Watch Marcus King turn in an intimate solo performance of Hero on the “Barn Burst” 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard – a holy grail vintage guitar literally found in a barn

Marcus King plays a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard at Carter Vintage Guitars
(Image credit: Carter Vintage Guitars / YouTube)

Marcus King made a recent pilgrimage to Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville and got acquainted with a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard that literally found in a barn, boasting a pristine Ice Tea faded ‘burst finish that is described by the vintage guitar emporium as “perfect”. 

And when in Rome and all that, King spent some quality time with the holy grail electric guitar, shooting a demo video for the store, and also a stripped-down solo performance of Hero, from his new Rick Rubin-produced album, Mood Swings.

On record, Hero is predominantly an acoustic guitar cut. Here it is spare but electrified, King playing it fingerstyle on the so-called “Barn Burst” Les Paul – these Burst are so rare and special they deserve a name – through an old Fender tweed tube amp. It is a special performance on a special guitar.

The guitar has only had one owner, a local farmer who would jam Skynyrd tracks through his Peavey Roadmaster to unwind. That’s rural living done right.

Gary Bohannon, senior authenticator and acquisitions at Carter Vintage Guitars, loves this guitar. How much? Well, he says if he could get the Gibson Custom Shop to make a replica of any ‘burst in the world, it would be this. The Barn Burst’s top is one good reason why. 

“The top has the best, ‘Ice Tea’ fade I have seen in a long while,” he writes on the Carter Vintage Guitars site. “The color of this guitar is insanely cool… It is literally perfect. A little later in 1960, Les Paul production at Gibson changed their red color supply to a more stable, and fade resistant, color that some people find rather unattractive.”

Indeed, as Bohannon notes, some people called those later dye jobs “Clown Bursts”. The Barn Burst is the second 1960 Les Paul Standard that Carter Vintage Guitars has had through its doors in the past month. And comparing the two shows just how the spec and feel of these guitars could vary so much, even though they left the same factory in the same year. This pristine example has a thinner neck and smaller heel.

The color of this guitar is insanely cool… It is literally perfect

Gary Bohannon, Carter Vintage Guitars

Bohannon has a theory about thinner necks on 1960 Gibson’s: they sound better. “I think that those guitars with the thinner necks, model for model, sound the best,” he writes. “I will definitely write something about that theory one day soon.”

Well, in King’s hands it certainly sounds on the money. You can read more about the Barn Burst at Carter Vintage Guitars

In other Marcus King news, the South Carolinian phenom as just announced a two-date festival, The Marcus King Band Family Reunion, which will be hosted at the CCNB Amphitheatre in Simpsonville, SC, on the weekend of 24 to 25 August.

The event is an annual home-state hoedown, with the Marcus King Band joined by bill hand-picked by King himself. This year’s festival will feature The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, Sierra Ferrell, Richy Mitch and the Coal Miners, Nikki Lane. Darby Wilcox, Kashus Culpepper, Ethan Regan, Barrett, and Britti will also be on the bill.

“When I was growing up in South Carolina, once a year we’d pack the family car up and head up to my great grandparents home for some front porch pickin,’ covered dishes, lots of love and plenty of leftovers!” said King. “This is where I learned about the joy music could bring and how it’s a powerful force that brings us together! Want to bring that same joy to you folks this year with the return of The annual Marcus King Band family reunion. We are back and bigger than ever!”

Tickets go onsale via LiveNation on 3 May, with $1 of every ticket sold going to the Curfew Foundation, King’s charity that funds music education and supports those struggling with alcohol and substance addiction. 

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.