Guitar of the day
“Keith Burst” Keith Richards 1959 Les Paul Standard
A very well known and documented guitar with the most incredible provenance that has etched its mark on the eternal pages of rock ‘n’ roll history, most notably with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. The guitar is an original 1959 Les Paul Standard that was purchased new in March 1961 from Farmers Music Store in Luton, United Kingdom, by John Bowen. John played with Mike Dean & the Kinsmen and he had a Bigsby Vibrato fitted at Selmer’s in London before trading the guitar in there for a Gretsch Country Gentleman in late 1962. The guitar was later purchased by Keith Richards, who was playing guitar in a little known outfit called the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards used this guitar extensively in the early days of the Rolling Stones and it was seen regularly from autumn 1964 until 1966 when Keith began to favour a Les Paul Custom. Appearances on ‘Ready Steady Go’ and classic songs like ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Satisfaction’ have been played on this guitar. There are many great photographs of Keith and the guitar. Keith was the first major rock star to use a ‘Burst’; he was probably partly responsible for inspiring both Clapton and Page to pick up Les Pauls. Keith owned and used a Les Paul Standard way before Clapton had one, before Jeff Beck, before Peter Green, before Jimmy Page, Mike Bloomfield, Joe Walsh, Billy Gibbons, Duane Allman etc. (need we go on?).
Keith sold the guitar to Mick Taylor in 1967 when Taylor had replaced Peter Green (who in turn had replaced Eric Clapton) in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. The Bluesbreakers’ classic British Blues sound was forged when Clapton plugged a ‘Burst’ into a Marshall JTM45 combo and Peter Green followed suit, later selling his ‘Burst’ to Gary Moore. Taylor had stood in for Clapton when he failed to show for a gig one night and ended up playing Clapton’s own Les Paul, so it was inevitable that the young Taylor would go for the same guitar and he exclusively played this Les Paul up to his joining The Rolling Stones two years later. Before Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was a red hot session musician who cut his teeth on a 3-pickup Les Paul Custom fitted with a Bigsby. It is possible that Jimmy considered buying the ‘Keith Burst’ from Richards or maybe just used it in the studio? We aren’t entirely sure but we know that Jimmy used the guitar on at least one mid 60’s recording session. Eric Clapton used the ‘Keith Burst’ in 1966 with Cream at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival. There are several photographs of Clapton with this very guitar at the concert. Maybe Clapton borrowed it from Keith?
Mick Taylor made his live debut with the Rolling Stones at the famous Hyde Park concert in July 1969 after the shocking premature death of Stones guitarist Brian Jones. The concert was immortalised by Granada Television, who filmed and released it as ‘The Stones In The Park’. Taylor used the guitar to play ‘No Expectations’ and ‘Love In Vain’; Taylor was also filmed with it backstage in the band’s dressing room trailer before the show. The guitar appears next on the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour of America, when Keith and Taylor both played it; the film ‘Gimme Shelter’ documents Keith using it for ‘Honky Tonk Women’. There are also many photos of Mick Jagger with the guitar at some 1970 recording sessions, which may be the last documentation of this instrument in the hands of the Rolling Stones. Its disappearance is shrouded in mystery and controversy: Rumour has it that the guitar was stolen in 1971, either from the Marquee Club during the Stones’ ‘Farewell Tour’ of the UK, or from Nellcote in southern France during the recording of ‘Exile on Main Street’. Dave Brewis of Rock Stars’ Guitars recounts a story he heard from the next owner, Cosmo Verrico, who played guitar with the Heavy Metal Kids, who were signed to Atlantic Records alongside the Stones. The story goes that a Stones representative gave the guitar to Cosmo to replace one that was stolen. What is definite is that Cosmo did own the guitar until 1974, when he sold the guitar to Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake. Bernie owned the guitar for a little over a week. He sold it to guitar enthusiast Mike Jopp and thought he had done well when he made £50 profit. Mike Jopp owned the guitar until 2003 when it was sold to a private investor. The ‘Keith Burst’ was next seen in late 2004 when it was offered up for auction by Christie’s in New York. A private collector purchased the guitar in 2006 and it currently resides in Europe. Taken from Richard Henry Guitars
Mick Taylor with the “Keith Burst” 1959 Les Paul Standard