Plenty of controversy tends to surround replica guitars. Debates are continuously waged over the quality of replica guitars compared to their original models. It's often assumed that replicas are of lower quality because of the price gap and location in which they are made. Some fear that they will purchase a replica only to find that the sound is not what they had hoped for. But in reality, much of a guitar's unique sound actually comes from the equipment the guitar is played through - not just the model itself. This is why guitar selection is such an individualistic process. You'll hear wildly different opinions from different guitarists based on their preferences. Interestingly, one of the most iconic rock bands of all time owes its fame and fortune to a humble replica guitar - Slash's 1958 Gibson Les Paul replica.
During the recording of Guns and Roses' 1987 debut album, Appetite for Destruction, manager Alan Niven purchased a cheap replica guitar with Seymour Duncan Alnico 2 pickups for Slash to play. As the story goes, Niven picked up the guitar out of desperation because Slash was struggling to find the unique sound he wanted on the album. Despite its reasonable price, Niven was amazed by the guitar's beauty and claimed he would have paid upwards of $2500 for it. With little time or money to spare, the band gave the replica a go on the recordings. The legendary electric guitar riffs found in such songs as Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O' Mine, and Paradise City are none other than this 1958 Gibson Les Paul replica.
Little did the band know, the Les Paul replica would be used on nearly every Guns and Roses album to date. It was also played on Slash's Snakepit, and Velvet Revolver albums. The guitarist claims to have almost lost his instrument at several concerts, where security guards raced to wrestle it from greedy audience members. Over the decades, Slash has become famous for having various Les Paul models slung on his hip, but few realize that his most famous guitar is not even a real Les Paul. The replica was handmade by an individual builder named Kris Derrig who lived a short distance from Redondo Beach's music store in California.
Slash's beloved instrument has since inspired a line of signature authentic Les Paul guitars made in its likeness. Ironically, Les Paul ended up manufacturing replicas of a replica. The Guns and Roses guitarist is often credited with repopularizing Les Paul guitars, which weren't used as widely in the 1980s. Many other successful musicians are known for playing replica guitars, including John Mayer, who has been seen playing a fender strat replica.
The story of Slash's first beloved guitar just goes to show that it is not the price, nor the reputation of a guitar that makes it a legend. If a guitar can survive decades of touring, recording, and general chaos with an internationally-known hard rock band like Guns and Roses, it can survive just about anything. A replica can hold up as well - if not better - than any original model.
"I don't take that guitar on the road anymore," Slash says on his website. "It's beat to sh*t, but it still sounds great!"