~ Jimmy Page Interview, Guitar Magazine July, 1977
Mage Music 78
Jimmy Page used a Gibson ‘Black Beauty’ Les Paul for most of his session work and solo singles prior to Led Zeppelin and briefly on tour with Led Zeppelin. This Gibson model is referred to in the world of musical instruments as the Fretless Wonder because of Gibson's advertising that the frets are low and smooth and give the guitar fast playing action. The Black Beauty also has three humbuckers (electric guitar pickups that cancel out the interference - or hum - that otherwise would be heard during quiet sections of music).
Jimmy Page had his own Black Beauty modified over the years, including the addition of extra switches and a Bigsby tremolo, allowing Mr. Page to produce his own distinctive sound from it. Listen to the middle section of Bring it On Home, from Royal Albert Hall, for example.
The Black Beauty was stolen at an airport April 13-14, 1970. In spite of the reward offered for its return, it still is out there somewhere.
Or is it?
The story goes that during the 1975 tour in Vancouver Mr. Page was presented with a vintage Black Beauty that was supposedly the stolen one, and although when he checked it over and found that the serial number on the guitar was missing, Mr. Page decided it was his anyway and had it shipped to England. So the story says.
If that's true, Jimmy Page has never played that particular guitar - one he's referred to as "precious" - again in public, nor has he referred to having possession of it in various interviews over the years.
In a Winter 1980 CREEM Magazine article, Jimmy Page said, "...it was very recognizable for all the custom work that Joe Jammer had done on it." Joe Jammer could certainly have identified the guitar in 1975 just by looking at the custom wiring. Identification could also have been made in spite of the missing serial number on the guitar because the Bigsby tremolo arm has a serial number on it that is not only known but supplied in the reward ad Jimmy Page had placed in Rolling Stone.
In 2010 a person put out feelers on the internet about a guitar he wanted to put on eBay that supposedly was a gift to an uncle from Jimmy Page. That story goes that the uncle died and left it to the guy who now wanted to sell it because he was "not a big Led Zeppelin fan". Rather a stretch of imagination to think that Jimmy Page would give his Black Beauty to anyone and claim it was stolen. We must presume that the 2010 guitar was not the real thing. Or... maybe the eBay guitar was the real thing - that is, the stolen guitar - and the queries about it put out in forums over the internet was a toe in the water to see how the world would react if it was offered for sale. Whatever the truth about that guitar, the subject was dropped like a hot potato and there was nothing from Mr. Page about it.
So where is Jimmy Page's Black Beauty today?
Cold Case, Hot Items
It's too late for a Crime Scene Investigation, obviously - but one has to wonder about what is now a very cold case. What exactly would someone do if he/she had possession of that Black Beauty? It couldn't be played in public. It couldn't be publicly sold as Jimmy Page's guitar - not without a certificate of authenticity. And anyone who owned it would be at risk of exposure by revealing having possession of it to another person - so no bragging rights.
Highly valuable items have been stolen over the years for many reasons - and a few of these have never turned up in spite of extraordinary rewards (e.g., $5 million for information leading to the return of 13 paintings stolen from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990). What do people do with these things?
Is some aged rock star wannabe sitting in a locked room somewhere striking power chords from the stolen guitar? Is it hanging in a vault, unplayed, merely stashed with stolen paintings and artifacts from museums?
Or maybe it wasn't stolen, just misplaced. Maybe the guitar is sitting in some high school musical instrument room, dented and scratched by generations of kids with dreams of fame and fortune without a clue of what they practiced on. Maybe it ended up in a pawn shop, purchased by someone for a kid's birthday present and is now sitting in an attic somewhere, forgotten. Maybe it went to the airport's lost item room and was somehow never found by Jimmy Page's roadies - who must have looked for it, though there's no record of that.
Maybe it ended up in a landfill. I pray that is not true!
Various works of fiction have postulated that eccentric thieves just want to have the artwork for themselves to enjoy, but they always get busted because they can't help but brag. It's more likely the Black Beauty is being used like other objects of great value that can't be sold publicly - for black market barter. Weapons or drugs or human slaves for that guitar?
That's just so wrong in so many ways. Maybe it's not true. I fear it is.
The power of numbers
Cold cases can be solved with persistence and if enough resources are thrown at them. I think the case of the missing Black Beauty could be solved.
Here's what I'm thinking: Jimmy Page has millions of fans. That's millions of people who could be looking for that Black Beauty. I don't care that it has been nearly half a century since Jimmy Page touched that guitar - I think that if millions of people became cold case investigators, we could find the Black Beauty and get it back to where it belongs.
I think that if all of us who cared would simply choose to change our own realities to one where Jimmy Page and his Black Beauty were reunited, that we could pull off a world-wide feat of Magick.
I think there is no black market or black vault or black heart that could keep the Black Beauty from being brought back to the light if we wanted her there.
What do you think?