The cover of the classic Frampton Comes Alive album features a 1954 Les Paul Custom with three pickups that was inseparable from Peter Frampton for a decade. Appearing on his solo albums, Humble Pie and session work. Then he lost it in a cargo plane crash in 1980 over Venezuela.
"It became so personal to me, that when I lost it I had to learn to play other instruments, which was very strange for me," Frampton explains in the video above. But incredibly, years later would discover would discover the guitar didn't do down in flames – and decades later he ended up being reunited with the guitar he now calls the Phenix.
The Convair 880 cargo plane took off from Caracas airport in Venezuela but crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the crew. Frampton's touring instruments and backline gear were onboard and he was lead to believe all the guitars were burned in the wreckage. But that wasn't the case; in 2020 Frampton was shocked to see pictures that suggested his Les Paul made it out of the crash.
"The story of how whoever was guarding the plane after the crash… I don't know whether to believe it or not," says Frampton. "The guard took it home to guard it really safely. I have no idea; that's what I'm told. That's the only story I know, I wasn't there. But it sounds to be as though quite a few people had it and were playing it in Caracas, and it got a little hot. People started talking about it being my guitar – wish I'd heard about it!"
Eventually the guitar ended up being sold and found its way back to Frampton in 2011, 31 years after he last played it.
In the video above the Gibson Custom Shop's Director Of Operations Mike McGuire examines the guitar with Frampton after its returned to Frampton. The frets needed replacing and there were some modifications made while it was AWOL that needed to be reversed. The renowned luthier Joe Glaser of Glaser Instruments also stepped in to help the Phenix fly again.
Last year Gibson released the Peter Frampton 'Phenix' Inspired Les Paul Custom based on the guitar with nine-hole weight relief and a slimmer neck based on the original shaved down by the guitar's previous owner, Marc Mariana.