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Local Collector Wants Jeff Beck To Play His $500,000 Guitar

It's one of the rarest guitars in the world: A 1955 Gibson Les Paul with Patent Applied For Pickups.  The guitar has been appraised at $500,000, according to its owner, Austin resident Gil Hembree. It has some of the first-ever humbucking pickups, a type of electric guitar pickup that was invented in the mid-50s and used widely ever since.

Hembree is a serious vintage guitar collector and co-author of the Official Vintage Guitar Price Guide. He was included in a KUT report last year that looked at local guitar collectors.

Hembree says he would like to add to the guitar's history by having the legendary English rock guitarist Jeff Beck sit down and play it for a little while. That could modestly add to the guitar's value, but Hembree says he has no interest in selling the instrument, which he's owned since 1998 and displayed at collector and trade shows across the country.

"This would be the first well-known musician who's actually played it," Hembree told KUT News. "I know that he would enjoy playing it."

Jeff Beck had a modified circa-1954 guitar into which he put humbucking pickups. Beck played this custom creation early in his career and recorded with it, according to Hembree.

Beck is coming to town on April 5, 2011 and will be among the first musicians to play in the new Austin City Limits Live venue in the Second Street District.

Hembree says he has been trying to reach out to Beck's people but it's been challenging to get through.  Beck "has a huge filtering system because there's all kind of people who want to talk about him about this that and the other," Hembree acknowledges.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.