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A Very Special Red Special


In May 2021, I was excited to perform my first gig after lockdown. A small affair at a sunny pub garden with my best friends in a little cover band we formed to occasionally go out and play just for fun. The gig was a blast, we played great and the people in attendance loved it. It was a great gig all round. Once finished, I put my prized Gibson Les Paul (my absolute favourite #1 guitar) down on its stand and went to the bar, on coming back I heard the sound of a very large BANG. Unfortunately, I had placed the guitar on its stand a little close to the Marquee and a big gust of wind had taken the wall and, pushed my prized precious guitar onto its face on the concrete slabs! Absolutely gutted, I took a look at the damage. First of all, I noticed a huge snap in the headstock, which for a Gibson isn’t uncommon but can be very bad news. The custom cut nut was smashed to pieces, and there was some dings and marks in the tailpiece, and front of the headstock where the lacquer had stretched. Thankfully this happened at the end of the gig, not before!

Broken Les Paul Headstock
My rather sorry looking LP!

After a couple of days mourning, it was time to see about fixing my prized instrument, but this was no job for a local tech, I needed the best there was to ensure my LP was back to full health. Luckily I knew just the man, Stu Monks who is based in London. I had met Stu one year prior, another occasion my Les Paul was rather poorly and needed serious attention, I asked around everyone I knew who they could recommend, and Stu's name kept getting brought to my attention! On calling Stu, he was warm, friendly and confident he could set up and give my guitar a little TLC, his confidence put me at ease and soon, a date to take it to London was planned and this is where our story begins.

When I arrived at Stu’s place, I was overwhelmed with the number of guitars he had there, overflowing from the rooms and corridoors. A lot were his, a lot from his many customers. It turns out the reason Stu was so well recommended is he is quite the legendary guitar tech. He has worked for some of the worlds best guitarists on the road such as Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Adam Goldsmith, Steve Vai and even Brian May. Stu very kindly let me play on a number of different guitars while he was taking a look at my Les Paul, such as a Goldtop Les Paul, an SG Special and even a custom hot rodded Strat guitar that he had designed, and built himself. It was absolutely gorgeous. He recommended I get a custom new nut cut for my Les Paul, and a full set up and service. ‘The good news is that I definitely can fix it, the bad news is it’ll take a couple of days for it to set and become steady so it’ll have to stay here for the weekend’. He said. Kindly, Stu then asked ‘Do you have any other decent guitars to get you through the weekend?’ I didn’t at the time, I have since acquired 4! So he offered I take a guitar of his away so I can continue working, what a lovely gesture! Stu opened up a case, and there lay a gorgeous Brian May Red Special. As I play the first few notes Stu begins to tell me this guitar was used every night on the West End production of ‘We Will Rock You’ by Laurie Wisefield. Stu was guitar tech for the show and given the guitar when the production was finished. The greatest part of all was Brian May himself had played this guitar when visiting for his guest appearances. WOW! Of course I tore his arm off, and took it home with me that evening. After some revelling and much playing around, I decided this would be a great idea to record and film a couple of classic Queen solos using the guitar, and attempt to get the most accurate tone possible!

Brian May Red Special

It was such a great experience playing this guitar, I could feel the energy radiating from it, of playing those classic songs every single night and echoing through London. The guitar was a little strange to get used to with its unique body shape, the action was set perfectly and the tremolo was free and stayed in tune very well. I noticed the tone and volume knobs had been changed (I’m sure this is for utility during the show) alongside locking Sperzel tuners. Playing with the different pickup combinations to find the perfect tone for each solo was an absolute hoot. I had so much fun doing this and a huge thank you goes out to Stu who both fixed my prize Les Paul on both occations, made it even better than it was before the break and gave me such a unique opportunity to play this awesome instrument. My Cover of Bohemian Rhapsody was at the top of this page, and here is the second cover of ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. All my best, Matt.


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