Iconic Guitars That Have Passed From One Rock Legend To Another

For nearly every rock n’ roll guitarist there is a nearly-as legendary guitar. Think of Jimmy Page and his “#1” late ’50s Les Paul Standard, Eric Clapton’s “The Fool” SG he used in Cream and “Greeny”, the hallowed 1959 Les Paul Standard used by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green, Irish blues rock great Gary Moore and now in the possession of Metallica shredder Kirk Hammett. It’s fascinating to think of one guitar passing through the hands of three famous guitarists, though it’s more common than you might think.

Starting in the 1960s, a generation of rock guitarists started seeking out the Gibson and Fender guitar models they saw in the hands of their blues and rockabilly heroes. Eric Clapton picked up his first Gibson Les Paul after seeing one on the cover of an album by bluesman Freddie King.  Once he plugged it into a Marshall combo and cranked it up on John Mayall’s Blues Breakers album, the demand for vintage late ’50s Les Pauls caught fire.  The only problem being Gibson at the time no longer made Les Pauls, and only about 1,700 were made in the golden years of 1958 – 1960 in the first place. With demand far exceeding supply, a high number of original ’50s Les Pauls have passed from one famous guitarist to another over the years. The same is also true of vintage Fender electric guitars like the Stratocaster and Telecaster.

Some of the most famous guitars in rock n’ roll have had more than one famous owner. You know that Jimmy Page Les Paul we were just talking about? It was originally Joe Walsh’s when he was in the James Gang. “The Fool” SG? Todd Rundgren owned it after Clapton. Check out our gallery of iconic rock guitars with multiple rock star owners to see how small and connected the community of genuine rock n’ roll guitar heroes really is.

  • 1 Jimmy Pages’ “#1” Gibson Les Paul Standard
    Arguably the most famous guitar in rock, Led Zeppelin’s six-string wizard bought this guitar off fellow rocker Joe Walsh, then of the James Gang, and has played it throughout his career. Though it is uncertain whether the guitar was built in 1958 or 1959, there’s no doubt Page’s use of it helped popularize the model and sent prices for original late ‘50s Les Paul Standards through the roof. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 2 Peter Green’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
    Another “Holy Grail” of rock guitars, this Les Paul, known for its distinctive flipped neck pickup and weathered golden-hue, came to fame as the instrument of founding Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green who used it to record some of the most soulful sides to emanate from the British blues boom. After mental health problems crippled Green’s career, he sold it to fan, friend and rising guitar star Gary Moore, who played it throughout his years with Thin Lizzy and as a solo artist. After some financial difficulties, Moore sold it in the early 2000s, where it traded hands to the tune of a couple million dollars and is currently owned by Metallica’s Kirk Hammet, who was seen playing it live on tour last year. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 3 Eric Clapton’s 1964 Gibson SG
    One of the most iconic guitars of the psychedelic era, Clapton played this guitar extensively during his years with Cream. It’s nickname “The Fool” comes from the artistic collective who imagined and painted it. After Cream broke up the guitar passed hands a couple times before ending up in the possession of ‘70s solo star and producer Todd Rundgren, who played it live for years after. Rundgren sold it at auction in 2000 for $150,000 and was allegedly resold a few years later for around $500,000 to a private collector. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 4 George Harrison’s 1968 Rosewood Fender Telecaster
    One of the Beatle’s most famous guitars is this deep brown Tele, which was given to him by the Fender company while trying to court The Fab Four for an endorsement deal. Harrison memorably used it in the film Let It Be, including its live rooftop performance, before giving it to Delaney Bramlett of American band Delaney & Bonnie. Bramlett put it up for auction a couple times before it was purchased on behalf of Harrison’s wife Olivia for $470,000. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 5 Joe Perry’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
    This tobacco sunburst beauty was originally owned by Perry during Aerosmith’s ‘70s heyday but money troubles led him to sell it in the early ‘80s. At one point Texas shredder Eric Johnson owned it before it ended up in the hands of ubiquitously top-hatted guitarist Slash, who held onto to it for years and used it in the “November Rain” video before giving it back to Joe for his 50th birthday. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 6 John Entwistle’s “Explorer-Bird”
    Not only did The Who’s groundbreaking bassist redefine the role of the bass guitar in rock, he was also a trendsetter in what gear bassists used. “The Ox” used this custom made bass, which features a maple Fender P-Bass neck grafted on to a Gibson-style Explorer body, in the late ‘70s, most notably in the video for “Who Are You.” Following his death it was bought at auction for £12,000 in 2003 by Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 7 George Harrison’s 1957 Les Paul
    For all the guitars Harrison gave away to others, he was on the receiving end of this vintage Gibson courtesy of longtime friend Eric Clapton. Starting life as a “Goldtop” Les Paul, it was refinished red by previous owner and rock star in his own right Rick Derringer, who had purchased it from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian. After buying it in NYC and bringing it back to the UK to give to Harrison, who named it “Lucy” after redhead Lucille Ball, Clapton used the guitar on The Beatles recording of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and borrowed it for his legendary Rainbow Concert in 1973. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 8 Keith Richards’ 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
    Though most people equate guitarists Eric Clapton, and later Jimmy Page, with popularizing the sunburst-finished 1959 Les Paul as the be-all end-all of vintage electric guitars, it was actually Rolling Stones guitarist Richards who was the first well-known English guitar player to be seen with the hallowed model. Richards bought this guitar in 1964 in London and used it extensively in the band’s early days before selling it to future Stones guitarist Mick Taylor in 1967. Photos also show it was lent to Clapton and Page at various points in the mid-to-late ‘60s. It passed through different hands starting in the early 1970s, including Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden, and now is owned by a wealthy collector in Europe. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 9 Frank Zappa’s Hendrix Stratocaster
    While alive, guitarist and composer Frank Zappa told differing stories as to how he acquired this beat up Fender Stratocaster body that was allegedly set ablaze by the legendary Jimi Hendrix sometime in the late 1960s. For years it hung in disrepair on his studio wall until Zappa had it refurbished and played it with his late ‘70s bands. At some point however, he put it down again and when son Dweezil Zappa found it under a staircase, the elder Zappa said he could have it. Dweezil has tried to sell it a couple times but as of now it is still in his possession and has recently had it rebuilt to his father’s late ‘70s specs. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 10 George Harrison’s 1964 Gibson SG
    “The Quiet Beatle” acquired this guitar in the mid-1960s and played it extensively on Revolver and The Beatles AKA “The White Album.” Always generous with his guitars, Harrison then gave it to Badfinger guitarist Pete Ham, who played it until his death in 1975. The guitar was sold at auction about 10 years ago for over half a million dollars and is now owned by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. [Photo: Getty Images]

  • 11 Steve Jones’ 1971 Gibson Les Paul Custom
    The Sex Pistols guitar anti-hero played this guitar throughout the band’s punk rock heyday. It was given to him by then-manager Malcolm McLaren, who received it from the New York Dolls’ Syl Sylvain, purportedly in exchange for money owed. [Photo: Getty Images]