The story of Jared James Nichols and Dorothy, a 1952 Gibson Les Paul destroyed in a tornado, is a love affair for the for the ages. And it might just be the ultimate electric guitar restoration ever, with the blues-rock phenom and Gibson ambassador finally reunited with what is thought to be one of the earliest Les Pauls.
Speaking to MusicRadar earlier this month, Nichols had shared his excitement as the project was entering its final stages. ”You know what’s amazing? I am going to play the hell out of this thing,” he said. ”I am going to tour it. It’s getting a brand new lease of life. Even my friends at Calton Cases in Austin, Texas, made a custom case. Not only gold but gold-matched to Dorothy’s colour. It is going to be resurrected from the dead, and I am going to play it until I die.”
That moment has arrived, with Dorothy joining Nichols onstage at Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania's Sherman Theater to play her first notes in anger. Posting on his Instagram page, Nichols extended his thanks to Joel Wilkens of JW Restorations, TJ Duckwiler, who gifted him the guitar, and others who helped take Dorothy from the neckless and battered body you see above to the finished guitar below.
”This guitar plays, looks, & feels sublime,” said Nichols. ”It’s beyond my wildest dreams, legitimately rings like a bell. Joel grafted the handmade new neck onto the broken one, INSANE. Look at the beauty of the Brazilian Rosewood fretboard. Everything about Dorothy is beyond perfect, I am so grateful. Check out Joel’s art in the back of the headstock, RED RUBYS shaped into a tornado.”
As Nichols explained, rebuilding Dorothy was a labour of love that saw some friends pitching in, with Kris Blakely (aka the guitar collector Fried Okra), giving him all the original 1952 spec hardware, screws, truss rod, pickguard, knobs and ”everything that the guitar was missing”.
”Joel sourced 200-year-old mahogany for the neck,” said Nichols. ”One-hundred-year-old Brazilian rosewood, 50s binding – he even had the plastic, the inlays and the fret markers from a 1952 Les Paul. Even the logo! Not only that, he is matching the grain, how the grain was where the guitar was broke to match the grain from the mahogany. It’s insane.”
What they didn't replace when restoring Dorothy is quite the story, too. When the back of the wrecked body was opened up, they found the electronics in perfect working order, not bad for a pair of electric guitar pickups from what is thought to be one of the first Les Pauls ever made.
“It is museum-quality,“ said Nichols. “All the electronics are perfect. Everything works as it should... Considering the way the pickups are routed, the cavity – the thickness of the body is thicker than any other Les Paul. It has all of the workings of a prototype, or one of the first 10 or 20 ever made.”
Now it's in Nichols' hands, and joining his Epiphone Old Glory Les Paul Custom signature guitars and his 1953 'Red Top' Les Paul on regular rotation. Check out for yourself how Dorothy sounds above, and just look at the joy (and blues-rock pain) on Nichols' face.
Nichols' new EP, Shadow Dancer, will be released on 17 September through Black Hill Records. You can preorder it here.