It’s the Les Paul that launched a million guitarists: the 1974 Cherry Sunburst three-pickup Gibson Les Paul used by Ace Frehley during KISS’s breakthrough era. The guitar, known as the Budokan Les Paul in honour of the historic Japanese venue where it was given one of its best-known public showings, left Ace’s stewardship a few years ago, and it was long since retired from the road. But now it’s back, in spirit at least, in the form of Gibson Custom’s new Ace Frehley “Budokan” Les Paul Custom. This limited edition instrument will be available in four versions: fifty signed guitars aged by Tom Murphy in the Gibson Custom Shop; one hundred aged (but not signed) pieces; a further 150 finished with Gibson’s VOS (Vintage Original Spec) process; and 1000 pieces of an Epiphone version which retains most of the design features of its Gibson big brother. Ace took some time to talk with I Heart Guitar about the new guitar, the 30+ year old classic it’s based on, and his future plans.
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“It was my favourite guitar that I used pretty much exclusively through the 70s and 80s, I guess,” Frehley says of the original instrument. “I continued to use it even with Frehley’s Comet. I don’t even remember when I got it! It was some time around 1975, 76. I had three or four backups, but the particular one that they just released, which is called the Budokan guitar, it was always my favourite guitar, my number one. It just felt the best and played the best.”