Guitarnerd’s nerdy guitarnerd guitar.

Ladies and gents… this is what a guitarnerd’s guitar really looks like.

Ok, so I’ve been holding off showing everyone this one as I’m slightly embarrassed by it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful guitar. Plays fantastic, sounds huge, stays in tune etc. I play it all the time. As you can probably tell, it’s a cream Les Paul Custom with some small ‘improvements’. It’s these ‘improvements’ that transform this ultimate of rock axes into the guitar equivalent of a Star Trek ‘Spock’ uniform… complete with pointy ears.

I’ve lusted after a cream Les Paul Custom pretty much since I started playing guitar. One of my guitar heroes has always been Randy Rhoads. His lead playing, song writing and riffs struck a chord in me and I spent the first 5 years of my playing trying to learn as much of his tricks and licks as I could. And what guitar did he play? Why, a cream Les Paul Custom, of course.

Being 17 and still in High School, I couldn’t exactly afford a Gibson Les Paul Custom, let alone any Les Paul, so I had to wait 15 long years until finally one came along at the right time when I had a decent job with decent money. And the one I got is a CRACKER. It’s a 1990 model, with a beautiful neck profile and a great weight. Not too heavy… really comfortable.

And that colour is awesome. It looks like it’s been playing in seedy bars every night of it’s 20 years. The nitro is cracking everywhere, with beautiful toffee colours coming through in the corners. Remember, when new this guitar was Artic White.

So the first thing I did was change the original black knobs to the gold speed knobs that Randy had on his Les Paul. To me, these are the knobs white/cream Les Paul Customs should have on them. I drew the line at getting the brass fittings as I thought that’d be too nerdy even for me. And I don’t actually play Randy Rhoads style music anyway, so there wasn’t any point me going that far with my obsession.

Another guitar hero of mine, and probably actually the biggest influence on my guitar playing in the last 10 years, is John ‘Speedo’ Reis from the Hot Snakes/Rocket From The Crypt. As luck would have it, Speedo also played a cream Les Paul Custom… though his had a cool-as-hell gold dragon painted on it.

Not being a fan of neck humbuckers, I swapped out the original Gibson humbucker for a humbucker sized P90. I played it like this for a while, but the sound still wasn’t ‘clangy’ enough for me. I wanted the sound Speedo got from his gold dragon Les Paul. If you’ve heard the Hot Snakes, you’ll know what I mean. Listening to that guitar sound is like ear-porn.

So, after a bit of searching on eBay I tracked down an original 60’s DeArmond gold foil pickup like Speedo had fitted to his Les Paul. These pickups came out on cheap guitars like the Harmony BobKat, and ARE the sound of the Hot Snakes. Speedo describes them as a cross between a Danelectro lipstick pickup and a P90. So I got Tim to rip out the neck P90 and install my new/old DeArmond.

The transformation was amazing. This guitar was now pretty much the best sounding Les Paul I’d ever heard (in my opinion). It’s got the power of the Les Paul with the bridge humbucker, but the bite and power of a single coil in the neck. The pickups also sound great when used together, which I never do with Les Paul’s.

So the guitar was now twice as nerdy. The final piece of nerdom happened after I did the guitarnerd article on Peter Mengede’s Les Paul that he had played in Helmet. Being a Helmet fan, I’d always thought it was cool how Peter’s guitar had 3 gold knobs and one dark brown/orange one. It was the kind of a weird quirk that I like in people’s guitars which makes them more individual.

Well, when I went over to Peter’s place to take photo’s of his guitar, the dark brown knob was gone, replaced by another gold one.

I was appalled… in shock! I asked Peter what happened to the knob. Peter: “Oh, I thought it looked unsightly for the photos, so I swapped it.”  Argh! Then a thought flashed through my brain… “Erm… do you still have it?” Peter: “What? Oh, here. Take it, it’s yours.”….HELL YES! I had a knob off the guitar that recorded ‘Meantime’, ‘Unsung’ and other Helmet classics.

When I got home, I took the tone knob off my Custom & put the brown knob on the same spot Peter had had it on his Les Paul. I was a VERY happy guitarnerd.

Oh, and the strings wrapped around the stop-tail piece? That’s a Zakk Wylde trick… another guitar hero of mine, back in his ‘No More Tears / Pride & Glory’ days. Not so much anymore. This trick helps stop string breakage a fair bit, and changes the string tension slightly. I’ve also read that this is the way that Ted McCarty originally meant the bridge to be used, but everyone strung them up the ‘normal’ way instead.

So now you know the story of my Les Paul Custom. To me it’s the epitome of all my guitarnerdness… cool yet totally over the top nerd.