Kirk Hammett plays his '59 'Unicorn' black Les Paul on the Stern Show and explains how he came to buy his Greeny 'Burst – but James Hetfield reveals that he was offered it first

Metallica appear on the Howard Stern Show
(Image credit: Howard Stern Show / YouTube)

Kirk Hammett must be pretty happy right now. Not only because Metallica have a new album out with 72 Seasons but the fact he has TWO '59 Les Pauls. And both are significant, even for the holy grail of vintage guitar models.

One isn't really a Burst at all – it's his latest vintage acquisition, and one of the rarest Les Pauls ever made by Gibson. A 1959 Factory Black Les Paul Standard that Hammett purchased from Nashville's Carter Vintage Guitars – and it's got a Bigsby. 

Carter detailed the origins of the guitar with its previous owner, a jazz guitarist named Joseph Arena. He actually wanted a black Les Paul Custom look to match his black tuxedo. But there's no explanation as to why a Bigsby was fitted later or where the pickup covers are.

“This is one unique, amazing-sounding guitar,” said Hammett. And although he used the Black '59 for his performance on the Stern Show, using it to break down the '3am' riff for Enter Sandman to the host, it was Greeny's origins that were explored elsewhere on the show. 

Hammett denied any suggestion from Stern that he paid "a couple of million dollars" for the guitar previously owned by Peter Green and then Gary Moore. "I would never pay two million dollars for just about anything," refuted Hammett.

"So the owner, Manny Hughes, came to me in financial straits. And I said to him, 'I'm not gonna buy a two million dollar guitar'. And he said, 'It's not two million dollars – that's poppycock!' So he brought it to my hotel and literally within 30 seconds I said, 'You;re not getting this guitar back' because it's an amazing-sounding guitar."

Kirk's tech then beings Greeny out to show Stern – and things get interesting because Hammett's bandmate James Hetfield is then asked for his thoughts on the guitar. And he reveals he was offered it by Hughes first.  

"I played it before he did, I don't know if you know this [Kirk]?" says James to his bandmate. "The guy brought it backstage to show it to me and I rejected it."

Now Hetfield is laughing when he says this but Hetfield's follow-up remark suggests he's serious.

"He was asking an exorbitant amount." Then Lars Ulrich suggests he played it before Hetfield, adding even more value. 

Well whatever the truth is, Greeny is now in the hands of another iconic player who cherishes it, and being used by him on stages around the world rather than locked away in a glass case.

"Where I sleep, it's literally ten feet from me, not matter where I am  I keep it where I am and play it onstage too," said Hammett.  

Find out more about Hammett and Greeny's story in our Kirk Hammett interview


Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.