Friday, July 18, 2014

The story of "Greeny" the 59 Burst

Some instruments take on a life of their own and become legends in their own right. They have stories to them, which may or may not be 100% factual. It's important to remember that these instruments would not be so interesting if it had not been for the players playing them. I'm writing down some of these stories mostly for my own interest, and this is one such instrument.

Peter Green's 59 Les Paul Burst 9-2208

In 1966 Eric Clapton left John Mayall's Blues Breakers and was replaced by the young, up and coming Peter Green. While with the Blues Breakers, Peter acquired a used 59 Les Paul burst. Green decided to leave the Blues Breakers in 1967 to purse a more "pure blues" style with a drummer named Mick Fleetwood and formed Fleetwood Mac. Green played a lot of gigs and recorded many songs with that guitar and became a guitar hero for blues rock player's everywhere. Many noted players including Jimi Hendrix and Gary Moore have pointed to Greens playing and tone as being influential to their playing. While in his possession at some point it is assumed that the neck pickup was turned around by a guitar tech which gave the guitar distinctive out of phase tone when both pickups are used. Peter has stated that he felt the neck was like a tree trunk compared to other Les Paul's.

In 1972 Peter Green was trying to change some things in his life and offered the guitar to guitarist Snowy White, but Snowy couldn't afford both the 59 and his beloved 57 Goldtop so it was then offered to another up and coming player Gary Moore. I've talked about my love of Gary's playing here. Gary named the guitar Greeny. While in Gary's possession we know that the guitar was in a flight case in the trunk of a car that was hit by a truck which broke the headstock and cracked the neck. It was repaired by a luthier named Charlie Chandler. Gary has stated that the guitar had been played by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Rory Gallagher as well.

In June of 1984 Jol Dantzig of Hamer Guitars had the chance to inspect Greeny. In his words the most unique feature was the pickups. "everything was stock it didn't appear to have been resoldered or disturbed in any meaningful way.... but the magnet was reversed on one pickup. Because the pickups internals looked undisturbed, I concluded that it must have been a mistake at the factory"
notice the red underneath the neck pickup

 Gary went on to use that guitar as his main instrument in Thin Lizzy and his solo records for many years. Then in the late 80's he acquired another 59 burst he named Stripe which he loved even more. But Greeny was still very special to Moore and toured with it through most of the 90's. But by the end of the 90's 59 burst where becoming very expensive and Gary was keeping his guitars under lock and key most of the time. In 2005 Gary injured his hand and had to cancel an upcoming tour. Because of financial obligations that he had to back out of he was suddenly in need of a large sum of cash and in 2006 sold Greeny to Phil Winfield at Maverick Music. No one will disclose the exact sales price but internet folklore has placed the price anywhere from 500,000 to 1.2 million! Moore and Winfield seem to have publicly disagreed on some of the specifics of the deal but for a while it was offered up on the Maverick Music website for sale for 2 Million dollars. Since that time one or more private collectors have owned Greeny.

In April of 2013 Joe Bonamassa received permission to play Greeny at a show at Royal Albert Hall. Joe, ever the gear lover he is stated "As for Greeny, It plays great with 11.s. Phil Harris has it and set it up very nicely. Nothing wrong with the ole girl. Plays really slinky and intonates great. It was a complete 180 from my brief experience in 2007. I have to geek out and say the out of phase thing was surreal and to look down and see that flipped pickup ( not that it matters to the out of phase) made it a moment I will always cherish. The history made on that guitar is stunning."

In June of 2014 a forum member of got the chance to check out Greeny up close under the watchful eye of an insurance company person. He posted many pictures including some of the ones I've posted here. He stated that the neck wasn't as think as he thought it would be and that the pickups had a lot of output and were brighter than other burst he had heard. He also stated that the color of the pickup bobbins under the pickup covers were double white under the neck and double black under the bridge.

In July of 2014 it was confirmed that Kirk Hammett of Metallica had acquired Greeny. Hammett has long been a fan of Gary's tone and playing. Although some have been disappointed that a metal player has bought the guitar instead of a blues rock player (even though Kirk's solos has been dominated by blues influences since the black album) I'm just glad that this guitar, with it's long history, is in the hands of a passionate player and not sitting in a museum somewhere.

If your looking to replicate the Gary Moore sound check out the Gary Moore Gear Guide


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for checking out the site

    2. Hi Shane, How could he tel wot colour the bobbins were with the covers on??

    3. I'm really not sure. Back then they didn't wax pot pickups so maybe there was enough of a gap to look in with a flash light. I used to have the link saved but now I can't find it. There was a ton of info in that post. Thanks for checking out the blog.

  2. Remove one of the pole pieces and you can see the bobbin colour for that coil.On the neck pickup the cover is not straight being flush with the baseplate one side, this may allow the baseplate to flex enough to look under or enough of a gap between the top of the coils and cover to look at an angle with the pole piece removed.Although the cover has been removed to change the pickup cable in the past.The bridge pickup may be a guess at the second coil colour.

    1. Thank for your information sir. And thanks for checking out the blog

  3. Gary never preferred Stripe over Greeny,it was a story that someone put around before Gary released the interview in which explained why was forced (and not simply decided to sell it) to sell it to pay debt for the deleted tour ;)

  4. Unfortunately you cant tell if a pickup is double white by just removing a pole screw/piece, as the other bobbin in under the cover. You WOULD have to unsolder the cover to see both bobbins [period] However I find the comments about the pickups being un-molested interesting as I thought Peter Green had the pickups repaired at one point... maybe someone had re-wired it after purchase to make it in-phase... which would have made the cover live and noisy - in which case it would have been wired back out-of phase...and left to collect dust.. From memory Peter Green bought it second hand for $ who knows what happened before then and Peter isn't commenting about it these days :)

  5. I would say the pickup in the picture was opened up. It looks as though by the solder the cover is bent. Looks like someone pride on cover to loosen as they heated solder. Also the 4 screws on the baseplate of the pickup are damaged a bit from screwdriver.