“What you’re about to see may shock you”: Jason Isbell shows off some of his most prized vintage guitars on Gibson TV’s The Collection

Jason Isbell (left) and Mark Agnesi
(Image credit: Gibson TV/YouTube)

Gibson TV’s The Collection is hands-down one of the best ongoing internet shows for guitar fans, with previous installments seeing the likes of Slash, Brad Whitford, and Joe Bonamassa go through their envy-inducing guitar collections.

For its latest episode, the brand has partnered with Grammy winner Jason Isbell – dubbed by host Mark Agnesi as “the guitar nerd’s guitar nerd” – who showed off not only his most prized vintage Gibsons, but also a host of Fender, Gretsch, and Martin models, to boot.

“He’s got a guitar collection that would make any guitar nerd jealous,” Agnesi says in the episode's introduction. “What you’re about to see may shock you.” 

While that may all seem a bit hyperbolic, such is the caliber of Isbell’s six-string assortment that it quickly becomes clear that Gibson’s Director of Brand Experience was being very sincere indeed: Isbell’s guitar haul is absolutely loaded with gorgeous vintage instruments.

As such, Isbell’s The Collection episode isn’t short of highlights. His 1959 Gibson “Red Eye” Les Paul Standard gets some well-deserved screen time, with the 400 Unit leader explaining how it got its unusual name.

Due to some asymmetrical fading caused by a square listing tag fixed to the toggle switch, the guitar (which is close in serial number to Billy Gibbons’ 'Pearly Gates' Les Paul) has a notably darker amber-red mark on the upper bout – hence, 'Red Eye'.

Unsurprisingly, the stage is also given to Isbell’s sideways vibrola-equipped 1961 Les Paul SG Standard – one of his main workhorse guitars in recent years, which he recently used onstage alongside Mike McCready.

As for what he loves particularly about the ‘61, Isbell mused, “For slide purposes, it’s a hard thing to beat. There’s a reason Duane [Allman] and Derek [Trucks] use these things. It’s also that the top-end of the bridge pickup just really bites and cuts through.”

Fortunately for fans, Isbell was also given free rein to discuss his non-Gibson guitars. A 1934 Martin 000-28 – which he uses for both his heartfelt acoustic fingerpicking style and rhythm strumming – gets pulled from its case, as does a 1965 Candy Apple Red Fender Telecaster.

Isbell’s affection for Telecasters is well-documented (he has a signature Tele to his name, and called the model “probably the best guitar design, ever”), so a second Fender single-cut also gets a cameo – a 1953 Blackguard – as does a 1958 Stratocaster. Oh, and there’s a few Gretsches in there for good measure, too.

Watch the full video above, and visit the Gibson TV YouTube channel to peruse the whole The Collection series.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.