Two of Ace Frehley’s stage-played Gibson Les Pauls are up for auction and they are just the ticket for the pyrotechnic enthusiast in your life.
Ostensibly, these Les Paul Customs are classy guitars, from a golden age of guitar making. But before the mind races forward to questions of weight, hardware and condition – the typical considerations when buying a vintage electric guitar – we should say that these have been modded like few other guitars have before, with one capable of emitting plumes of smoke, the other of shooting rockets.
These are very much a dynamic duo, veterans of Kiss’s 1996 reunion tour that have seen a lot of action. Part of the act involved Frehley hanging the smoking Les Paul and then firing rockets at it from the other. Both bear the scars of such firefights.
Let’s look at the smoking model first. This 1996 Les Paul Custom in Cherry Sunburst comes with a warning from Gotta Have Rock and Roll, which is hosting the auction.
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“We are warning you now, do NOT push or tinker with the control knobs on the guitar until you read the enclosed letter Ace wrote,” it reads. “You might cause serious damage to your home or office if you accidentally set off the mechanism.”
Luckily, the letter Gotta Have Rock and Roll is referring to is a set of instructions, so you’ll be up to speed in no time.
From the outside, it looks like it has three pickups – DiMarzios per his preference – but the middle humbucker is a dummy. This guitar is still capable of producing smoke, so Frehley’s notes and Gotta Have Rock and Roll’s warnings are to be heeded.
Another safety measure that ships with the guitar is the cardboard shield Frehley made so he wouldn’t get burned by the smoking mechanism. Also included is a COA from Frehley and from the auction house.
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The rocket-shooting guitar is a 1957 Black Beauty bearing the serial number 7 6144. It has two functioning DiMarzio humbuckers and a dummy middle pickup. It is kitted out with Grover kidney-bean tuners, and, of course, the double-cylinder pyro rocket shooting unit that Steve Carr designed (to think people get upset about a Floyd Rose on a LP!).
Both are sold from Frehley’s collection, and you might recognize them if you took in a Kiss reunion show at Madison Square Garden, Monsters of Rock, or the Forum in Los Angeles.
Sadly, no rockets are included with the guitar – you’ll have to buy your own – but it is in full working order, and ships in its case with a variety of commemorative photos, including one signed by Frehley, plus the usual COA. Spare a thought for the vintage guitar collector upon learning a 1957 Les Paul Custom has been used as a rocket launcher.
Folks, that’s showbiz. For more information, head over to Gotta Have Rock and Roll. The rocket-shooting Les Paul Custom is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $250,000, the smoking guitar more reasonable at $150,000 and $175,000.
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Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.