The Greeny Les Paul needs no introduction. Currently in the possession of Kirk Hammett, Greeny is one of the most iconic electric guitars of all time, having passed through the hands of both Peter Green and Gary Moore before landing in the Metallica maestro’s lap.
Owing to its heritage, Greeny has seen its fair share of action. Not only has it been used by Green, Moore and Hammett in the studio to record some of blues and rock’s most iconic tracks, it’s also a live workhorse.
Because of this, though, it faces significant occupational hazards. Under its previous owners, Greeny was cracked, damaged, and significantly injured, resulting in a long chain of repairs that merely add to the instrument’s lore.
Now, speaking in a new interview with Rick Beato, Hammett revealed that another injury was recently added to that long medical history, after he witnessed an accident that set him off “bawling like a baby.”
“Two weeks ago… I got up one morning, it was about six o’ clock, and I’m sitting at my desk drinking my coffee,” Hammett began. “Of course I have a stack of guitar magazines – ‘cause I still read all the guitar magazines – and I’m sipping [my coffee], out of the corner of my eye I see the stack of guitar magazines just sliding off the desk.
“I turn my head, and I see the stack graze Greeny’s neck, and then Greeny going in slow motion [falling to the ground face first]. I set down my coffee, picked it up, and sure enough there was the existing crack – it’s been there since [the] Gary Moore days – that crack opened up.”
Understandably, Hammett’s immediate response was an emotional one: “I hate admitting this to the audience but I started bawling like a baby. I don't know why – it was a weird emotional reaction, and I was surprised by my reaction.”
However, the injury wasn’t as bad as Hammett first feared. After receiving instructions from his guitar tech to contact repair extraordinaire Gary Brawer, the Metallica member was informed that the crack was, fortunately, an easy fix.
Hammett went on, “I sent [Brawer] pictures, and he was like, ‘That’s great.’ I was like, ‘You’re nuts.’ He said, ‘Let me explain: you want big, open cracks like that so that you can get the glue in there and cover as much surface area as possible.’”
With the help of new wood glues, Greeny was restored to its former glory with yet another injury under its belt – but one that paled significantly in comparison to some of the past ones it has experienced.
Indeed, as Hammett explains in the interview, Greeny – while in the possession of Moore – was once obliterated into “25 pieces” during a road accident that saw a vehicle crash into the back of the car that Moore and Greeny were in.
“What I did to Greeny a couple of weeks ago is kind of like an arm sprain,” Hammett said.
Though, at the time, seeing Greeny’s head hanging off the neck was borderline traumatic, Hammett resolved to take a philosophical approach to the incident, saying how overseeing a headstock crack indicates true ownership of the mythical Les Paul.
He reflected: “When Peter Green had it, the headstock was broken. When Gary Moore had it, the headstock was broken. Now that I have it and accidentally broke the headstock? It’s really my guitar now.”
We imagine Hammett will probably be more careful where he places Greeny in the future, but at least he’s got some signature guitar versions of the legendary Les Paul he can place on his guitar magazine guitar stand instead (probably not the $50,000 collector’s edition or $20,000 Custom Shop version, mind).
They include the USA Standard Greeny Les Paul and an upcoming Epiphone Greeny – an affordable take on the single-cut that Hammett himself said he prefers to the $20k Gibson version.
Head over to Rick Beato’s YouTube channel to watch the full interview with Hammett.