1991 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Lestat)

Serial # 90921344

This is the fourth Les Paul I have owned.

It was the mid-90s. I’m bad with timelines, sorry. I had just left a band that had been taken out to dinner by all the major label A+R guys and girls. It was strange leaving the band because it was my band. I really thought we were going to do it. But the closer we got, the more heroin and cocaine our singer shot into his arm. He was talented, but the destruction of himself and the people around him outweighed his gifts as a singer and front man. A fact I only recognize in hindsight.

I had started a couple of other bands and was staying low-key and independent, which was actually quite fashionable at the time. One afternoon I get a call from the ex-singer. He needs to get out of town quick and need some cash. He wonders if I would like to buy his black Les Paul nicknamed Lestat for 450 dollars. I had played the guitar a couple of times and thought it was a decent instrument. It had all original parts except the tuning keys had been replaced with Sperzel tuning keys and the truss rod cover that originally said standard had been replaced with a cover that now said Lestat. I said I would buy the guitar. But he said there was a catch, which there always was.

He (ex-singer) was at a bus stop several blocks past Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, then a very bad part of town. He was in front of the pawn shop his Les Paul was in. I would have to find a way down there – I didn’t have a car at the time- give him the 450, he would then go in the pawn shop get his guitar and then give it to me. 450 for a Les Paul Standard was a pretty good deal. I wasn’t doing much else that afternoon so I said yes.

I walked to Sunset and La Brea and started to hitchhike. This was much more acceptable than it seems to be now. I was walking and hitchhiking for a couple blocks when a white jeep pulled up to the curb. In it was the sometime girlfriend of a bass player I had worked with. She was an ex-porn star now supporting herself doing “this and that”. She gave me a ride all the way past Western Avenue to the pawn shop. I was very thankful for the ride and told her so, then got out. Not too long after she gave me this ride she got into methamphetamine. One night she called my then-girlfriend and said that I was hitting on her during the ride.

The ex-singer was sitting on the bus stop. Not on the seat but on the back of the seat, so he was higher up. He was wearing his black leather trench coat that he had worn on-stage so many times after the day he stole it off the sidewalk rack in front of a store on Melrose Avenue. He also had on wrap-around sunglasses. His girlfriend was sitting on the seat below him. They had some old luggage and grocery store bags full of their belongings. They looked like people you would normally avoid.

The ex-singer jumps of the bench and says hello. We small talk a little but don’t make eye contact. I give him the cash and he goes inside the pawn shop. I sit next to his girlfriend on the bus stop. I remember when they met. She seemed so clean and straight. She really loved our band. She barley spoke a word as we sat together. Her hair was really stringy and she looked dirty and despondent. I had tried to help them a couple of times in the past. But there is really not anything you can do. I had spent a lot of times feeling helpless, angry and confused. It wasn’t that long ago we were talking to record executives. I remember realizing I had put all my hopes, dreams and hard work into the same basket as a time bomb. It was a bad joke. I tried to hold it together. You start feeling like you’re bailing water on a sinking ship and you go below and your crew is drilling holes in the bottom of the boat. I grew a little hardened and distant in those moments.  The fact that my friends were now at a bus stop, homeless with a couple of suitcases barley fazed me.

He comes out of the pawn shop with the guitar and hands it to me. We shake hands. His hands are clammy and dirty. I say goodbye, turn and walk away. I didn’t see or hear from him again for a long time. He’s a Republican now and his parents bought him a house or two. But he can’t drive because he’s had a few DUIs.  I don’t know what happened to the girl.

I played this guitar on most projects I have recorded since. Mostly a bunch of  independent stuff you would never have heard of. It has a very dark tone, never bright. Through a Marshall jcm 800 this guitar is magic.

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