Why Joe Bonamassa Chose a Les Paul

March 6, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More

bonamassa_joe_siglp_gibsoncomAfter doing that research about Joe’s gear for Wednesday’s post, I realized there wasn’t anything about his guitar. I know he plays a custom Gibson Les Paul now, but didn’t know the specs. Nor, importantly, did I know why he switched from a huge arsenal of Fenders to Les Pauls. Luckily someone at Gibson.com asked that question, and here is Joe’s response:

“One night, I was doing this classical thing I do using the volume control, and I was playing it on a Strat. When I finished the show, someone came up to me and told me that I sounded like Stevie Ray playing a violin. Well, bless his heart, and God bless Stevie Ray, but it sounded nothing like Stevie Ray. And please don’t get me wrong: I was heavily influenced by Stevie, but what it showed me is that if you waltz up there with a Stratocaster and play anything remotely resembling the blues you’re going to be compared to someone else.

“If you play one Stratocaster, you’ve played them all. When I recorded You and Me and Sloe Gin, I used a lot of ES-335s and Les Pauls, so slowly but surely I’ve gravitated solely to Gibsons. Electrically, I don’t use anything but my Les Pauls, my [B.B. King ES-335] Lucille, and my Blues Hawk.”

Interesting. Here are the specs on his Inspired By Joe Bonamassa Aged Les Paul Goldtop from the Gibson Custom Shop:

  • Available in goldtop only, lightly aged.
  • Carved maple top and two-piece light mahogany back, surrounded by single-ply cream binding.
  • 24¾-inch mahogany neck with 1959 profile, rosewood fingerboard. Grover kidney or “kidneybean,” tuners, Bonamassa truss rod cover.
  • ABR-1 bridge without the retainer wire and an aluminum stopbar tailpiece.
  • Gibson Burstbucker 3 in the bridge position, Gibson Burstbucker 2 in the neck position. Black Gibson pickup rings, black pickguard.
  • CTS pots and Bumble Bee capacitors.
  • Knobs: Two gold Top Hat knobs for the treble pickup controls, two amber Top Hat knobs for the rhythm controls [I think that’s a cool idea].

More on the Pickups

Not sure whether this is true for all Gibson Burstbucker pickups, but the Bonamassa guitar’s pickups has “unmatched bobbin windings and Alnico II magnets,” according to Gibson. The company also says this about the pickups:

“The variations in pickup output and tone came from inconsistencies in winding the bobbins, a result of the lack of automatic shutoffs on Gibson’s winding machines in the late 1950s. Seth Lover, who invented the humbucker, always said they wound the bobbins “until they were full,” and original examples suggest that employees stopped the winding machines after the counter reached approximately 5000 turns. When the two coils in a pickup have a different number of turns, that variation puts a little “edge” or “bite” on the classic humbucker sound. That’s the sound BurstBuckersTM replicate. (The “creamy” sound that Gibson’s ’57 Classics replicate comes from equal coil windings.) Gibson then carries the replication process two steps farther, with unpolished Alnico II magnets and no wax-potting of the coils, just like the originals.

“The Burstbucker 2 is wound in the range of Gibson’s ’57 Classic, with slightly hotter “vintage” output than the BurstBuckerT #1, and works well in the bridge position with a BurstBuckerT #1 in the neck position.

“The Burstbucker 3 is slightly overwound, with hotter output, and works well in the bridge position with a BurstBucker™ #2 in the neck position.”

Category: Humbuckers, Joe Bonamassa, Les Paul

Comments (3)

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  1. JoeFan says:

    What is the fretboard radius of his Joe Bonamassa Les Paul model?


  2. emil says:

    I met Joe in 2003 when he was opening for Peter Frampton. First off, he was really nice guy, gave me picks! I am hoping to one day meet him adn havehim sign my JB sig wah that I love!!
    I was blown away by the show, and while talking with him outside I said how thrilled I was cause I never got to see Hendrix, or Stevie and feel that excitement of hearing a new talent, but I’m getting to see him adn this is how it must have felt.

    I think I might have urked him on that one. But I didn’t mean to, it was just a compliment from a fan. I didn’t say he was like them in any other way then talent. Nonetheless, he was still really cool. Also I was really young.

    I think things like this definitly had something to do with it, which is understandable. Though in truth, there really hasn’t been anyone since Stevie to make peopel react that way.

    Still a big fan though. Joe rocks. Hope I get to meet him again someday, maybe tell him all this. I know I’d feel better :

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