Joe Perry: A Masterclass with Gibson Guitars


Legendary guitarist Joe Perry and the prestigious Gibson guitar brand have journeyed through a symbiotic relationship that spanned decades, driving their careers to momentous heights. As a vital member of the iconic American rock band Aerosmith, Perry’s guitar styling has been one of the influential forces in rock and roll, primarily attributed to his intimate interaction with Gibson guitars.

This relationship has influenced Perry’s playing style and contributed significantly to the evolution and innovation at Gibson, spawning multiple signature models bearing Perry’s name. This exploration will delve into the roots of Perry’s early days with Gibson, illuminating how this relationship has shaped their landscapes in music.

Joe Perry’s Early Career and Interaction with Gibson Guitars

The Formative Years of Joe Perry

Joe Perry’s journey with Gibson guitars can be traced back to his adolescence in the mid-1960s. Perry, who would later emerge as the lead guitarist of the American rock band Aerosmith, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1950. He was introduced to the rock music genre during the free-loving era of the 60s and was particularly inspired by iconic rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page.

Joe Perry’s Introduction to Gibson Guitars

Perry’s interaction with Gibson guitars began in earnest in 1970, after the formation of Aerosmith. At that time, Joe Perry and other band members were starting their ascent in the music world. Like many guitarists of his generation, Perry was inspired by the forceful rock sound engineered through Gibson electric guitars. Renowned guitarists like Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin were also known for their preference for Gibson guitars, which made a significant impression on Perry.

His first Gibson was a 1959 Les Paul that he purchased in the early 70s, shortly after Aerosmith was formed. This guitar became a favorite of Perry’s due to its rich, robust tones, which perfectly complemented Perry’s hard rock style.

Impact of Gibson on Perry’s Music Style

Throughout his career as an Aerosmith and a solo artist, Perry relied heavily on the tonal and handling qualities that Gibson guitars are known for. He experimented with different models, ranging from the Les Pauls to the SGs and Explorers. However, he preferred Les Paul models, known for their solid construction and ability to create versatile, robust tones. Perry enjoyed utilizing Les Pauls for their deep, warm sound and high sustain, which became instrumental in developing his signature playing style.

Perry took advantage of the flexibility of Gibson guitars to experiment with diverse genres. While Aerosmith was primarily a hard rock and blues rock band, their music also encapsulated pop, heavy metal, rhythm, and blues elements. This diversity was possible partly because of the vast range of sounds that Gibson guitars offered, allowing Perry to navigate through various musical styles with fluidity and ease.

Furthermore, Perry’s implicit trust in Gibson’s guitars led to his collaboration with the company to create his signature guitars. They released the Joe Perry signature Les Paul in 1996, which featured a unique transparent black finish, among other specifications.

Perry’s Signature Gibson Models

Joe Perry Gold Rush Les Paul
Joe Perry’s “Gold Rush” Les Paul Axcess

Exploring Joe Perry’s Lifelong Affinity with Gibson Les Paul Models

One cannot discuss Joe Perry’s guitar collection without highlighting his enduring relationship with the Gibson Les Paul model. Over the years, Perry has used this guitar to produce his distinctive mix of blues and rock, leveraging Les Paul’s renowned range from smooth, long-winding notes to aggressive, biting tones.

While Perry’s arsenal includes various custom-built Les Paul models, they all share standard features, reflecting his specific taste. A few distinctive features are the guitar’s single-cutaway form for easy access to higher frets and its heavy mahogany body known for producing a rich, resounding tone. The set neck design, typically of mahogany and coupled with a rosewood fretboard, ensures the guitar’s sustain and resonance that has become Perry’s signature sound.

Perry’s Signature Model: The Gibson ‘Boneyard’ Les Paul

2008 Gibson Custom Shop Joe Perry BONEYARD 59 Les Paul Green Tiger Flame Reissue 1959 R9
2008 Gibson Custom Shop Joe Perry BONEYARD ’59 Les Paul Green Tiger Flame – Reissue 1959 R9

One of Perry’s most recognized guitars is the Gibson ‘Boneyard’ Les Paul. This signature model was introduced in the late 1990s and stands out with its distinctive “Boneyard” green flame maple top. Besides the unique finish, the guitar has some other notable specifications. It features a ’59 rounded Les Paul neck profile, a Burstbucker 2 pickup in the neck position, and a Burstbucker 3 in the bridge position. Burstbucker pickups, which are reissues of the PAF (Patent Applied For) pickups of the late ’50s and early ’60s, give Perry’s signature model the same classic tone that the original Les Pauls are revered for.

Modifications and Personal Touches

Like many professional guitarists, Joe Perry has modified his instruments better to suit his playing style and sound requirements. Classic Les Paul controls include two volume knobs and two tone knobs, which allow the player to blend the outputs of the two pickups. However, Perry has been known to replace one of the tone knobs with a toggle switch in some of his guitars. This modification gives him quick and easy access to a broader tonal palette by bypassing the tone circuit, letting pickups’ pure, unfiltered sound come through.

Beyond hardware modifications, Perry’s affiliation with Gibson guitars has produced editions with distinctive aesthetic features that reinforce his rock and roll image. Some of these include the custom ‘Boneyard’ Les Paul with its striking flame maple top and the Joe Perry Gold Rush Les Paul Axcess, finished in antique gold and featuring a Floyd Rose tremolo system, a less common feature for Les Paul models.

Joe Perry, the unrivaled lead guitarist of Aerosmith, is renowned not only for his legendary rock music performances but also for his deep association with Gibson guitars and his extensive collection of their Les Paul models. His unique playing style, which effectively complements Gibson’s distinctive construction and design, has significantly contributed to his monumental status in rock music. The modifications to his instruments and signature models demonstrate Perry’s dedication to crafting his sound, rendering him a beacon of inspiration for an entire generation of aspiring guitarists.

Joe Perry playing a Gibson Les Paul guitar on stage

Influence of Gibson Guitars on Perry’s Playing Style

Joe Perry’s Inventive Union with Gibson Guitars

Undoubtedly, Joe Perry has left an unparalleled mark on the landscape of rock music with his blues-inspired guitar riffs and compelling performances. His distinct sound and style are intrinsically tied to his consistent use of Gibson guitars. To Perry, these instruments are more than tools of the trade; they are extensions of his creativity and musical versatility. Throughout his illustrious career, Perry has wielded a variety of Gibson models—ranging from the classic Les Paul to the innovative Explorer, the distinctive Firebird, and the adventurous Flying V. Each instrument plays a vital role in helping Perry hone and express his signature sound.

Les Paul and Perry – A Perfect Blend

A signature component of Perry’s playing style is his use of the Gibson Les Paul. An iconic Gibson guitar, the Les Paul is world-famous for its rich, warm tones, sustain, and versatility. The sustain provided by this model supports Perry’s fiery blues solos and chunky riffs. The Les Paul’s dual humbucker pickups allow Perry to switch between smooth, mellow tones during clean passages and fingernail-tough, roaring, overdrive tones during his heavier riffs and solos.

A Gibson Explorer Finds Its Way

Another Gibson model that Perry has repeatedly explored is the Explorer. With its distinctive shape and powerful sound, this Gibson model has contributed enormously to Perry’s raucous rock sound. Compared to the Les Paul, the Explorer’s brighter and sharper tonality adds another dimension to Perry’s sonic palette. The guitar’s intense, cutting tones are perfect for lead lines and solos, allowing Perry’s playing to cut through even the densest of rock mixes.

Perry’s Firebird Flights

The Gibson Firebird is another favorite of Perry. Its mini-humbucker pickups feature a sound that’s somewhat of a halfway point between a full-size humbucker and a single-coil, like those found on Fender Stratocasters. This has allowed Perry to add a different texture to Aerosmith’s sound, which blends the smoothness of Gibson with a touch of Fender’s renowned bite.

Flying V – Scream of Kalamazoo

No lineup of Joe Perry’s Gibson guitars is complete without mention of the Flying V. With its dramatic angular shape and robust tones, it’s the perfect match for Perry’s flashy stage presence and energetic playing style. The Gibson Flying V has a bright, clear sound that again provides a tonal counterpoint to the darker Les Paul. It’s particularly well-suited for cutting through the mix on solos.

The Role of Gibson in the Evolution of Perry’s Sound

There is no denying the role of Gibson guitars in the ongoing evolution of Perry’s signature sound and pioneering playing style. Be it the luscious, mellow humbucker tones of sentimental ballads or the one-of-a-kind textures drawn from mini-humbuckers, Perry’s sound has consistently found its match in Gibson’s instruments. Notable models, including the Les Paul, Firebird, Flying V, and Explorer, contributed to the distinct Joe Perry sound. Each guitar presents a unique construction and tone palette, resonating with Perry in a manner that allows him to convey his creative instincts and exceptional musical concepts.

Image of Joe Perry playing a Gibson guitar

Perry’s Contribution to Gibson’s Evolution

The Impact of Joe Perry on Gibson Guitars

In rock music, Aerosmith’s lead guitarist, Joe Perry, reigns as a towering figure, with his influence reaching into both music and the art of guitar-making. His longstanding partnership with Gibson Guitars has bolstered its reputation and significantly enriched its product offerings. Creating the Joe Perry Signature Les Paul, a custom-designed model that encapsulates Perry’s artistic flair and technical requirements, is one of the most illustrious achievements of this collaboration.

Joe Perry Signature Les Paul Design

The Joe Perry Signature Les Paul guitar showcased many unique features, symbolizing Perry’s rock and roll flair. It included ‘Slash’ pickups that captured Perry’s signature tone, a ’59 neck profile that provided smooth, comfortable playability, and an antique gold finish that reflected Perry’s iconic vintage style. The guitar was engineered precisely, with every minute detail attending to Perry’s unique playing style. Each of the limited-edition guitars bore Perry’s signature at the back of the headstock, a gesture of the legend’s seal of approval.

Gibson’s Adoption of Perry’s Ideas

Perry’s impact on Gibson went beyond the signature model. His feedback and recommendations have been instrumental in Gibson’s evolution, enhancing product quality and service. Perry had a stronghold on many aspects of guitar design, including tonal quality, ergonomics, and hardware configuration. Valuing Perry’s wealth of experience, Gibson adopted many of his suggestions, which later became integral to their general guitar design.

The Boneyard Les Paul and Perry’s Innovation

Another testament to Perry’s contribution to Gibson’s evolution is the Joe Perry “Boneyard” Les Paul. This instrument featured a distinctive ‘flame’ maple top, a design modification inspired by Perry himself. In addition, the burstbuckers pro humbucker pickups were incorporated to deliver a relentless, hard-edged rock tone, a characteristic element of Perry’s soundscape. While reflecting Perry’s taste, the Boneyard Les Paul also bore witness to Gibson’s flexibility in incorporating meaningful changes inspired by their artists.

Gibson’s Continuous Evolution with Perry’s Insights

To this day, Perry continues to be a significant part of Gibson’s evolution. His unique perspective on guitar design and performance has guided Gibson toward creating more intuitive and inspiring instruments for a wide range of users. The Joe Perry Gold Rush Les Paul Axcess model, with its refined high-gain tone and golden burst finish, is a quintessential example of Gibson’s ongoing improvements inspired by Perry.

The collaboration between Joe Perry and Gibson demonstrates the brand’s dedication to crafting premium quality guitars inspired by the artist’s distinct vision. By incorporating Perry’s insights, Gibson constantly upgrades its designs, fortifies its product range, and defines the future of guitar craftsmanship.

Joe Perry playing guitar on stage with Gibson Les Paul in a rock concert

Joe Perry’s Relationship with Gibson Today

Joe Perry’s Continuing Affiliation with Gibson

Aerosmith’s globally acknowledged guitarist, Joe Perry, has a deep-rooted and productive association with Gibson spanning countless years. His bond with the esteemed guitar manufacturer commenced during his adolescence when he purchased his first Gibson guitar, marking the start of a lifelong relationship. Perry’s affection for Gibson guitars lies not only in their superior auditory quality but also in their exceptional construction and craftsmanship.

In affirmation of Perry’s enduring bond with Gibson, the company unveiled the Gibson Joe Perry “Gold Rush” Les Paul Axcess in 2021. This exclusive model thrilled Aerosmith’s fan base and guitar enthusiasts, attesting to the sustainable alliance between Perry and Gibson guitars.

Perry works hand-in-hand with Gibson in influencing the design, fabrication, and marketing of his signature guitars. He is deeply involved with the team to ensure every detail fits his vision – from the guitar’s tone to its looks.

Moreover, Perry is incredibly open about his admiration for Gibson’s guitars. He prominently features them in his live shows, music videos, and studio sessions. His unwavering loyalty to the brand and the consistent use of Gibson guitars throughout his career indirectly vouches for their unparalleled quality.

Billy Gibbons & His Mastery with Gibson Guitars

Perry’s Thoughts on Gibson’s Current Line of Products

Joe Perry has consistently voiced his approval and admiration for Gibson’s current line of products. He admires the company’s commitment to maintaining the high standards that initially drew him to the brand while continuing to innovate.

For Perry, Gibson’s current models epitomize the perfect blend of the company’s legendary past and future-forward designs. He often speaks favorably of the brand’s commitment to sustainability, notably their use of responsibly sourced tonewood and their continual evolution to meet modern guitarists’ expectations.

In interviews, Perry has frequently praised the Gibson Les Paul models for their versatility and rich, full sound at any volume. He often comments on their impressive build and finish, lauding the company’s dedication to providing superior-quality instruments for musicians at every level.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Throughout his career, Perry’s collaborations with Gibson are marked by creating customized, signature models that reflect his style and specifications. Yet, his partnership with the company goes beyond creating signature models.

Perry also contributes his expertise and insight to the Guitar Center’s Master Class mentorship program, a partnership initiative by Gibson and Guitar Center. The guitarist mentors young musicians shares insights about the music industry, and often showcases his custom Gibson models.

Undoubtedly, Joe Perry’s relationship with Gibson is not merely professional; it reflects a deep respect for craftsmanship, an advocacy for music education, and a shared passion for creating exceptional guitars that continue to shape the industry’s future.

Photo of Joe Perry with a Gibson guitar, showcasing their relationship

Photo by nicklaz21 on Unsplash

An intimate examination of Perry’s journey with Gibson is a testament to their enduring relationship, which continues to evolve and flourish. Their symbiotic relationship not only defined Perry’s distinctive sound but also influenced the design ethos within Gibson, leading to the creation of instruments that cherish Perry’s style and creativity. The ongoing influence and active participation of Perry in the Gibson product line encapsulate his standing as a pivotal character within Gibson’s historical narrative. Thus, Joe Perry and Gibson’s story is more than just a relationship between an artist and a tool of his craft – it’s a story of mutual respect and growth and their intertwined legacies in the music world.

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