Gibson announced the Rossington Les Paul replica on July 18th, 2002 as a very limited run of only 250 worldwide. This was the first ‘signature’ aged Les Paul Gibson offered, and could be thought of as the seminal forerunner to the current highly sought after ‘Collectors Choice’ range of meticulously recreated Les Paul reissues.
This run was a joint undertaking between the original Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, Gibsons’ Custom, Art & Historic division and the legendary guitar painter/relic guru Tom Murphy, who painstakingly cloned every minute detail of Gary’s original ’59 Burst (famously named ‘Bernice’), making for a stunningly authentic reissue.
Although of a mere 250 issued, the run took over 2 years to complete, partly due to the added time Tom Murphy required to hand age each example.
The ‘base’ of the Rossington LP was a stock 2002 ’58 Historic reissue which sported a fatter neck than the supposedly higher spec’d ’59, but as Gibson were phasing-out flame-top R8′s during this period (to justify the retail mark up between the two similar models), roughly half the Rossingtons issued featured highly figured tops and the other half far plainer. Rossington’s own Bernice has very distinctive ribbon flame throughout, so the desirability of the better figured examples is obviously far greater. The heavily faded Cherry Sunburst finish was unique to the Gibson range at the time, and actually led to rumours amongst lucky owners that a special batch of nitrocellulose lacquer had been used, although this has been refuted since.
Bernice was Gary’s ‘Number One’ and as such she displays the wear and tear of a constantly used touring guitar, and sported various user upgrades such as non standard gold hardware, Schaller tuners and a DIY three-screw fix for a headstock break, all of which is accurately reproduced and perfectly aged by original ‘relic master’ Tom Murphy.
As well as recreating the distinctive signature marks the original Bernice bears, the reissue sports neck edges/bindings that have been rolled to mimic the subtle effect of years of play wear, and the entire guitar is covered in fine and irregular weather checking authentically weaving in and around the dulled gold aged hardware and other fittings. There are innumerable and varied nicks and dings everywhere the eye falls, resulting in a guitar that looks and feels like a 50 year old, heavily used vintage original and contributed in no small way to Tom Murphy’s now legendary status.
These guitars originally retailed for $3500, but the Murphy connection, limited issue and artist association have propelled what handful have hit the open market to sell for well over double that figure, and continue to be regarded as one of the most desirable signature reissue’s produced.