Kirk Hammett is well known for his love of vintage Gibsons – with his collection including, of course, the iconic Greeny, not to mention his stunning 1960 ’Burst Sunny – but back in March, he acquired one of the rarest LPs in existence: a Factory Black 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard.
Now, in a new interview with Total Guitar, Hammett reveals that it took him more than a decade to acquire the instrument – and that he owes his eventual success to his friend (and renowned vintage guitar expert) Joe Bonamassa.
Hammett says he had more than a few ups and downs in his quest to add the ultra-rare Black LP to his haul – and outlines one particularly bruising encounter some years ago.
“I tried to get it once and got ripped off,” Hammett tells TG. “I tried to work out a deal where I was going to trade 30 guitars for that guitar but ended up getting 30 guitars stolen!”
The Metallica man does not elaborate on the details of the theft, but we imagine that’s a painful memory to revisit. Nonetheless, he says his persistence eventually paid off.
“I kept my eye on it for a long time,” says Hammett. “[Then] about a year-and-a-half ago, Joe Bonamassa texted me and said, ‘I know you love that black Les Paul. It’s at Carter Vintage right now. Call them ASAP!’
“I called them up that morning and then my second call was to Joe. ‘Joe, thank you so much for alerting me, and, and on top of that, not buying it!’”
Hammett also reveals he has since named the guitar. “I’m probably going to be using it in the studio right alongside Greeny as Greeny’s foil,” says the guitarist. “I call it Ella. Ella is going to be the yin to Greeny’s yang.”
Tonally, Hammett reckons Ella is noticeably less aggressive than Greeny in character, but says the sound is almost prettier. “For single lines, single-note stuff and leads, oh man, it’s so nice,” enthuses Hammett. “It sings. It is so well balanced. It is a real blues, jazz, rock guitar.”
Even discounting the story of Ella, Hammett and Bonamassa’s paths still seem somewhat intertwined, by both their friendship and their addiction to vintage Gibsons.
Indeed Bonamassa recently discussed how he’d weighed-up buying Greeny back in 2013, concluding it later “found its right home” with the Metallica guitarist.
For Hammett's full interview, alongside an extensive review of 2023’s hottest gear, riffs, solos and albums – featuring conversations with the likes of Nuno Bettencourt, Wolfgang Van Halen, Yvette Young and more – pick up issue 379 of Total Guitar at Magazines Direct.