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A Perfectly Good Guitar: Musicians on Their Favorite Instruments
2017 A Perfectly Good Guitar: Musicians on Their Favorite Instruments
by Chuck Holley
May 2, 2017
University of Texas Press
Includes this section by Waddy Wachtel:
Waddy Wachtel and His 1960 Sunburst Les Paul
Los Angeles-based rock session player, Waddy Wachtel, recalls a deal he made with Stephen Stills in 1968.
Shortly after moving with his band to Los Angeles from New York, Waddy met David Crosby. Crosby later introduced him to Stills. It was not long before Crosby, Stills and Nash was formed.
"Our band was soon sharing rehearsal rooms with CSN. Although Neil Young was not officially in the band, he was there a lot.
Stills and Young had filled the walls of that room with guitars. There must have been 50 guitars there, and a lot of them were Les Pauls.
At the time, I was playing a beautiful Gibson Super 400, but what I really wanted was another Les Paul.
I asked Stephen if he would sell one of his Les Pauls. ‘Let’s trade rehearsal rooms tonight,’ he said, ‘and you pick the one you want.’
I spent the night in that room and came out with a 1960 Sunburst Les Paul. I gave Stephen $350 for it, and that was the best deal ever. Of all the Les Pauls I played, it had the brightest sound. It’s one of the most valuable, most coveted guitars. I broke the neck on mine so many times that it had to be replaced, but even with the replacement neck, it’s still very valuable.
To me, most Les Pauls feel like a baseball bat. They have a very thick neck. But the neck on my 1960 Les Paul is shaved down. The fret board on top is like glass. You can move like crazy all over it. It’s very narrow from the back of the neck to the fret board. The 1960 models are the only ones with necks like that. I don’t know if they are all like that, but mine is. It’s perfect for me.
That was my go-to guitar. It’s played on more hit records than any other guitar I’ve used. I used it on ‘It’s So Easy’ by Linda Ronstadt and on ‘Edge of Seventeen’ by Stevie Nicks. It’s the one on ‘Oh Sherrie’ by Steve Perry. Anything you hear on Warren Zevon’s records is that Les Paul. I took it on the road with the Everly Brothers, Carole King, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and Keith Richards.
One night I was playing my gig at The Joint in Los Angeles and the neck started going out. So I decided I had to retire it. Now I only record with it at home. I use it on movie tracks or if someone sends me a track to record on at home. But if it leaves the house, the insurance is cancelled.
Years ago, I was in the studio with Keith Richards. He picks up my Les Paul and starts playing it. He says, ‘Hey Wads, now I see why you always drag this fuckin’ thing around. This guitar is incredible. It has the best neck.’
If you remember when the Stones were on Ed Sullivan, Keith was playing a sunburst Les Paul with a Bigsby on it. So I’m looking at him holding my Les Paul, and I said, ‘Keith, what happened to your sunburst Les Paul?’
’I have no idea,’ he said.
’Wouldn’t it be funny,’ I asked, ‘if somehow Steve Stills wound up getting yours and I bought it from him and that guitar you’re playing turned out to be your original sunburst Les Paul?’
We were never able to trace it back to Keith because Stephen could not remember where he got it. Who knows? It could be the same one."
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