Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Mystery of Wes' Blonde L5

We all know the sunburst "Heart" L5 that Wes used throughout his career. You see that guitar on many pics and in many vids. It's the one you hear on a substantial part of his recorded output and it's the guitar that Wes is mostly associated with. But how about that blonde L5 that is featured on the cover of Wes' classic album "Full House?" And on the cover of "Wes and Friends?" There's actually several photo's of him holding or playing a blonde L5 CES.

Last year an internet acquiantance I have known for a few years told me he had purchased a severely damaged 1960 blonde L5 CES that had a connection with Wes. He was going to have it restored by a luthier and I kind of forgot about it afterwards. A month ago I noticed he had a winered 2007 L5 for sale and I decided to check that one out. Meanwhile the blonde 1960 L5 had been completely restored so he told me. Of course a visit was highly interesting now. I immediately saw an opportunity to write a Blog post on the blonde L5 that Wes might have played! Was it the one featured on the cover of "Full House?" Off to his place!

Considering the damage it had suffered, the guitar proved to be in really great shape now. And it played like a dream. It was of a much lighter build than the winered 2007 L5 and the neck was the most comfortable profile I have ever played on an L5. What a guitar ... The downside was that after playing the 1960 L5 I lost all interest in the 2007, for which I had come originally. The 1960 L5 was almost a different guitar. Lighter, more responsive and with a superior feel overall.

We  discussed the guitar and the owner showed me a picture of the cover of "Wes and Friends" and it was obvious that the pattern on the pickguard of the guitar Wes is holding was identical to the pickguard on the guitar that was lying on his couch. See for yourself:

There is very little doubt that in my mind that this was indeed the guitar Wes is holding on that album cover. Pfff .... exciting stuff. I played the guitar of course and the owner took some shots and videos with my iPhone. Not super quality but you get an idea.
Laminated maple back

nicely flamed neck
So did Wes own this guitar? Did he play it? Record with it? We don't really know. The only thing we know is that this blonde L5 was featured on at least one album cover with Wes holding it. Maybe the guitar was only used for publicity shots, as some have stated. It's all just guess work. If you know something, let us know!

Here's another short clip with the guitar. Since this clip was shot with an iPhone too, sound quality is so so and not really representative of what the guitar sounds like.


  1. Fascinating story, Dick. I'm sure you already did all kinds of research. Are there still people from the record company that are alive? Or studio personnel? Or the album photographer? Keep us posted on this quest!

  2. Very interesting article would be nice to have provenance connecting it with Wes even if it was just used as a publicity prop. The L5 is a superb guitar and one that a lot of folks aspire to own.

  3. it would be interesting to know what kind of damages it had initially suffered and how they were repaired.

  4. Incredible stuff. Is there a story as to how your internet acquaintance came to own this instrument?

  5. Hi Dick, I like to comment some info on different guitars and amps.
    1. The blond ,,Wes,, guitar and used amp(polytone?) recorded with I/phone are the best sound/and playability on your side, the I phone beats the tascam video/sound recorder, and Gopro hero video cam easily, and even far more expensive acoustic recorders that I experienced all ready a few times before, pro
    bably too when connected to a mixing table channel or multi track table out final stereo recorder. the blond ,,wes,, guitar is far better than the other guitars I saw/heared on your site.You play far more easy on that box, I can sea /scan from your body linguage/efforts.

  6. The polytone 4 is far better than mambo and sure Hendriksen amp, and for a few reasons. The polytone stays singing like a bird or goes to a bit screaming, has far mor sustain, so compression, legato sound, projection, where the Hendriksen, sounds peaky and knacky , more , special in higher frequencies, Of course one should compare them with all amps the same speaker. Politone was made as an accordeon amp, by player Tommy Gumina, who passed away a few years ago, just after the last poweramp update, to know Polytones with a classe D about 150 watts RMS power amp, so 2 transformers less and other heavy parts, the power supply and printboard are about a holiday post card with a few electronic parts weighting a few European ounces, so nothing....all together the 15 inch custom polytone made eminence speaker, and the box itself. to protect the classe d section it might be good to place after the swicht a varistor, voltage depended resistor, to protect it from bad weak local power networks in less developed countries, or small generators.
    Remember that Wes was playing on a 75 watt Standell transistor amp with a jbl silver dome 12 inch speaker, not very load, because the transistor technology was rather new and not as far as now, even maybe with germanium transistors and not the silicium ones from later time, and sounding a bit different too. rest of band wasn t amplified at all, so drummers weren't playing that loud. Coming back on the amps Polytones sound its derived from the all American sound, made by Leo fender s twin 80 watts rms, blackface only 20.000 sold, original designed with only RCA blackplate tubes and the Jensen chigaco plant made speakers, not the Italian jensens from today. I can tell you, that in those days, the amps were far better than now.far better sounding and playability. in 68 fender left the quality and went for mass production, stripped every year more and the power amp supply voltage went up to the max, because show and money making won from quality. in 69, Woodstock the Who started even to destroy and burn their instruments, to impress the ladies loud amps etc. became an easy way, in stead of playing ,,elevator ,, music, what many say now when it s not aggressive, simple, and muscled enough. Jensen speakers didn t survive it, and the playability went faster and faster downwards. Pat Martino and Benson found a solution to survive that all, by using an ,,extrapolation of wes his concept, the band and others less poweramplification then they had, by more powered monitors around them than others, pat had 300 watt crown amps and monitors, only on a low level, to push trough, benson later too and 5/6 heavy powered monitors around him, and relatively not playing very loud drummers and base players, because nowadays it makes no sens to play with an open back, designed for usa basements amp only to perform outside your home . Besides in many so called jazz clubs or music cafes, the first set the people listen and are quit, the second they get a bit drunk and make more noise, the 3 set, ……. conclusion, good gear is highly important , read my comment on tribute to wes, analysis with martino, withfield, and 2 others, thanx peter.

  7. Teach me tonight
    Lembra de mim​
    Days of roses (andre sarbib) all gopro acoustic cam records multi channel live there are 4 parts.(cheap 2nd hand Yamaha mix table)​
    multi track different band from france with fender blackface blackplate tubes L5-S​
    solidbody, Along came betty(fast samba) I am a samba dancer too. 6 x multitrack same photo

  8. Nice blonde L5, but your playing needs to get a little smoother .....

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