the craftsmanship of the Gibson Custom Shop on the new Lucy re-creation, right down to the nuances of the sanded neck profile, the off-set seam on the top and the screw holes from its previous Bigsby vibrato. Admiring the work of the Gibson luthiers at his office in Chelsea, Clapton adds, "I'd like to say that this is a fantastic repro. It's spot on. It's a great guitar to play."
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