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The L.A. Story Behind Slash's Beloved 'Appetite For Destruction' Guitar

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Slash's guitar might as well be the sixth member of Guns N' Roses. Granted, he has a massive collection of axes, but his most famous is a replica of a 1959 Les Paul. This one was purchased for him as a gift from then-manager Alan Niven in 1986, it brought Appetite For Destruction to new levels, and it was hand-crafted by the late Kris Derrig, who lived in a trailer behind Music Works in Redondo Beach, and died within a year of selling the guitar.

LA Weekly has a fantastic story on the guitar's California roots, and how it saved the band's debut studio album.


The corkscrew-haired guitarist was unsatisfied with his guitar tone on Appetite's basic tracks, recorded at now-defunct Canoga Park facility Rumbo Recorders using two Jackson guitars and a B.C. Rich Warlock. and he was growing increasingly frustrated as he attempted to rerecord all his parts with producer Mike Clink at Take One Studios in Burbank. A few days before purchasing the Derrig, Niven dropped by Take One and parked next to the band's rental van. "There was a fucking [Gibson] SG though the windscreen, neck-first," Niven recalls, in his rascally New Zealand accent. "And that's a message that even I can understand."

Niven asked Music Works owner Jim Foote if the store had anything Slash could try. Foote pulled out a guitar case and opened it up. "And I just went, 'Oh my God, look at that. That's beautiful,'" Niven says. He thinks he might have paid around $2,500 for the Derrig guitar.

Appetite producer Clink recalled that when Slash first started playing it, "We knew instantly that was the tone for the record. It wasn't, 'Oh, let me think about it.' It was, we finally had found the sound for Slash." Still, the guitarist retired the guitar (said to be made from the wood of a New Hampshire barn) from the road just two years later, in 1989.

In a previous interview, Slash recalled, "When I was in the studio doing the basic tracks for Appetite, Alan Niven brought this Les Paul for me to use because I was having a really hard time getting a good sound. I was getting a little frantic at that point, because we weren't on the kind of budget where we could wait around forever. It became my main guitar for a really long time, and because I couldn't afford a whole handful of that sort of thing, I took it out on the road for all of Guns' early touring. In fact, I almost lost it during an early tour. It was stolen from me once in the crowd... But our security guys went out and caught the guy before he left the building. I don't take that guitar on the road anymore. It's beat to shit, but it still sounds great!"

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Here it is getting fixed up:

And here it is in action (fun fact: this video was shot in the Huntington Ballroom at Huntington Beach):