“This is the one that got him hooked”: Slash’s first Guns N’ Roses Les Paul – the ‘Hunter Burst’ – is going to auction

Slash performs live with the Hunter Burst Gibson Les Paul
(Image credit: Marc S Canter / Getty Images)

A Gibson Les Paul replica owned and extensively played by Slash during his first months with Guns N’ Roses is going up for auction. 

Known as ‘The Hunter Burst’, the instrument was bought by Slash on September 25, 1985 and used for a host of Guns N’ Roses early shows during their formative period on the LA club scene. 

Now the remarkable instrument is going under the hammer via auction firm Gotta Have Rock And Roll, with a minimum bid of $500,000 and an expected final sale price of $1-2 million. 

Like Slash’s iconic ‘Appetite’ Les Paul, built by Kris Derrig, the Hunter Burst is a high-end replica build. 

It is so named because it was initially made for LA session veteran Steve Hunter –best known as the guitarist on Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill and Alice Cooper tracks Welcome To My Nightmare and Billion Dollar Babies – and was reportedly made by local luthier Peter “Max” Baranet.

Slash performs live with the Hunter Burst Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Marc S Canter / Getty Images)

Hunter lived next door to Guitars R Us, which was run by Howie Huberman and Albert Molinaro and was the store that sold the instrument to Slash. They acquired the instrument from Hunter and luthier Roman Rist was brought in to replace the ’50s PAF pickups with a set of Seymour Duncan humbuckers

In several senses, then, the instrument represents the passing of the torch that occurred at the time, as Guns N’ Roses’ grimier brand of rock came to replace the glam metal era.

"The Hunter Burst carried a lot of weight because it was owned by a rock star who, in my opinion, had contributed greatly to the music scene,” Rist told Premier Guitar back in 2010. 

“Steve Hunter is the real deal. So here's the guitar that went from the old guard to the new guard. That's the one that got him [Slash] hooked. The seed for his Les Paul addiction, becoming the Les Paul icon that he is, is the Hunter Burst.”

The guitar – with its distinctive quilted maple top – is extensively documented in photos from the era, and Slash also mentions the instrument in his autobiography. 

Slash performs live with the Hunter Burst Gibson Les Paul

(Image credit: Marc S Canter / Getty Images)

Slash parted with the instrument around July 1986. Reports as to why vary, but invariably come back to drugs – with some claiming that it was either stolen (while the band was otherwise engaged), or sold due to financial difficulties. 

Regardless, one of the most iconic Les Paul players in the world would remain without one for months, until the Derrig replica entered the picture in late ’86 – just in time to record the Appetite For Destruction solos.

Slash was then reportedly reunited with the instrument for the first time in 2016, before it was sold to the present owner.

“This is the guitar that started it all for Slash and Guns N’ Roses,”  says the auction page. “And if we are going to be hyperbolic about it, perhaps it is indeed the guitar that ’Saved Rock and Roll.’ It’s Legendary to say the least.”

We’ll caveat that quote by saying that it is indeed hyperbolic – Slash’s most iconic Les Paul surely remains the Derrig replica. 

However, the Hunter Burst is nonetheless an intriguing and important part of the Slash guitar story and the wider tale of the Les Paul’s fortunes in recent decades.

To us, this feels like one for Jim Irsay’s billion-dollar guitar collection, but who knows where it might wind up?

The auction ends on September 22, 2023. For more information, head to Gotta Have Rock And Roll.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.