Gibson Custom Jason Isbell Red Eye 1959 Les Paul Standard
| June 5, 2024 |

Gibson Custom Reveals the Jason Isbell “Red Eye” 1959 Les Paul Standard

Owned and played by Southern rock royalty, the iconic “Red Eye” Burst has been reproduced in unprecedented detail for a limited run of only 59 Collector’s Edition instruments

Jason Isbell never thought he would be a Burst owner. However, his mindset changed when he encountered a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard he refers to as “the best guitar I’ve ever played.” Now, thanks to a collaboration between Isbell and Gibson Custom, you don’t have to take his word for it—you can have a “Red Eye” all of your own.

The Gibson Custom Jason Isbell “Red Eye” 1959 Les Paul Standard is a Collector’s Edition recreation of the “Red Eye” Burst formerly owned by Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Red Eye was King’s longtime sidekick, who famously co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” during his initial stint with Skynyrd in the early 1970s. When King passed away in 2018, six-time GRAMMY® Award-winner and acclaimed singer-songwriter Jason Isbell became Red Eye’s new owner, and it has been a fixture of his stage and studio performances ever since.

Much of the red color on the top of this now-famous 1959 Les Paul Standard faded while the guitar was displayed in a store window, except for a patch below the toggle switch that was covered by a hangtag. When Ed King purchased the guitar in 1982, he nicknamed it “Red Eye” after its distinctive appearance.

Using 3D scanning technology and ultra-precise Murphy Lab aging techniques, Gibson Custom has handcrafted an effective clone of the instrument. Every detail has been thoughtfully replicated, from the subtle playing wear and lacquer checking to the sonic character and solid Brazilian rosewood fretboard. The figured maple tops were even handpicked by Jason Isbell himself.

Case candy includes a blue Les Paul Protector Series hardshell case with a gray interior, a Jason Isbell Strap made by Savas from midnight blue wild alligator leather with a chain-stitched and inlaid Red Eye emblem, two rubber “beer bottle” style strap locks, a certificate of authenticity booklet, and custom and reproduction hangtags.

“I’ve gotta figure out a way to get this guitar”

In 2023, Jason Isbell sat down with Gibson Director of Brand Experience Mark Agnesi to film an episode of The Collection, Gibson TV’s deep dive into the guitar collections of some of the biggest names in rock. When discussing Red Eye, Isbell revealed that he knew he had to find a way to buy the instrument when he first encountered it ahead of a video session in late 2018 at Carter Vintage in Nashville—and also how an old fishing rod trick shown to him by his father relates to guitars.

“When I played the Red Eye, I picked it up and before I ever plugged it in, I just knew,” Isbell recalls. “When I was a kid, me and my Dad would go shopping for fishing tackle, and he would take the rod, and he would say, ‘Go stand over there and put the end of the rod on your throat, right on your Adam’s apple.’ And he would hold the handle of the rod and I would talk. And if he could feel it in his hand, he was like, ‘This is a pretty good fishing rod.’

“And it’s that way, I think, with a good guitar. Every point you touch on that instrument, you feel the vibration moving. And I would know that the Red Eye is a good guitar if I was completely stone deaf, just because you can feel it vibrating.”

The Gibson Custom Jason Isbell “Red Eye” 1959 Les Paul Standard comes with a cool array of case candy

After some sleepless nights, Isbell decided that he would do whatever it took to become Red Eye’s new owner. Following a hard “no” from his accountant, it was time to try his manager, whom he asked to book some unconventional gigs in order to finance the purchase.

“I was like, ‘What can I do to get this amount of money? Can you book me some private shows—no war criminals or anything!—but if there’s some decent people who want me to play their birthday party…’ And it just so happened that Bitcoin was really taking off, so I wound up at a bunch of weird Bitcoin birthday parties and paid for that guitar. Instead of dreaming about having one of these, I got to actually have one.”

Watch the video excerpt above to find out more about Isbell’s journey with Red Eye, including why he chooses to top-wrap the guitar for a slinkier feel.

The Gibson Custom Jason Isbell “Red Eye” 1959 Les Paul Standard is available only from Gibson. Find out more and shop now, or contact the Gibson Garage Nashville.