John ‘Speedo’ Reis – Les Paul Pro

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Speedo’s weapon of mass destruction in detail.

So, at the moment my band is supporting the Hot Snakes on their short Australian tour. Last night was at the Annandale in Sydney, and it was a blast. It’s great to meet John & Rick again. After the 2005 Hot Snakes tour, John and I kept in touch a little while his Scimitar was being built. It was nice just having a chat about guitars, the Aqua Bats Super Show (the best TV show ever made), and comic books. I took the opportunity to snap some pics of John’s touring guitar… his heavily modified black Les Paul Pro.

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The Les Paul Pro was a bit of a weird model from Gibson in the late 70′s. It had P90′s, an ebony fretboard and weighed an absolute ton. John has modified the hell out of this guitar. This is a description of it in his own words from the excellent Swami Records Forum… Black Les Paul Pro . I don’t have it here right now, but I think it’s from 1979. In the bridge I use a Rio Grande “bastard” P90 retro fitted to fit a humbucker slot. In the neck is a Dan Electro pickup circa 1961 I believe. I had this guitar hollowed out in the back to reduce weight. I had 2 output jacks. One for each pick up. That way they work independently. In the past I would use a stereo chord into a stereo jack. No good. there was always bleed from one pickup into another. this caused weird phasing stuff that was counter productive to what I was hoping to achieve. so the 2 seperate jacks simplified things for the cromagnon mind and sounded better. I used this guitar alot in RFTC as well. I just used it with either a different pick up’s (man, I tried just about everything) and without the 2 seperate jacks.

The Danelectro lipstick John is talking about is actually from a 60′s Danelectro bass. He said that he thinks that the guitar and bass pickups were probably the same anyway.

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Apart from the pickups, the front of the guitar looks pretty stock. It’s a little strange that the bridge pickup is a humbucker sized P90 as these guitars were made with P90 slots. Maybe John had a humbucker in there before? Or maybe he likes the bigger spread of the humbucker sized pickup.

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The fretboard is a beautiful piece of ebony… The type Gibson can’t get any more. And the inlays have some beautiful figuring. These guitars were quite expensive when they were released…. As guess they were supposed to be the ultimate Les Paul Standard.

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One thing I always loved about this guitar (being a graphic designer) was the tiki idol on the headstock. It’s just cut vinyl, but I think it suits the hot rod vibe of the guitar.

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The back of the guitar shows the true extent that this guitar has been modified. The body has been heavily routed out to help with the weight. John hates heavy guitars, so this is a common mod to his Les Paul’s. His Dragon Les Paul has the same mod. It’s a little hard to see in the pic, but under the “Come Again” gaff tape work, there’s some black Perspex panels hiding the gaping holes.

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The back of the headstock shows a little of this guitars long touring life. The headstock has been snapped a few times and repaired very well. The tuners are a strange mix. Looks like some of the gold ones are from one of Johns other Customs.

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I had a little play backstage and noted how slim & comfortable the neck was. Those mid to late 70′s Gibsons have great neck profiles. The action is super low and it feels like the strings are 10′s and they’re similar to how my Les Paul plays. It’s just a really nice guitar.

Here’s some footage I shot side stage at the Annandale…

John’s backup guitar is a weird homemade thing pulled together from old 60′s Japanese guitar parts. I’ll get the full details for the next guitarnerd article. Stayed tuned…

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