Claes “Clabbe” af Geijerstam at the exhibition Guitars of the Stars.
When reading biographies of famous guitarists, it often says that they regret that they sold their first guitar. And his second. So did Claes “Clabbe” af Geijerstam, who began his career as a pop star in Ola & the Janglers in the 1960s before becoming better known as a fast-talking DJ. He had sold and replaced lots of guitars in the 60s and 70s, and one day he got the idea to try to get hold of his old guitar models.
– I wanted an old Telecaster, my first Vox drop and my first Hagström guitar. Then I came to Les Paul, and then there had to be re-releases, such as 1958 Reissue and 1959 Reissue. And then there were suddenly aged reissues and the first signature models, and then the collector awoke in me. I felt that there is a fun line here, says Claes.
Since then, he has gradually built up his collection by exchanging and selling guitars, and going from models that were not aged, to aged. And finally to “aged and signed” which is the highest level of signature models. He now has 50 pieces with an estimated value of ten million kronor, which gives an average value of 200,000 kronor. About ten of them are signed, including Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons, Slash and Ace Frehley.
One of the stands that shows the unique collection of signature models. In the middle is Kirk Hammetts (Metallica) Flying V. (Photo: Ivan da Silva).
You can see the entire collection at the Abba Museum at Djurgården in Stockholm, and Claes guides us between the different guitars. In his hand he holds a reissue of Slash’s 1958 which will also be in the collection, next to Slash’s “Number 1”.
– Number 1 was originally a handmade by a guy in California. Slash could not afford a real Gibson Les Paul so a friend had to build him a guitar. And later Gibson took it in and made a real Gibson out of it, as a reissue, says Claes.
The signature models are hand-built and exact copies of the original instruments, recreated down to the smallest detail by each original factory’s Custom Shop. 25 or 50 signed guitars are often released worldwide, so they are highly sought after by collectors.
– They have taken in, for example, Slash 1958, scanned it, checked what tone wood it has, how it is worn, what it is for tuning screws, how thick the neck is, what it is for mics and how they are connected. If the neck has been rejected, it is marked. And then they make an exact copy. Jimmy Page turns and poles his mics and makes single-coils, adds buttons and mods his guitars, and then Custom Shop makes a copy of exactly that mod.
The guitars in the collection are mainly models from Gibson and Fender, and there are re-releases of guitars that have been owned by, among others, BB King, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Richie Blackmoore, Sheryl Crow, Joe Strummer, Rory Gallagher, Pete Townshend, Ace Frehley , Billy Gibbons, Don Felder, Jimmy Page, Marc Bolan, Mike Bloomfield and Slash. Claes ‘own favorite is Billy Gibbons’ Les Paul called “Pearly Gates”.
– Pearly Gates is talked about so much, and Billy Gibbons himself is a good marketer: “It’s a heavenly tone, it’s nothing except tone”. He has also signed this copy, and this particular model is almost impossible to get hold of. But I managed to get hold of one a long time ago, says Claes.
Guitarists have a tradition of naming their instruments, and another of Claes’ favorites is “Greenie”, the Les Paul that Peter Green once owned.
– It was one of the first copies to come to England, and it was then bought by Gary Moore from Peter Green. “How many millions are you going to have for this one?” Said Gary Moore. “I gave 110 pounds, so we say that,” said Peter Green. So he got it for the purchase price ,.
– That guitar was sold by Gary Moore for around half a million dollars, after playing it for 30 years, and Kirk Hammett in Metallica now has it. Sometimes he takes it on tour. I have Kirk Hammett’s Flying V in the collection as well, and it is also signed. They made 50 signed and I have number 38.
Left: Two reissues of Slash’s famous Gibson Les Paul models (left in picture). Right: One of the world’s most mythical guitars, Peter Green’s Les Paul in 1959, which was later bought by Gary Moore and then Kirk Hammett. (Photo: Ivan da Silva).
Another great inspiration for many guitarists is Eric Clapton, and in his booth hangs a reissue of the famous Fender Stratocaster “Blackie”.
– Eric Clapton attached a cigarette under the E-string, and when he then played a long solo, the cigarette had time to burn down and leave a black mark behind. This has also been recreated in the Fender factory, says Claes
We stop at the booth with the Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix set on fire at the Monterey Festival.
– That one is not Custom Shop, it is a fairly simple model that came in December actually. It made Fender a tribute to the Monterey guitar, which Hendrix set on fire. He painted the pattern himself with nail polish. He liked that guitar but he played the whole concert on another. In the last song Wild Thing, he switched to this one and said to the audience, “I’m going to sacrifice something right here that I really love.” Then he did the whole ceremony and set fire to the guitar, says Claes.
Left: Eric Clapton’s guitars, with “Blackie” in the middle. The original sold for nearly $ 1 million at auction in 2004. Tlll right: A reissue of the famous Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix set on fire at the Monterey Festival. Dweezel Zappa owns the original guitar. (Photo: Ivan da Silva).
At the exhibition you can also see films about guitar making and films where the artists play on the reissued models. There is plenty of rock and pop history in the room, and Claes himself has lots of anecdotes about the instruments when he shows us around. There are also stories on signs and in headphones where you can hear about everything from why BB King’s guitar is called Lucille to how Smoke on the Water came to be. The guitars take good care of Claes and play at regular intervals.
– You have to work with them, the fretboard should have a little rose oil from time to time, you adjust the string height, the guitar should sound, tone wood wants to live. They actually sound better if you play them regularly.
One day during the gathering, a letter came home stating that someone had found an old Hagström guitar in an attic, in an estate in Hälsingland. Could it have belonged to Claes?
Claes’ first guitar, a Hagström, which he got back after 50 years.
– They sent a picture but it was a wooden fingerboard and nothing was right. That’s probably not mine, I said, but send it to an instrument workshop that works with old Hagström models. At the workshop they lifted the pickup lid and there was written with a narrow felt-tip pen: “Belongs to Claes af Geijerstam”.
Claes had written this when he was 14 years old, and he got it back 50 years later. Now it has an original board with mother of pearl and looks exactly like it did in 1961, when Claes bought it directly from the factory in Älvdalen. Now it hangs for viewing along with Claes’ other guitars at ABBA The Museum at Pop House.