Live: The six-string gems of Joe Bonamassa’s astonishing guitar collection

Bonamassa showcased a ’51 Nocaster, a ’55 Gibson Les Paul, and a sunburst Les Paul owned by guitarist Tommy Bolin. Live: World-leading blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa treated fans to a show-and-tell presentation of some rare six-string gems from his astonishing guitar collection. The video presentation premiered on the second day of our virtual guitar show.

The Tommy Bolin Burst

One of Bonamassa’s most cherished guitars is a cherry sunburst-finished 1960 Gibson Les Paul played by late guitar great, Tommy Bolin. The instrument took Bonamassa eight years to track down, and in fact, was never owned by Bolin himself but by his guitar tech, David Brown.

It features several unique appointments, including a Bigsby tremolo system and an American flag pickguard painted by Brown. To preserve the artwork, Bonamassa admitted to removing the pickguard before playing – even having a replica made for using onstage.

Joe Bonamassa Guitars Safari Tommy Bolin Burst

1951 Nocaster

One of the more historic guitars shown off by Bonamassa was his 1951 Nocaster – endearingly referred to as “the Bludgeon”.

Acquired at Guitar Center’s flagship store in Hollywood, California (after several “decision-helping margaritas”, per Bonamassa), the Nocaster’s features – both original and custom – were suited to Bonamassa’s instrument preferences. The neck humbucker, originally culled from a three-pickup set, produces an out-of-phase sound. Meanwhile, Bonamassa also praised the instrument’s vintage three-saddle bridge.

Said Bonamassa on Telecasters: “If you find the right one, you can rule the world. They to me are the most basic of solid-body guitars, but in a lot of cases the most versatile.”

Joe Bonamassa Guitars Safari 1951 Nocaster

1955 Gibson Les Paul Standard, AKA “The Brown Thing”

The last guitar showcased by Bonamassa is nicknamed “The Brown Thing” – a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Standard with P-90 pickups and a custom “Copper Iridescent” finish. Many 50s-era Les Pauls typically came only as a Gold Top; custom finishes were especially rare.

“It’s nothing but a Les Paul Standard, just painted in a strange, unique colour – I just dig it,” Bonamassa said. “As [a collector], this is why I do this. Because it’s all about finding preserved models of standard guitars or finding the odd fellow.”

Joe Bonamassa Guitars Safari 55 LP Standard

Watch more videos from our virtual guitar show at


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