“Artfully aged by the Murphy Lab to match the look and feel of Kirk’s original”: Gibson’s Custom Shop takes on Kirk Hammett’s mod-heavy, “blacked-out” 1989 Les Paul Custom – and it’s safe to say it’s nothing like Greeny...

Gibson Custom Shop Kirk Hammett 1989 Les Paul Custom
(Image credit: Gibson)

Kirk Hammett owns some of the world’s most-prized Gibson Les Pauls – among them the legendary Greeny and a factory black 1959 Les Paul Standard. However, one of his longest serving models is a modded 1989 Gibson Les Paul Custom, which has seen service on several Metallica tours and recordings.

Now the Gibson Custom Shop is offering Hammett fans the chance to scoop up a reproduction of that famed electric guitar, complete with his Fishman mods and a painstaking Murphy Lab finish.

“The Gibson Custom Shop has recreated this renowned guitar in exquisite detail," says Gibson. “Artfully aged by the Murphy Lab to match the look and feel of Kirk’s original 1989 Les Paul Custom, it is a fitting tribute to a metal guitar master and one of his favorite instruments.”

The base of the guitar is a solid mahogany body with a plain maple top, a SlimTaper neck and ebony fingerboard. It is, of course, all finished in black with seven-ply white binding on the top and five-ply binding on the back and headstock. 

Binding aside, the other give-aways that it’s a Les Paul Custom are the block inlays and, finally, the split diamond inlay on the headstock.

Things get interesting when it comes to the hardware and electronics. On the latter front, while Hammett’s LP has been pictured in the past with EMG active pickups, here you get a set of Gibson’s passive T-Type humbuckers. 

The firm notes the change is “per Kirk’s wishes” – in keeping with Hammett's suggestion last year that “maybe the age of active pickups is over” – which makes us wonder if the original has also had a swap-out in recent years. Either way, it seems the tweak is not due to a decision or limitation on Gibson’s part.

Gibson Custom Shop Kirk Hammett 1989 Les Paul Custom

It might look traditional, but there’s a hidden Fishman Powerbridge piezo pickup and the controls feature a Master Tone – and three Volumes! (Image credit: Gibson)

In addition, there’s a Fishman Powerbridge piezo pickup, plus a Fishman Powerchip preamp built-in, with a volume control in the place of a traditional tone knob (leaving the tone control as a Master Tone knob for the humbuckers), opening up acoustic-like tonal options.

Meanwhile, the hardware is in keeping with the moody aesthetic: from the Grover Rotomatic tuners, to the switch washer, control knobs, Schaller S-lock guitar strap buttons, toggle switch tip and bridge… it’s all black. 

You might also spot that the guitar is missing a pickguard and, like Hammett’s original, this has been drilled but is not mounted on the instrument. You do, however, get one thrown in, alongside a Gibson Deluxe Protector Case, badges, picks, and Certificate of Authenticity. 

Gibson Custom Shop Kirk Hammett 1989 Les Paul Custom

All the hardware is black, including these Grover Rotomatic tuners (Image credit: Gibson)

In terms of price, whenever you see the Murphy Lab label – denoting the Custom Shop’s top builds – you know things aren’t going to be cheap, and the Kirk Hammett 1989 Les Paul Custom comes in at $8,999. 

Some collectors might point out that’s about $2/3K over the typical present day asking price of an actual 1989 Gibson Les Paul Custom (if you don’t mind getting handy with the electronics), but then you don’t get that Murphy Lab touch, or lifetime warranty. 

Either way, compared to the likes of the $20K demanded for the Custom Shop’s Murphy Lab reproduction of Hammett’s 1959 Les Paul Standard, Greeny, it’s no doubt more palatable.

For more information on the Kirk Hammett 1989 Les Paul Custom, head to Gibson.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.