Gibson teams up with master luthier Leo Scala to reimagine four classic electrics for the Master Artisan Collection

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala
(Image credit: Gibson)

Gibson has enlisted the services of master luthier Leo Scala for an iconoclastic and highly collectible take on four of its most-classic electric guitars. It is the latest collaboration between the Nashville-based guitar giant and Scala, who designed a run of 10 custom Flying Vs in 2022.

The Q27 Flying V, ’52 Deville SG, Theodore Retroliner, and Code Red R9 Les Paul are all new additions to the brand’s Master Artisan Collection, available exclusively through the Gibson Garage, and are truly one-offs. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. 

If the name Leo Scala rings a bell that’s because he is the SoCal boutique guitar builder behind Scala Guitars, whose client list includes the likes of Phil X, Richard Fortus and Doug Aldrich. 

And he has sure put a signature spin on each of these Master Artisan models. They all come hand-lacquered and aged by Scala himself, and are all things pretty conceptual. 

What if the Theodore had been released in the late ‘50s rather than being resurrected from a long-abandoned bluprint?

Well, it might look like Scala’s Theodore Retroliner, finished in a weather-beaten Pelham Blue. The guitar has that same distinctive tulip-shaped doublecut design, the alder body with the walnut centre stripe – hidden behind the solid-colour finish.

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala Theodore Retroliner (Image credit: Gibson)

There is the Indian rosewood fingerboard, the 22 medium jumbo frets, the six-in-line headstock. 

The pickguard is inspired by Ted McCarty’s original drawings for the guitar but the pickups are the big draw for us, with Scale pairing his Retrophonic PAF-alike humbucker at the bridge with a low-wind Alnico II P-90. You’d imagine there would be some tones in this. 

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala Q27 Flying V (Image credit: Gibson)

If the Theodore is a “what if?” guitar then the Q27 Flying V is more a “WTF?” guitar, taking the classic V-shaped platform and making it look like it has been recovered from some dystopian steam-punk future.

The “Stay the f**k at home” stencilling on the front of its heavily relic’d body, however, suggests it is a product of our very own dystopian timeline. Indeed, the Q in the Q27 stands for quarantine. And if you are looking for a bit of Gibson Covid history, this was the only guitar to be made bearing its name during the Covid lockdowns. 

Just don’t be getting all germaphobe and wiping it down with Clinell wipes – the wear and tear on that nitro finish has been carefully designed. Other interesting design elements on this include an extended stop-bar tailpiece to facilitate drop-tunings.

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala '52 Deville SG (Image credit: Gibson)

The ’52 Deville SG, meanwhile, looks like it could have been a production model once upon a time, and then been through the wars. It could give Rory Gallagher’s Fender Stratocaster a run for its money in the distressed finish stakes. 

It is equipped with a compensated wraparound bridge and a ’52 Les Paul-inspired Steel trapeze tailpiece, and it has a pair of Scala’s custom-wound Retrophonic PAF-alikes. Note how the tear-drop pickguard extends to between the pickups.

Last but not least, there is the Code Red R9 Les Paul. Its Kluson single-line, single-ring tuners have red buttons to match the Code Red nitro finish on the body.

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala

Gibson Master Artisan Collection Leo Scala Code Red R9 Les Paul (Image credit: Gibson)

It has a pair of Retrophonic PAF-style Vault ’59 humbuckers. Part of what really differentiates this from your common or garden production line Les Paul is the compensated wraparound bridge and removable steel trapeze-style tailpiece. The R9, however, speaks to the inspiration of this Les Paul, and there is a light burst effect to the finish.

All of these super high-end electric guitars come in a hardshell guitar case with a COA box from Scala, but the Code Red has a special G&G case in red suede, with red handle, red plush velvet lining, and a gold embroidered 1959 Gibson Star logo on the front.

These are Gibson Garage exclusives. You’ll have to enquire about the price. Head over to Gibson for more details and how to order.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.