Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Mystery of Wes' Blonde L5 Solved

As you may recall, a few days ago I posted a story about a blonde 1960 L5 associated with Wes Montgomery that I played at the owner's house. And indeed, it was the guitar that was undoubtedly featured on at least one album cover of him, I concluded. If Wes owned it or ever recorded with it I was not sure of and I thought that was to remain a mystery. Not so! A French guitarist reacted to my Blog post with an article that had been written about the guitar in a French guitar magazine and it gave some definitive answers as to what the association of Wes with this particular guitar really was. It even stated the serial number!

So the article was in French but fortunately my French is good enough to be able to read and interpret most of it directly. If you can read French, just click on the article on the left. If not, carry on ...

The bottom line of the article is simple. Wes never owned this guitar and he therefore probably never played it or recorded with it. The guitar was provided by Gibson for a publicity shoot because Wes was under contract with Gibson and he held the guitar during ONE foto session of which the photos were used for at least 3 albums: Full House, Boss Guitar and Wes and Friends. Actually Wes is wearing the same clothes on all of the pics that you see on the different shots from this photo shoot, though the lighting of the pics may suggest otherwise ...

I ran the text trough Google translate and edited it where it screwed up. An interesting detail in the article is a second clue - next to the veins in the pickguard - that gives away the identity of this guitar. On the inlay of the headstock a small motif is missing, to the right of the amphora, probably where some varnish was sprayed over it. Of course the third clue is the definitive one: the serial number in the article is a match with the number on the guitar.

I was kind of puzzled by the last sentence in the article but my French friend told me it was just a joke. So mystery solved. Still, a very cool guitar huh! I played a guitar that was held by Wes indeed. 

Here's the full translation of the article:

                          Rare Bird Gibson L5 CESN Top Model
If an L-5 cannot be, strictly speaking, considered as a rarity, the copy that we present here is a real one. This guitar, ladies and gentlemen, is a “Top Model who posed in the hands of a top guitarist among the top players, Wes Montgomery." Her serial number is A 32991 and she was born in I960. However, this guitar did not belong to Wes, his L5s always being sunburst and not natural. So here's how things must have happened: the photos of the different covers were taken during one and the same session (Wes is dressed in the same way), and this guitar was probably borrowed, because the photos were also to be used as promotion for Gibson, with whom Wes was under contract. This guitar was then sold a first time before being re-purchased by the present owner."And how can you be so sure that this is the same instrument?" This is where we were waiting for you ... Because, dear friend, we have two clues that allow us to authenticate it without a doubt. First, on the inlay of the headstock a small motif is missing, to the right of the amphora. Or rather, it is not missing, it is under the varnish which has not been removed on that spot. Secondly, the veins of the pickguard, like the fingerprints of the thug, do not deceive: we rarely meet identical patterns. This is what allows us to say that you have before you the model held in the prestigious hands of Wes Montgomery. A great destiny for the L5, which, after holding the top of the hill in jazz, would be at the forefront of epic rock in the hands of the equally prestigious Scottv Moore, this before it was unfaithful to the beautiful eyes of a super 400 CESN, her too...

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.