Is Slash’s ‘Hunter Burst’ Les Paul the next million dollar guitar? It is headed to the auction block – and Elvis’s Blue Hawaii J-45 is joining it too

Slash and Elvis
(Image credit: Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Slash’s ‘Hunter Burst’ Les Paul, the quilted maple topped replica electric guitar he used to write much of Appetite For Destruction in the mid ‘80s has gone up for auction, with Elvis Presley’s Gibson J-45 joining it.

Both are listed by Gotta Have Rock And Roll. Both are steeped in rock ’n’ roll – and film – history. Both are forecasted to go for big money, with the estimated bids for Slash’s high-end LP copy listed between $1 million and $2 million. That eye-watering figure tells you just how important this guitar is in rock history. And for Slash, it was the one that got away. 

The Hunter Burst got its name from its previous owner, the American session guitar ace Steve Hunter who notably played with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, was nicknamed the Deacon in some quarters, and took the first solo on Aerosmith’s cover of Train Kept A Rollin’, when Joe Perry hit a mental block during the sessions for the Boston rock institution’s sophomore album, Get Your Wings.

It is also not a Les Paul, even if it and Slash’s more famous Kris Derrig replica did help repopularise the model in an era when hockey stick headstocks and lurid paint jobs were the style. Built by Peter “Max” Baranet, one of two ’59 ‘Burst replica’s the luthier made, it did, however, look and sound the part. 

For reasons he can’t quite remember, Slash parted with it in ’86, before the sessions for Appetite For Destruction. But much of the material was already written on it.

And if you were there on Sunset Strip between ’85 and ’86 the chances are you would have seen Slash with it onstage. There is plenty of photographic evidence. It has also been exhibited at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. 

Slash picked it up from the wonderfully named Guitars R Us. It has been retrofitted with Seymour Duncans. And it comes with various documents of provenance and certificates of authenticity.

By comparison, Elvis Presley’s Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar has led a sheltered life, but it too arrives in player’s condition, with the King Of Rock ’N’ Roll’s name stencilled in the soundhole, alongside “Property of Paramount Prop Department”. Here’s hoping the Mountain doesn't make a claim on it.

It was certainly on two of the studio’s hits starring Elvis, 1961’s Blue Hawaii, where you can see the King serenade the boys by the beach, and G.I. Blues, the effervescent musical comedy from the year previous starring Juliet Prowse. 

The guitar has been in the position of Elvis’s old friend Charlie Hodge, who suggests that this might have been in Kid Creole, too – arguably the finest movie in Elvis’s filmography.

Elvis Presley's Gibson J-45

(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock And Roll)

If so, well, that just makes this more valuable. Elvis certainly saw the worth in it, and like many of his movie “prop” guitars, he would take them back to Graceland and play them. Hodge first met Elvis in the mid-‘50s when Hodge was playing in The Foggy River Boys.

They would meet again in the service a few years later and become fast friends. Hodge was a member of the so-called ‘Memphis Mafia’ and a resident of Graceland, serving as stage director for the King. Hodge’s letter of provenance is included with the instrument, alongside a COA.

Elvis Presley's Gibson J-45

(Image credit: Gotta Have Rock And Roll)

The J-45 is expected to fetch between $200,000 to $500,000. And as with all the best vintage acoustics, it’s sure to sound better now than it ever did.

Bidding ends 22 September. To learn more – or to bid! – head over to Gotta Have Rock And Roll. You'll find Slash's Hunter Burst here, and Elvis's J-45 here.

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.