For any guitarist, signature gear is a huge honor. It’s a vote of confidence from a guitar company that you love, and an entry into the esteemed ranks of folks such as Les Paul, Slash, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Angus Young and many other greats. Joe Bonamassa has well and truly earned his place among these greats, playing professionally since a very young age and playing to countless thousands of fans, whether solo, with vocalist Beth Hart, or with his band of a few years ago, Black Country Communion. But through it all, Joe’s love of the Gibson Les Paul has been quite a constant. It’s the instrument that he feels most able to channel his musical spirit through, and between Gibson and Epiphone he’s been celebrated with a variety of signature models based on his Les Paul preferences.
One recent example is the Pelham Blue Epiphone Les Paul - the same shade that Zakk Wylde is such a big fan of. “Y’know, we decided we wanted to do this,” Joe explains. “Gibson Custom had been making me some Pelham Blue guitars and I love them. For me I think it’s the best color, other than sunburst. And there really was a tremendous amount of demand for the Epiphone gold tops. I don’t know why that was. So I had the idea: I said ‘Why don’t we do another limited edition of different colors?’ And that was it! We did that and those sold out to the point where the orders that we took on our own website, Gibson sold the initial run to dealers before we even let them know how many we’d sold through our website. So we had to add I think another 1,000 to the line.”
But although Joe is able to reel off the figures, it’s clear from the excitement in his voice that he’s not sitting there counting the beans: rather he’s thinking about the homes that each of those guitars will be settling in. “There’s no bigger honor that to see kids playing that guitar,” he says. “No bigger honor. I take great pride in it. There are a couple of things I take great pride in and I’ll tell ya. One of them is when kids playing guitar and they say they started playing guitar because of me. And a) it makes me feel old, but b) it makes me feel really honoued at the same time. They’ll say ‘When I was 10 I started playing guitar because I heard your record The Ballad Of John Henry.’ And I go ‘How old are you?’ And the say ‘’m 19 now.’ And I’m like, ‘Damn, that album was like halfway through my career!’”