In The Style Of Paul Kossoff

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

The sound is in the hands. How many times have you heard someone say that? A lot of times right? Well, it's true. Only in some cases it is much more obvious than in others and, as could not be otherwise, our protagonist today is one of those who made it even more evident, since he belongs to that lineage of guitarists who seem to do nothing out of this world and yet they manage to be inimitable. Ladies and gentlemen, today we are going to talk about Paul Kossoff's gear.  

It's funny to say that the sound of Paul Kossoff was in his hands knowing that he played a good fistful of late 50's Gibson Les Paul Standards; yes, those that now cost 300,000 euros and that have beem taken away from the hand of guitarists forever, but it is a reality we have to talk about, and we remind our readers that in the late 60's when 'Koss' started to collect them they were nothing more than another guitar that in many cases had spent almost ten years collecting dust.

Anyway, after his first guitar, probably an Eko 500 from the early 60's, he did not go directly to the Les Paul Standard that he craved from the moment he heard
Clapton with the Bluesbreakers for the first time, but he progressed step by step, first with a Gibson Les Paul Jr with a single P-90 pickup, and shortly after with a black ‘54 Gibson Les Paul Custom with two P-90s.


Two is better than one, one might have thought, but the sound that came out of those simple pickups was not quite like that that came out of Clapton's Les Paul Standard. So shortly after, and before forming Free, he got his first two 'Bursts'; which, by the way, there has been a lot of talk, many saying that one of them belonged to Clapton himself, another theory being that they were never two but the same guitar that he changed for his 50s Les Paul Custom. The truth is that these details do not matter too much. What does matter is that a very young Paul Kossof, at the end of the 60s, was about to make history with a band called Free and he was going to do it with the guitar he had wanted for years: a late ‘50s Gibson Les Paul Standard.



Something that is better documented is the story behind the 1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom with three pickups that he bought right at the time that he first encountered Free as a band and this time we are sure that it was this guitar that Eric Clapton changed a little later for a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard, and which became, until his death, a favorite of Kossoff for its sound and for having belonged to his idol when he was young.



Later came two other flagships, his 'Burst' known as his 'Stripped burst' with which we can see him perform on the Isle of Wight before 600,000 people and the Gibson Les Paul Standard that he broke in his final concert with Free in 1972.

As you see this authentic master in holding notes for eternities knew what guitar allowed him to do his magic. He is only known as the possessor of a Fender, a Stratocaster that, curiosities of life, ended up in the hands of Dave Murray, a guitarist with a concept, let's say, 'different' from Kossoff. The endless notes of one became the ‘never enough notes per second’ that Murray made with his band, Iron Maiden. That guitar’s change of hands also gave a clue about what was happening in the music scene. Kossoff died in 1976, at the age of 25, oblivious perhaps to the fact that at that time the concept of ‘hard rock born of the blues’ that made him a legend was vanishing and a new generation identified themselves more with Murray's speed than with that tone that came out of Clapton's Les Paul that changed his life forever.