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Adam Jones: “I told Gibson, ‘You know, the wood was different back then...,’ and they went, ‘We’re going to match it.’ This guitar is heavy, man!“

Adam Jones
(Image credit: Kristin Burns)

Legendary guitarists, from Jimmy Page and Joe Perry to Billy Gibbons and Slash, have been associated with specific Les Paul models over the years. But it’s safe to say that when it comes to the world of modern hard rock and metal, there’s no artist-and-Les-Paul pairing as iconic and instantly identifiable as Tool’s Adam Jones and his Custom Silverburst. 

“When I think of Adam Jones, I think of a Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst, and when I think of a Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst, I think of Adam Jones,” Gibson Chief Merchant Officer Cesar Gueikian says simply. Which made it a no-brainer for Gibson to team up with Jones to pay proper tribute to his distinctive instrument. And pay proper tribute they have, with the craftsmanship and attention to detail that only Gibson can provide. 

The new Adam Jones 1979 Les Paul Custom in Antique Silverburst is a stunning, exacting Custom Shop recreation of Jones’ number one electric guitar – the 1979 Silverburst that we hear on every Tool album and see at every Tool show – from the wood to the finish to the pickups to even the volume pots. “I’m really blown away,” Jones tells Guitar World

Adam Jones

(Image credit: David Edward)

“It’s an absolute clone,” Gueikian says of the guitar, and that extends to every detail, from the nicks, dents and wear on the aged version, to the replicated medium C-shape maple neck (“It’s its own profile,” Gueikian says), to the period-correct weight of the mahogany body.

To that last point, Jones says, “I told Gibson, ‘You know, the wood was different back then…’ And they went, ‘We’re going to match it.’ And the guitar is heavy, man.” Needless to say, this is no typical Les Paul – and that goes for much more than the eye-catching finish. Take the distinctive pickup set.

When I think of Adam Jones, I think of a Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst, and when I think of a Gibson Les Paul Custom Silverburst, I think of Adam Jones

Cesar Gueikian

At some point early in Tool’s career, Jones replaced his Les Paul’s stock bridge humbucker with a high-output Seymour Duncan DDJ. But beyond merely installing a DDJ in the new Silverburst, Gibson had it custom-wound by the same Seymour Duncan employee, Maricela “MJ” Juarez.

“We called Seymour Duncan and we said, ‘We want MJ to wire the DDJs just like she did the original stock in 1980, which is what Adam has in his guitar,” Gueikian says. What’s more, he continues, “Adam swapped out the original Gibson pot for that pickup with a DiMarzio pot. So we found the exact same DiMarzio pot and put it in every Silverburst.”

The neck pickup in the new Silverburst, meanwhile, is a Gibson Custombucker – and just like in Jones’ guitar, it’s reverse-mounted. Jones first got the idea to flip the pickup over from a friend, Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne. “It gives you a different polarity and it really helps with the sound,” he says.

Gibson Adam Jones 1979 Les Paul Custom

(Image credit: Gibson)

Other features on the Silverburst, meanwhile, include a three-piece maple top, 22-fret ebony fingerboard with mother-of-pearl block inlays, large-button Schaller M6 tuners and a Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stop Bar tailpiece. And then there’s that distinctive finish.

According to Jones, the color on the original Silverburst had “metallic elements in it, which made it yellow over time and gave the guitar kind of a green-ish hue.” Matching that hue was a painstaking endeavor, involving processes like reverse engineering and decomposition.

“The way the color ages is extremely unique,” Gueikian says, “and every Silverburst finish looks different. So it was a very cool project.” The result is, likewise, a very cool guitar. The Adam Jones 1979 Les Paul Custom is available in two limited versions – an Aged & Signed offering, produced in a run of just 79 examples, and a VOS (Vintage Original Spec) batch of 179.

Additionally, each one features a replica of Jones’ headstock mirror (first purchased at a truck stop on tour and mounted, he explains, “to catch the lights when we’re onstage”), as well as a custom-designed graphic on the back of the headstock. 

To top off the impressive package, the guitar comes in a custom hardshell case emblazoned with an “Adam Jones 1979” logo designed by Tool artist Joyce Su and finished, like the Les Paul itself, in Silverburst.

It’s a package that goes beyond a mere artist signature model. But as Gueikian says, “I think Adam goes beyond just being a guitar player. I don’t know how to describe what he does – maybe it’s more like a ‘sonic architect.’”

Now, Jones has the perfect instrument with which to craft those spiraling sonic architectures. “I have my vintage Silverbursts and I have my brand-new ones and they all sound the same,” he says. “It’s great.” 

What’s more, Jones continues, “For the person interested in getting what I get out of the guitar, I think they’re going to be very happy with the results, too. So I’m just floating on air, you know? I’m a foot above the ground.”'

  • The Gibson 1979 Adam Jones Les Paul Custom is out now. See Gibson for more details.
Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.