The Phenix is a namesake and meticulous replica of Frampton's triple-humbucker 1954 Les Paul Custom, which graced the cover of Frampton Comes Alive! and has the sort of back story behind it that would befit the Great American Novel.
For a start, the name is entirely appropriate. This is a guitar that rose from the ashes of a fatal plane crash in 1980. Remarkably, some three decades later, it was back in Frampton's hands. You can read about this whole crazy episode in an extract from Frampton's biography, Do You Feel Like I Do?: A Memoir, published at Guitar Player. As gear stories go, it takes some beating.
Where did all this leave Frampton, minus his trusty LP, and a unique one at that? Well, Gibson approached Frampton in the 90s and made him a replica. The Phenix was notoriously light, so weight-relieving had to figure somewhere in the equation, and it had a slim neck, having been sanded down by its previous owner, Marc Mariana. These are crucial components that we should expect from this new model.
Gibson has yet to release a spec sheet for the 2021 Phenix. While the 90s-built replica only had photos and Frampton's memory to guide its build, the VOS Phenix has the benefit of the original for reference, making it a good bet that it will be more accurate.
Frampton, himself, is convinced. ”boy is it good,” he said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the look and sound. Gibson has gone that extra mile in every area to make this feel and sound the closest to my original, storied Phenix Les Paul Custom guitar. The neck and weight of this mahogany guitar will amaze you at how great it feels and how light it is (and it’s even a hair lighter than the Phenix). This is the real deal.”
The Gibson Custom Shop released replicas of Frampton's Black Beauty circa 2016, they had Richlite fingerboards and a pickup configuration of 57 Classic in the neck, 57 Classic Plus in the middle and 500T in the bridge. We would wager that a trio of PAF-a-likes and an original 50s wiring loom will grace this new model.
One thing's for sure, though, we'd think twice about getting on a plane with it.
You can check out the rest of Gibson's confirmed 2021 lineup here. Gibson is hosting an Virtual NAMM Gibson Experience tonight, with product launches, videos, and quite possibly more exact details of the Phenix. Certainly, there will be a speech from Gibson CEO JC Curleigh at 9pm PST. Register for the event here.