I’ve told the story more than a few times, so here’s the condensed version. For decades, my dream guitar was a Gibson Les Paul like Ace Frehley’s. When I was 14, I got a DIY Les Paul kit for Christmas, and I was elated. I glued the neck in, painted it black (naturally), and took it to the local guitar shop to have the assembly and setup done (this was 1986, long before I started the youtube channel, and guitar building information wasn’t really available to me).
Steve at Villano’s Music looked it over, sighted down the neck, sighed, and told me that the neck was so twisted that it’d never be playable. I was CRUSHED. A few years later, I bought a single cutaway 1961 Gibson Melody Maker. Played great, but it was too light, and I constantly felt I’d break it. So I traded it in for a USA BC Rich STIII with a Floyd and a snakeskin paint job. That guitar ruled.
I got my first Gibson Les Paul in 2004. It was a black ‘73 Custom that had huge frets installed. I was stoked. It looked so cool, but I never really liked playing it. Sold it a couple of months later. In 2008, I thought I’d find a trashed Les Paul on eBay for cheap, fix it, and make it my own. I filmed the entire process (and there are many things in there that I did that make me laugh now), and you can find it on the YouTube channel. When it was complete, I thought it was okay; it played well, it sounded fine, but I just didn’t care about it (even with all of the work I put into it).
I eventually realized some key points about Les Pauls that kept me from keeping one and decided that I needed to make my own version of it. Of course, it couldn’t look like a copy (otherwise why bother?), so on September 13, 2009, I started drawing.
I’d make some changes, let it breathe for a while, come back to it, make some changes, let it breathe for a while, etc. Once I realized I had analysis paralysis, I started making templates based on the design. And made changes. I made the first body in November of 2010, and while it was pretty much what I had in mind, the final body shape was realized in June of 2012. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t working day in and day out, poring over every little detail; I’d simply make something, live with it, and come back to it and refine. It’s one of the only times in life I can think of when I’ve been patient, but this method seems to have served me well over the years.
The idea of the ‘71 turns 10 in exactly three months. It’s had an interesting life so far, and if I could only build one guitar; that’d be it. It’s absolutely the most “Sully” Sully model that I’ve built to date. I think there should be some kind of commemoration for this, but I’m not sure what it looks like just yet. I’ve got tons of photos of the progress of the first five ‘71s; maybe they’d make a nice book. I’ve got hours and hours of unused ‘71 related videos; maybe it’s be neat to edit them down into something. Hell, maybe I’ll make one that uses some of the elements of the original sketch. So many ideas. I think I’ll live with the ideas a little, come back to it, and see where we are.