The Current's Guitar Collection: James Hunter, Gibson Les Paul

James Hunter guitar 1
James Hunter plays his Gibson Les Paul guitar in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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When the James Hunter Six performed in The Current's studio, Hunter was playing a well-used Gibson Les Paul guitar. After the session, he took some time to tell us about it.

You play a Gibson Les Paul, correct?

It is a Les Paul. But it's a fake neck because the original neck broke off, and somebody made a new one. But the guitar itself is modeled on the 1952 version, I think, and it was new in 1999 when I bought it.

Did you buy it in Denmark Street?

I bought it from Angel Music, which is now in Denmark Street, but I bought it in his old spot; it's called Angel because it was right by Angel, Islington. So it was the same shop that moved up to Denmark Street later, but Islington is where I bought the guitar in '99.

And one of the pickups was given me — the neck pickup — was given me by Seymour Duncan … which was nice of him! (laughs)

The neck got replaced later?

Yes. My guitar got involved in a fight, which I missed, in a pub in North London. And it snapped off and this bloke called Philippe [Dubreuille], who works in Denmark Street, fashioned a whole new neck for me.

And you say you missed the fight?

Yeah, this fight broke out; I wasn't there, but the guitar was. Had it been the other way round, it'd be me with no neck! (laughs)

The guitar suits your sound. When you bought this one, were you specifically seeking a Les Paul?

Yeah! All I had when I first started was a Telecaster, and that was mainly because I'd seen a picture of Muddy Waters with one. And then I saw a picture of Lightnin' Hopkins with a Les Paul — and I wanted one of them!

So I did buy one that I've since lost more recently. It was a black, 1979 model. It weighed a ton; it weighed twice as much as this one here. I don't know if somebody's nicked it, but whoever it is will be walking with a limp from carrying it!

The guitar you have here, is it the same one you posed with on the cover of your People Gonna Talk album?

Yes, it is. I think the previous neck might be on it in that picture. I think that might have been before it was broken; I'm pretty sure it is.

Is this your primary guitar, then?

It is. It's the main one I use for pretty much everything. I bought another one that was supposedly the same model; it was a greenish, sunburst thing, and it's meant to be the exact same reissue, but it was a barrel of crap. It was really awful, the neck doesn't respond well, the action is awful, so I just use it for rehearsals. So I've left it round Damian's [saxophonist Damian Hand's] house.

So this is the one you write on, rehearse on at home, play at home…

I don't really play at home because I don't keep my amp at home; it's always round the drummer's house. It's too big to hoick up and down the stairs where I live, so the amp doesn't live with me. So I practice on a Yamaha acoustic. … well, I don't practice to be honest; I do all me practice at work! But you know, it's all sort of trial and error during the gigs, to be honest.

But I use the Yamaha for doing home recordings and stuff, demos.

And the acoustic guitar won't upset the neighbors.

No; my flat is in quite an old house with thick walls. It doesn't bother anybody.

Anything else to say about it?

No, I can't think of anything. But it's been a pleasure.

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  • James Hunter - in studio You can call his sound soul mixed with reggae with a retro feel, but James Hunter prefers to call his sound timeless. This British crooner is one of the only soul singers to come out Europe in recent years.

4 Photos

  • James Hunter guitar 2
    Close-up of the body of James Hunter's Gibson Les Paul as he plays it in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • James Hunter guitar 3
    On James Hunter's Gibson Les Paul, a wordmark on the reverse side of the machine head indicates the custom neck fashioned by Philippe Dubreuille after the original neck was broken. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • James Hunter guitar 4
    James Hunter's Gibson Les Paul rests in its stand in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • James Hunter, 'People Gonna Talk'
    The cover of James Hunter's 2006 album, 'People Gonna Talk,' features a photo of Hunter posing with his Gibson Les Paul. (Rounder Records)

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