CreamTone presents an absolutely amazing guitar. Arguably, one of the best replicas of an original '59 Burst ever: Jimmy Page's Number One as she was when Led Zeppelin IV was recorded!
Now, hold on... It's not fair to call a Burst original when irreversible mods have been made to the guitar: its original bridge pickup was destroyed and replaced; its neck was shaved and refinished which resulted the in loss of the serial number on the back of the headstock. Doesn't that kill its value? Not if the time was the late 60s and early 70s, and the guys making the mods were Joe Walsh, Jimmy Page, and Virgil Lay.
A young luthier named Dan Shinn started working for Mr. Lay in 1979. No one thought much about Jimmy's Number One back then. Van Halen II had just been released and rock music was diving head first into the 80s—a decade of hot-rod Strats, Floyd Rose, and spandex. But Mr. Lay kept notes about Number One, and every now and then he would tell young Dan the story of how he shaved the neck for Joe Walsh; and how that guitar went on to record the most iconic rock music the world has ever heard.
Fast forward to today. Mr. Lay went on to his reward in 2009, and Dan Shinn now owns Lay's. Let me be the first to salute that kind of dedication. Really! I didn't have a clue where I was headed in 1979. Dan is a rare breed and I'm honored to call him my partner and friend. God bless him.
Let's go back to the late 1960s.
Joe Walsh had just bought two Bursts—a '59 and a '60. He didn't like the fat neck on the '59 so he sent it to Lay's Guitar Shop in Akron, Ohio, and asked them to make it as thin as his '60. Lay's has a special technique they use for determining how much wood they can take off the back of the neck without exposing the truss rod, so Joe told Virgil to make it as thin as possible. Then Joe got it back, and he didn't really dig it, so he sold it to Jimmy Page. Doesn't that sound exactly like the stuff we all do till this day? These guys are players, just like us, so it's easy to believe that Joe had no clue he was creating the beginnings of the most legendary Les Paul story of all time.
So let's take the notes from Lay's, along with our own research, and dig deep into Number One. But first, to really appreciate what's in store, we have to look at the Gibson Custom reissue from 2004.
Jimmy allows Gibson Custom to inspect Number One.
Gibson reissued the guitar as it is today, and it's been through a lot of changes since 1971. It's very simply no longer the guitar it was in the Zeppelin days.
And of what's still original, many fine details got overlooked. Things like the shape of the neck pickup cover, the knobs, truss rod cover, tailpiece bushings, pickguard, and on and on.
But the first thing that caught my attention were the tuners. Here's a shot of the back of Jimmy's headstock.
Vintage Grovers have a specific shape. We call them "Milk Bottles." Every Gibson reissue I've seen has modern Grovers, even the most expensive "Aged, Signed and Played" models that have sold for $50,000, like this one.
Here's a photo of the set that's going on the CreamTone ZEP•IV guitar.
Now let's look at color and flame on Number One. Here's a beautiful photo of the original from Getty.
One of the problems with doing a big run of reissues is matching flame and color on every guitar. Some of them have better tops than the original!
All of this got me totally obsessed with Number One and doing one very special replica—not the way the guitar is now, but the way it was when Black Dog first blew out our ears in 1971.
I literally searched the world over to find an R9 with a top that was her near-identical twin. Finally, I found it in Texas last summer!
Here's where this story gets really good!
When I first reached out to Lay's about this project, I didn't expect much. After all, here is this legendary shop that does work for superstars—why would they give me the time of day? But Dan Shinn called me the very same night he got my email. Turns out he was a fan of CreamTone and had been using our parts in the Lay's shop for a while. I was thrilled!
So I packed up the guitar and shipped it off to Ohio a couple of months ago. Dan shaved and refinished the neck using the same technique that Virgil Lay used for Joe Walsh in the late 60’s. It is an exact recreation of the original.
It landed on my doorstep yesterday, and it's so stinking incredible, I can't even look at it. I feel like Mike Myers in Wayne's World: "I'm not worthy!"
Next time, I'll tell you about her electronics.