Joe Perry of Aerosmith is a true guitar aficionado. He has said in interviews that he owns somewhere around 600 guitars. Perry has had two signature Gibson Les Paul models over the years. The first signature model from 1997 had a Translucent Black Burst finish, and a built in mid-boost circuit. The Joe Perry Boneyard Les Paul has a one-of-a-kind Green Tiger finish that actually looks like tiger stripes, and is available with a Bigsby.
Here's a collection of comments from Joe about his various Gibson guitars.
Joe Perry had a 1958 Les Paul that was his main workhorse with Aerosmith for most of the seventies. In the May 2001 issue of Guitar World, he told the story of how he got rid of it and subsequently got it back:
“I sold it in 1981, I think, I was broke and I needed money for Christmas. Then, around the time we were doing Get a Grip, I started thinking, I gotta get that guitar back. I had no idea where it had gone. But one day Brad came into the studio with a guitar magazine. The centerfold was Slash's guitar collection. And there was my guitar, sitting right there. I called Slash and said, 'C'mon man, sell it back. I'll give you what you paid for it.' But he wouldn't part with it. I felt bad, because every time I'd see him I'd bug him for it. And then finally I stopped talking to him. He never called or anything. Then when my 50th birthday came around, he got some idea in his head that he wanted to give it back to me. Which he did, the night of the party. We were onstage jamming with Cheap Trick. I had no idea what was coming.”
Joe Perry on his “Billie” guitar, as told to Premier Guitar:
“It started out as a standard B.B. King Lucille model, and I picked it because there were no F holes to get in the way of the artwork. It’s amazing that guitar plays as well as it does. I changed the electronics; it has one volume and one tone now. The inspiration was the nose art you saw on airplanes during World War II. I wanted to put the most beautiful woman I could find on there, so naturally, I chose my wife. I sent it out to an airbrush artist and he did a great job. When I got it back, I opened the case and gave it to Billie, and she hated it. She was so embarrassed she refused to come out of the dressing room at Aerosmith shows when I was using it. She couldn’t stand the sight of seeing herself on a 30- or 40-foot screen at shows. Now, she’s okay with it...My Billie guitar rings like a bell when the volume is down. When you turn it up, you can get a great rock ‘n’ roll crunch, and it’s a good heavy metal guitar too. It does everything well. That guitar is really special.”
Check out this video to Joe's “Billie” guitar in action:
Here's what Joe had to say about the Gibson ES-335 in an interview with Gibson.com:
“I have a 1960 cherry stereo ES-335 with Bigsby. My wife got it for me for my birthday, a few years ago I was bringing that on the road with me. Then I got the blond one that I got new. I couldn't really tell the difference in a live situation. So I've just been bringing the new ones on the road.”
Mr. Perry spoke to Premier Guitar about his two signature Gibson Les Paul models:
“They let me decorate them; it was mostly about cosmetics. They’re pretty much standard Les Pauls. The first one has the black see-through finish. I wanted the flame top with that nice ripple effect you get. When light catches it, the flames come through. I had Gibson make them lightweight, and it has a Tonex pot on the neck pickup, which gives you a static wah sound. That’s a very cool effect for solos. The Boneyard model is custom shop Gibson. My wife is an artist who’s had experience working in multimedia visual arts, and she had an idea for the finish to bring out the tiger stripe effect. We were at the Gibson custom shop and she explained the idea to the guys there. Their response was, 'That won’t work.' They tried to talk her out of it. She said, 'Can’t you just try it this way?' They did, and it worked. It really brought out the wood grain. The top is sort of a greenish-orange shade, and the flame top is very prominent.”
In an interview with Guitar World from April 1997 Joe Perry spoke about the difference between his first signature Gibson Les Paul, and a vintage 1960 Les Paul, and how he used them during the recording of Aerosmith's Nine Lives album:
“I use the '60 when I want more of a mellow tone, but sometimes I prefer the newer Les Pauls, because they're tighter and a little brighter.”
In a September 2002 interview with Guitar World, Joe Perry explained why Aerosmith's fourth album Rocks had a decidedly heavier sound than its three predecessors:
“I think that heaviness came about because by that time we were often using two Les Pauls together. The band became more accepting of the heavy sounds. On the first two records we were so consciously trying to not sound like anybody else that we kind of skirted around them. I mean, you couldn't get any heavier than some of those Zeppelin records anyway. By the time of Rocks, we were like, 'Okay, we're gonna get that humbucking thing going, and go for that straight Les Paul-into-Marshall tone and let it rip. And the songs certainly called for it.”
During the last season finale of American Idol in May, Joe Perry showed off a new guitar built for him by the Gibson Custom Shop. The guitar has a Les Paul Axcess body, and comes equipped with a burstbucker pickup, and a single knob for both volume and tone controls. Apparently it was Perry himself who came up with the idea for the guitar. Here's a video of the American Idol performance where you can see this one-of-a-kind guitar: