In the new issue of Guitarist magazine (out today), Joe Bonamassa discusses how he came to own his iconic 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard, the so-called Bolin ’Burst –describing it as “the strangest guitar deal I ever did”.
The Bolin ’Burst got its name from its long-running association with Deep Purple and Zephyr guitarist Tommy Bolin.
Guitarist got to see (and photograph) the instrument up close when they were invited to head to ‘Nerdville, USA’ – the guitar icon’s given name for his personal musuem – for a guided tour of his awe-inspiring 500+ guitar collection.
It’s full of stories of valuable vintage finds, but it seems even an instrument as famous as the Bolin ’Burst still has a few surprises to offer, as Bonamassa reveals...
“Tommy Bolin never owned this guitar,” explains Bonamassa. “That’s the misconception. It was owned by a guy named David Brown who bought it in 1966 for $125 in Denver. His daughter actually sent me the receipt.
“When Tommy’s Goldtop got nicked in the early ’70s when he was with Zephyr, David was Tommy’s right-hand man and he loaned him this ’Burst. And so Tommy played it all through Zephyr and Deep Purple.”
Bonamassa notes Bolin did not use it on his album with Billy Cobham, Spectrum (on which he favored a Fender Stratocaster).
“They put the [Bigsby] vibrato on the Bolin ’Burst because Tommy was a Strat guy,” says Bonamassa.
The blues rock ace learned the art of buying vintage guitars by accompanying his dad (a vintage dealer) on guitar safaris, throughout his childhood. However, even he says tracking down the Bolin ’Burst was not an easy process.
“I looked for this guitar for about a decade,” explains Bonamassa. “I finally located David in Moab, Utah. I made a deal with him, paid him in cash, and he died two months later in a car accident. His last text to his daughter was, ‘I buried the money in the desert.’ Weird, weird story. It was also the strangest guitar deal I ever did.”
We presume the guitar’s had a more secure homelife since it’s been under the blues rocker’s careful custodianship, but it does get live airings – such as last month, when Joe Bonamassa brought the Bolin ’Burst out to cover Deep Purple.
To get up close with the Bolin ’Burst, plus Bonamassa’s 1955 Strat (which takes pride of place on the cover), ’58 Korina Flying V, his “unicorn” 1961 ES-355 – and that's just the beginning – pick up issue 504 of Guitarist.