’Bursting with Surprises

Celeb Guitars Make a Splash at U.K. Guitar Show

’Bursting with Surprises
Peter Hoarty with a tableful of “famous” Les Pauls.
Peter Hoarty and his wife, Gail, have been hosting guitar shows in England since 1998, when they rented space to sell a few of the 50-some vintage amps and more than two dozen guitars that had begun to flow out of the couples’ house and into their garage-cum-music-room.

“I began collecting valve amps at a time when they were cheap and plentiful in the U.K.,” Hoarty said. “I taught myself some restoration skills and found out that I could sell them for a profit, and it became a nice second income alongside my career in finance. After one experience selling at someone else’s show, Gail and I decided we could do a better job of it ourselves.”

The couple has since organized more than 50 shows, and on May 18, 2014 hosted the 17th version of their annual North West Guitar Show, near Warrington, Cheshire. This year, lady luck truly smiled on the event, as four iconic Les Pauls made their way to it.

“We were originally scheduled to have ‘just’ the ’59’Burst that once belonged to Peter Green and Gary Moore” he said. “But, as the date drew closer, I heard from Phil Harris, whose friend now owns the last ’Burst that belonged to the late Paul Kossoff, and he asked if he could bring it to display.”

Hoarty, being a reasonable and sane guitar-show promoter, was happy to oblige. But, then, in the final week of show prep, things got even better.

“Just last week, Phil decided to bring along the ’55 Les Paul Custom that was Kossoff’s first Les Paul,” he said. “And then, completely out of the blue, barely more than a day before the show, I got a call from an old acquaintance who since 1983 has owned the ’Burst that once belonged to Keith Richards and Mick Taylor – and was used during the Exile on Main Street sessions – asking if it would be okay to bring it along!”

Harris, a renowned guitarist, collector, historian, and writer, played the guitars onstage during the show, augmenting the music with a historical rundown of each. He reminded attendees that they were enjoying a rare occurrence.

“The current owner of the Peter Green/Gary Moore guitar is an American collector who felt that the guitar should reside back in the U.K. and asked Phil to be the custodian while it is here,” Hoarty said. “Interestingly, Phil’s history with the guitar goes back to the ’60s when his own band was supporting Fleetwood Mac at an early London gig and he had the opportunity to talk to Green about it.” 

The Kossoff Les Paul Custom has been owned for years by Arthur Ramm, a guitarist who was a friend of Kossoff and was given the guitar after Kossoff’s death by his father, actor David Kossoff.

“The event was a great success and many enthusiasts got to see the ’Bursts and have pictures with them. Some even got to hold them,” Hoarty said. “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Free, and the Rolling Stones made music on these instruments. We were extremely proud to have them seen in public in the same room.”


This article originally appeared in VG August 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.