Peter Frampton Reunited with 54 Custom After 31 Years After being Lost in Plane Crash
Posted 03 January 2012 - 07:44 PM
An unusually light Les Paul with low frets, the guitar was especially closely associated with Frampton's sound and playing style. "After I lost that, I virtually . . . I don't get too close to any guitar," Frampton said in Unsung Heroes of Rock Guitar. "If that's taken away from you . . . that was like my crutch, that guitar
By JAMES C. MCKINLEY JR. My link
Peter Frampton has been reunited with the Gibson electric guitar he played on “Frampton Comes Alive,” three decades years after it was presumed destroyed in a plane crash.
Peter Frampton’s favorite guitar, presumed destroyed in 1980, was returned to him last month.It turns out the guitar did not burn up in November 1980 when a cargo plane crashed on takeoff in Caracas, Venezuela, on its way to Panama, where Mr. Frampton was to perform. Instead someone plucked it from the burning wreckage and later sold it to a musician on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao.
The guitar was returned to Mr. Frampton in Nashville last month after a two-year negotiation involving the local musician who had the guitar, a customs agent who repairs guitars in his spare time, a diehard Frampton fan in the Netherlands and the head of the island’s tourist board.
Last month, the tourist board official, Ghatim Kabbara, bought the guitar with public funds and traveled to Nashville to hand it to Mr. Frampton in a tattered gig bag. Mr. Frampton said he knew as soon as he picked the instrument up that it was the same 1954 Gibson Les Paul with customized pickups that he had played for a decade. It was an emotional moment, he said.
“For 30 years, it didn’t exist – it went up in a puff of smoke as far as I was concerned,” Mr. Frampton said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Frampton said he was given the guitar by a man named Mark Mariana in 1970. Mr. Frampton had been playing with his band Humble Pie at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and he borrowed the guitar from Mr. Mariana for a show because his own instrument kept feeding back when he soloed. He fell in love with it. Made of Honduran mahagony, it was light in his hands, and the neck was thin, the fretting action light, suiting his small hands.
“I used it for both sets and my feet didn’t touch the ground,” he recalled. saying he thought, “This is the best guitar I have ever played.”
After the show he tried to buy the instrument, but Mr. Mariana insisted on giving it to him. It became his favorite guitar. He played it on the Humble Pie albums “Rock On” and “Rocking the Fillmore,” and on all his solo records. He used it in sessions with George Harrison, Harry Nilsson and John Entwistle.
Perhaps most important, it was the guitar he played on the 1976 solo album “Frampton Comes Alive!” one of the best-selling live albums ever and the recording that established him as one of the great rock guitarists of the 1970s. “It’s all I ever used for 10 years,” he said. “That was it. That was part of me.”
Mr. Kabbara said the guitar surfaced two years ago when the local guitarist, who has not been identified, took the instrument to Donald Valentina, a Curaçao customs agent who collects and repairs old guitars in his spare time. The musician had been using it for decades, playing in hotels and bars on the island, but did not know the instrument’s history, Mr. Kabbara said.
Asked to repair the guitar, Mr. Valentina noticed the unusual third set of pickups and burn marks on the neck, Mr. Kabbara said. The customs agent began to suspect the guitar might be the one Mr. Frampton had played on the “Frampton Comes Alive!” album. He consulted with another Frampton fan in the Netherlands, who confirmed it had all the earmarks of the missing Gibson. Mr. Valentina also sent photos of the inner works of the guitar to Mr. Frampton. Mr. Frampton said he was stunned when he saw the photos; it looked like guitar, he said, but he could not be sure.
For two years Mr. Valentina tried to persuade the local guitarist to sell the instrument, and finally, in November, facing a financial problem, he finally agreed. But Mr. Valentina did not have money and, afraid another buyer might scoop up the guitar, he approached Mr. Kabbara at the tourist board.
Mr. Kabbara, an amateur guitarist who admires Mr. Frampton, agreed to put up the board’s funds – about $5,000 – to purchase the guitar, on one condition. He and Mr. Valentina would take the guitar to Mr. Frampton as a gesture of goodwill. “I thought the right thing to do was to give him back his guitar,” he said. “This guitar was him. The whole 1970s was this guitar.”
Mr. Frampton, who is 61, said he hopes to play the guitar again when he appears at the Beacon Theater in New York in February. For now, he has left the instrument at the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville to have some minor repairs made. The neck is still straight, he said, but he must replace old pickups with new ones, made to the same specifications as the original coils. But he said he will leave the burn marks and scrapes alone.
“I want it to have its battle scars,” he said.
Posted 03 January 2012 - 08:14 PM
The Curaçao Tourist Board acquired the guitar and experts from Gibson Guitar confirmed it was, indeed, the missing guitar, long missing from Frampton’s collection.
Frampton was given the guitar in 1970 by a man named Mark Mariana at a Humble Pie gig at the Fillmore West. Frampton borrowed Mariana’s guitar for the show and afterward tried to buy it from him. “But to my surprise he said he couldn’t sell it to me – he wanted to give it to me!” he said.
Frampton played the guitar exclusively on Humble Pie’s Rock On and Rocking the Fillmore albums and his own seminal Frampton Comes Alive!, one of the top-selling live records of all time.
Frampton was recently reunited with the guitar in Nashville, Tennessee. He said: “I am still in a state of shock, first off, that the guitar even exists let alone, that it has been returned to me. I know I have my guitar back, but I will never forget the lives that were lost in this crash. I am so thankful for the efforts of those who made this possible… and now that it is back I am going insure it for 2 million dollars and it’s never going out of my sight again! It was always my #1 guitar and it will be reinstated there as soon as possible – some minor repairs are needed. And, I just can’t wait to get Mark Mariana on the phone.”
Posted 08 January 2012 - 12:47 AM
The story begins in 1970, when Frampton and his old band Humble Pie scored a gig playing two sets a night at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Frampton says the first night was a rough go: The guitar he was using fed back at loud volumes and made soloing a chore. After the show, an audience member approached him and offered to help.
"He said, 'Well, look, I have a Les Paul that I've sort of modified myself a little. Would you like to try it tomorrow?'" Frampton tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "I said, 'Well, I've never really had much luck with Les Pauls, but you know what? At this point, I'll try anything.'"
The arrangement turned out to be love at first strum. "I used it that night, and for both sets, I don't think my feet touched the ground the whole time," Frampton says. "I mean, I levitated."
That guitar — a shiny black number with an added pickup — became Frampton's signature instrument. He continued to use it with Humble Pie, and in his solo material, played it almost exclusively for years. It even made the cover of his classic 1976 live album, Frampton Comes Alive!
In 1980, while Frampton was on tour in South America, the guitar was put on a cargo plane in Venezuela, en route to Panama. The plane crashed right after takeoff.
"Basically I'm thinking, 'It's gone,'" Frampton recalls. "But the thing is, I'm also sitting in a restaurant where I can see the pilot's wife. She's waiting in the hotel for her husband, who, unfortunately, didn't make it. So we were all overcome, because people lost their lives as well as our complete stage of gear."
What Frampton didn't know is that the guitar had survived, albeit with some bumps and bruises. It fell into the hands of a musician on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, who owned it for many years before a local guitar collector spotted it and contacted Frampton. After some negotiation, the guitar was returned to Frampton last month.
"It's sort of a matte black now — it's not shiny so much anymore. The binding needs a little bit of work on the neck; the electronics need replacing," Frampton says. He adds, though, that he'll limit repairs on the instrument to "whatever needs to be replaced on it to make it just playable. But it must retain its battle scars."
Frampton says he knows his diehard fans will be clamoring to see him play the unique guitar again, and he's more than happy to comply.
"Oh, it's got to go on the road," he says. "For it to be given back to me ... It's not something I'm going to hide in the closet."