37. Vintage “Lemon Drop” Les Paul copy
THIS rather attractive Les Paul copy turned out to be a real surprise – of the pleasant variety. I bought it from a mate on a whim. Then I became really quite attached to it and it ended up seeing me through some of very important years of my musical life.
I got it soon after we started taking WOLFPACK out on the road and along with my lovely old JV Squier Strat (a later entry in this blog), the Lemon Drop ended up getting played at almost every gig WOLFPACK played up and down the country during the first few years of the band’s moderately distinguished run.
I’d long sort of fancied the idea of having a Les Paul, but could never really justify the cost, nor did I much relish the prospect of gigging such a glossy, expensive beast, given how hard I was on guitars. Whenever I looked at Les Pauls, the ones I really liked were always the ones that looked as if they’d lived a little (or a lot). Trouble is, they also tended to be the ones from the Gibson Custom Shop that came with the kind of price tags that’d get you a pretty decent used car down the London Road in Southend.
So the look of the Trevor Wilkinson-designed Vintage Lemon Drop, modelled on Peter Green’s famous and much-played 1958 Les Paul, suited me to a tee – and so did the price. The body shape was subtly different, presumably to keep Gibson’s lawyers at bay, but unlike so many Les Paul copies, including Gibson’s own budget-brand Epiphone Lesters, the headstock was more or less the right shape.
It didn’t hurt that it was relatively light, played really well, and actually sounded fantastic – not to thick and heavy, unlike so many Les Pauls. And in the middle position, the pickups had that famous out-of-phase sound Greeny featured on songs such as “Need Your Love So Bad”. It was also reminiscent of Freddie King’s Les Paul tone – and more usefully, the hollow sound Hubert Sumlin had on many of Howlin’ Wolf’s finest recordings.
Inveterate tinkerer that I was, I changed the tuners for a set of Wilkinson tulip buttons like the ones I’d put on the Flying V – I love the way they look on a Gibson headstock. But that was all I changed.
I’d probably still have the Lemon Drop but for the fact a few years ago, I ended up taking custody of a really nice real Les Paul – part of Dave Werewolf’s amazing guitar collection. When he emigrated to Thailand, my dear old friend Dave was kind enough to agree to me using one very special instrument – a 1972 Les Paul Deluxe Gold Top (converted at some stage to take full-size humbuckers), rather than putting it in the lockup with all the others. It was an amazing guitar – heavy, but everything a good Lester should be.
So, after it had sat unplayed under the bed for a year or so, I reluctantly decided the Lemon Drop was surplus to requirements. Having bought it from a mate, I ended up selling to another mate. I quite like the symmetry of that… Mind you, what he really wanted as soon as he played it, was Dave’s Goldtop – and that definitely wasn’t for sale!
Bonus ball: A clip of the Lemon Drop in action with WOLFPACK at Newark Blues Festival… https://youtu.be/ToiRT2WNYhQ Check out the walkabout from about 9 minutes in!!!