“It found its right home. Collecting is about what you love and what you are gonna do with it”: Joe Bonamassa confirms he passed up the chance to buy the iconic ‘Greeny’ Les Paul before it ended up with Kirk Hammett

Joe Bonamassa (left) and Kirk Hammett
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images)

Since 2014, Kirk Hammett has been the custodian of ‘Greeny’ – arguably the most iconic Gibson Les Paul in existence, having once belonged to Peter Green and Gary Moore, before eventually ending up in the arms of the Metallica maestro.

However, before the Metallica man was approached with the prospect of buying the storied instrument, it was actually put in front of another potential customer – one with a well-documented penchant for purchasing vintage gear and world-renowned reputation for collecting historic guitars.

That collector, of course, was Joe Bonamassa – and the blues rock virtuoso recently stated on social media that he passed up on the opportunity to add Greeny to his arsenal of vintage guitars a mere year before it was bought by Hammett.

See more

In response to a picture Bonamassa posted of his latest Nerdville acquisition – a 1972 Marshall full stack – one commenter noted, “What I do like about your collecting, is that you go for non-'name' items but also they have a good provenance story. 

“You may not own Peter Green's Les Paul but you DO own Amos,” the user went on. “I doubt you own any gear from a 'name' collection? No Gilmour Strat or Clapton acoustic.”

“I passed on PG's Les Paul in 2013”, replied Bonamassa.

“It found its right home since then. Collecting is about what you love and what you are gonna do with it. PG's Les Paul gets played every night. I'm very happy for its current owner. And he is a friend and a hellava player.”

Notably, in March 2013, Greeny was in JoBo’s possession – if only for 12 minutes onstage – when he used the guitar during a show at London’s Royal Albert Hall, performing Midnight Blues.

Of course, Bonamassa’s recent post begs the question, why did he pass up on the chance to own Greeny? 

The notion that “collecting is about what you love and what you are gonna do with it” goes a long way to explaining it.

However, Bonamassa is renowned as a canny negotiator and a stickler for vintage spec – so there is another factor that may have informed his decision: the valuation of the guitar itself.

It is hard to say just how much Greeny is worth, and there’s been no official confirmation from Hammett regarding how much he paid for the instrument. What we do know, however, is that it was likely less than the much-reported $2 million figure.

Indeed, Hammett told Guitarist in 2017: “I was like, ‘Hey, hey, hey, hey. Wait a second here. Wait a second. I don’t have $2 million for this guitar.’”

But for Bonamassa, valuing it on its merits as a heavily modified Les Paul ’Burst back in 2013, it could be the case that even a quarter of that figure would have felt too much. 

On the My Les Paul Forum, an account purportedly belonging to Bonamassa commented on the Greeny sale in May 2014, seemingly confirming his own personal valuation of the instrument in the process.

“I value that guitar at 300,000 USD,” the account wrote. “MINUS 150,000 for the everything [sic] plundered and changed (after the fact) other than the actual wood and MINUS 50,000 for the general skullduggery that has surrounded it for now more than a decade. 

“Legendary guitar no doubt,” it added. “But..... I'm at 99,000 all in.”

“The guitar really should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” the account wrote in another forum thread

Kirk Hammett performs with his Gibson ’59 Les Paul Standard known as “Greeny”

(Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Nonetheless, it seems that for Bonamassa, Greeny has found a good home in the hands of Kirk Hammett, who now has a handful of Gibson and Epiphone Greeny signature guitars to his name, and – encouragingly – shows absolutely no sign of reducing the original LP’s workload.

Bonamassa’s collecting habits were also the topic of conversation when the gear aficianco recently sat down for a conversation with Rick Beato, during which he sought to set the record straight on his humble collecting origins

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

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.