In the world of rock and roll, few guitars have as storied a history as the legendary “Greeny,” a 1959 Les Paul Standard that once belonged to Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green. This iconic instrument, known for its unique sound and rich history, now resides with Metallica’s lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett.
The tale of how Hammett came to own the Greeny is as intriguing as the guitar’s history itself. Contrary to popular belief, Hammett did not pay a couple of million dollars for the guitar. The rumor was debunked by Hammett himself during an interview, where he revealed that the previous owner, a British man named Manny, was in financial straits and approached him to sell the guitar. Manny brought the guitar to Hammett’s hotel, and within 30 seconds of plugging it in, Hammett was smitten. He told Manny, “You’re not getting this guitar back,” and agreed to buy it for an undisclosed amount.
The Greeny’s unique sound and history were what captivated Hammett. The guitar was first purchased by Peter Green in 1965. Green, who formed Fleetwood Mac, wrote several iconic songs on the Greeny, including “Black Magic Woman,” “Albatross,” and “Green Manalishi.” In 1971, Green sold the guitar to Gary Moore for £150. Moore, in turn, used it for the next 30 years, playing it on several Thin Lizzy albums, including the popular “Black Rose.”
The Greeny is known for its distinctive sound, particularly its neck pickup sound, which Hammett describes as “super syrupy” with “great sustain.” Additionally, the guitar’s middle position sound is out of phase, making it sound like a Fender Strat, a unique characteristic for a Les Paul. This distinct sound was another reason Hammett was so drawn to the guitar.
Since acquiring the Greeny, Hammett has become inseparable from it. He keeps it within 10 feet of him at all times, whether he’s sleeping or on stage. The guitar’s energy and “mojo” have become a vital part of Hammett’s musical journey.
Kirk Hammett’s connection with the Greeny guitar goes back to his teenage years. At the age of 15 or 16, he came across a live shot of Thin Lizzy on the back of Gary Moore’s first solo album at a record store in Berkeley. The image of Moore, with his guitar bent all the way back, left a lasting impression on the young Hammett. He remembers thinking, “What a cool Les Paul. I wish someday I have a Les Paul that cool.” Little did he know that decades later, he would own that very guitar.
The Greeny, for Hammett, is not just an instrument; it’s a source of inspiration. Knowing the history of the guitar, knowing that it has been played by legends like Peter Green, Gary Moore, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, and Rory Gallagher, is incredibly inspiring to him. He believes that the essence of these players is ingrained in the Greeny. When he picks up the guitar, he feels like he’s invoking the spirit of these musicians.
Hammett’s love for the Greeny extends to sharing it with others. He often allows people, even complete strangers, to play it. He believes that the Greeny means so many things to so many people, and he’s happy to help fulfill the wish of others to have their own Greeny experience.
The Greeny’s history doesn’t stop with Hammett, Green, and Moore. The guitar has been played by several other legendary musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Jeff Beck, and Rory Gallagher. Each artist has contributed to the guitar’s rich history, adding their own unique energy and style to its legacy.