Renowned Luthier Leo Scala Designs Four One-of-a-Kind Guitars for the Gibson Master Artisan Collection
Gibson Custom Shop is proud to launch a new Master Artisan Collection with four, one-of-a-kind guitars designed and created by Los Angeles based luthier Leo Scala, the founder of Scala Guitars and one of the world’s foremost guitar makers. During his three decade career, Leo has established an enviable reputation for his unique creativity and impeccable craftsmanship, in addition to his passion for Gibson instruments.
This ultra-rare Gibson Master Artisan Collection consists of the: Q27 Flying V, ’52 Deville SG, Theodore Retroliner, and Code Red R9 Les Paul. These four, one-of-a-kind guitars are like no other guitar in existence and are designed to be enjoyed for a lifetime. All guitars come with a hard case and a custom-made Certificate of Authenticity with Leo’s signature.
Working for the last 25 years in his small workshop near Los Angeles, Leo Scala has gained a reputation for stunning creativity and obsessive craftsmanship, as well as a passion for Gibson instruments. Scala grew up in Belgrade, Serbia, in a world he describes as full of old buildings, relics, elements, and patinas that influenced his aesthetic. He started out studying chemical engineering and playing classical music on the clarinet, but as a young man in the mid-90s, his passions led him to rock and roll, to America, and to electric guitars, which he began building as a hobby for friends back in Europe.
Working in spirit, alongside the bold inventors who originally designed the Les Paul, Flying V, Theodore, and SG in the 1950s and early 1960s, for the Master Artisan Collection, Leo tuned his focus to the materials and techniques of that period and began to tinker and iterate. Every detail of each guitar is obsessively conceived, customized, and handmade.
“It’s always the sound,” says Leo Scala. “It can be extremely flashy, but if you pick it up and it doesn’t do its own thing, then you just missed the whole point. It’s not art that should be hanging on a wall; it’s a performing piece of art.”
The Master Artisan Collection from Gibson features the iconic instrument brand collaborating with renowned luthiers across the globe for one-of-a-kind guitar collections. Every new series in the Master Artisan Collection features instruments and accessories that are custom designed and built to be the pinnacle of craftsmanship, authentically Gibson Custom Shop and extraordinarily rare. The Master Artisan Collection from Gibson Custom Shop is only available directly from the Gibson Garage in Nashville, TN, call (615) 933-6000.
Explore the Gibson Master Artisan Collection on Gibson.com.
The ’52 DeVille SG takes its inspiration from multiple sources, and yet it remains unmistakably Gibson. It starts by imagining an alternate history, with a Gibson SG being released concurrently with the first Gibson Les Paul, which was introduced in 1952. The trapeze tailpiece was inspired by the ’52 Les Paul, but a compensated wraparound bridge is incorporated to make it far more functional while maintaining the vintage aesthetic. At first glance, the pickguard appears to be the original small-style SGpickguard, but on closer inspection, it is larger than those found on the first SGs. Like a vintage ’58 Explorer pickguard, it extends up between the pickups and is made with the four-ply pickguard material of the 1950s. The internal wiring style is from the 50s, complete with Bumblebee capacitors, and the custom-built, hand wound Retrophonic pickups are made like the 50s era Patent Applied For models, not like the 60s Patent Number pickups that equip most SGs. The covered neck and uncovered bridge pickup configuration is a nod to Jimmy Page and his “Number One” Les Paul, while the “mixed” black Top Hat knobs – two with metal inserts and two without – are a tribute to another legendary ’59 Gibson – Greeny. All of these elements are things that are familiar to Gibson fans but that have never been brought together on a single guitar until now, resulting in a unique guitar that is recognizable yet new, vintage yet modern, and quintessentially Gibson.
The Q27 Flying V represents a moment in time that Leo Scala artfully captured when his city (Los Angeles, California) was completely shut down and resembled an apocalyptic no-man’s-land. Leo had traveled to Europe to visit his parents and was on the last flight to the USA before the cutoff of all international travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, and because he had been traveling and potentially exposed to the virus, he was told that he needed to quarantine. “Stay the f*ck home” was the message that impressed on him the importance of the quarantine. So, to keep away from his wife and kids, he went to his workshop studio to quarantine. As he was headed to work, he realized that L.A. looked like a movie. It was abandoned. Barren. There was no one on the streets or freeways. Everywhere he looked, the town was empty. And at that moment, he realized that he’s been in a quarantine of sorts for most of his life because he was constantly in isolation. He works on his own. Leo decided to capture that moment on a guitar, and the idea for the Q27 Flying V was born.
Some of the elements incorporated into the Q27 Flying V include an extended Stop Bar for improved drop-tuning performance and the number 13 on the back on the Ace of Spades. This represents Friday the 13th when Leo was flying back to L.A. It has a pilot with a skull in its eye that represents that flight and, as Leo put it, “that thing you’re scared of, that you know people are dying from.” Q27 is embossed into the metal pickguard. The name of the guitar is the Q27 Flying V (not the “Stay the f*ck home V”). Q27 was when the guitar was completed – on the 27th and final day of Leo’s quarantine and also represents the total number of days it took to complete the guitar.
Leo had a conversation with Gibson President and Interim CEO, Cesar Gueikian during this time period and learned that Gibson was completely shut down due to the pandemic. Like Los Angeles, the Gibson craftories were deserted, and nothing was being made. Nothing, with the exception of the Q27 Flying V – it is the only Gibson guitar that was completed during the COVID pandemic shutdown.
Gibson’s legendary former president Theodore ‘Ted’ McCarty, helped develop some of the most iconic electric guitars ever during the 1950s and early 1960s, including the Les Paul, Flying V, and Explorer. He enjoyed sketching new instrument ideas during meetings, and the height of his creative output was in 1957 when he sought to modernize Gibson’s electric guitar designs significantly. On March 18, 1957, Ted detailed and signed his drawing for a new solid body instrument which was never produced until the Gibson Custom shop introduced a limited run of this model, named “Theodore” in honor of Ted, which was released on March 18, 2022-exactly 65 years from the day that Ted originally sketched out the design.
Now Master Artisan Leo Scala has created a one-of-a-kind interpretation of the Gibson Theodore, adding his own creative touches to the design. He started by imagining that the Theodore was actually released in 1957 or 1958, and like some other Gibson models, was subtly revised and changed over the years with different pickup configurations and custom colors and then subjected to the finish and playing wear that comes with the longtime use of a well-loved guitar; thus creating the non-existent past of a vintage design – a contemporary of the Flying V and Explorer – that was never made until very recently. The Theodore Retroliner’s Vintage Pelham Blue nitrocellulose lacquer finish was hand-applied and meticulously hand-aged by the Master Artisan, as is the aged nickel hardware. The pickups are Leo Scala custom hand-wound “Retrophonic” models, with a PAF-style humbucker in the bridge position and an under-wound P-90 in the neck that delivers exceptional clarity. Both pickups are equipped with Alnico 2 magnets. McCarty’s original drawing inspired the pickguard shape. It incorporates elements of the ES-335 and Les Paul Special pickguards. It also brings a similarly angled accent to the Theodore Retroliner’s body that the angled scimitar headstock gives to the other end of the guitar. This very special Master Artisan-built Theodore Retroliner is a one-of-a-kind example of this exciting model. As a one-of-a-kind guitar that is both a work of art and meant to be played, it holds a lifetime of music and inspiration.
Once again, Master Artisan Leo Scala delivers big-time on his vision for a vintage Gibson model that never was but should have been, bringing it to life with all of the imagination, intricate detail, and skill that are hallmarks of his work. The Code Red R9 Les Paul has a lightweight, one-piece mahogany body with a beautifully flamed two-piece maple cap. The mahogany neck is paired with an Indian rosewood fretboard and has the classic 50s Rounded Medium C profile and 22 historic medium jumbo frets. The Kluson® single-line, single-ring tuners feature custom, red-impregnated Keystone buttons; they’re not painted or dyed so the red color won’t wear off. A significant difference between the Code Red R9 and other 1959 Les Pauls is how the strings are anchored at the other end with a wraparound bridge with pre-adjusted intonation points for exceptional sustain, vibration, and responsiveness. A removable steel trapeze tailpiece adds not only to the visual appeal but also contributes to the sustain and tone. This is one of the best-sounding Les Paul’s that was never made – until now.
The electronics further enhance the sound of this exceptional instrument. The Code Red R9 Les Paul features Master-Artisan hand-wound Retrophonic PAF-style Vault ’59 pickups. The neck pickup has an Alnico 3 magnet, while an Alnico 2 is used in the bridge. DC resistance is 8.3k for the neck pickup and 8.7k for the bridge. The pickups were specifically designed for their respective positions in the guitar and sound wonderful individually and were built to sound magical when used together. They’re clear, open, punchier, and slightly more aggressive than some vintage Patent Applied For examples and have a unique sound. Their openness is further enhanced by very special, custom-made 550k VIPots that nail that vintage Centralab® sound and have a usable taper across the entire sweep of the control. The Code Red R9 Les Paul uses correct 50s wiring and custom Bumblebee capacitors.
The Master Artisan-applied and aged, lightly-bursted Code Red nitrocellulose lacquer top finish is paired with a similarly aged custom oiled finish on the rest of the guitar, including the neck, giving it an extraordinarily smooth, supple, and effortless playing feel. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Leo Scala Master Artisan model without hand-crafted details such as the etched, red-lettered Les Paul Model detailing and raised metal Gibson logo on the headstock, and hand-aged and engraved back plates. The custom hand-made G&G® case for the Code Red R9 Les Paul is as unique as the guitar itself, with a red suede exterior, matching red suede handle, aged nickel hardware, red plush velvet interior lining, and a gold embroidered 1959 Gibson Star logo on the inside of the top. All these elements combine in a premium, one-of-a-kind, Master Artisan-crafted guitar with a delightfully magical sound and, as Leo himself said, “all the luxury, all the history, and although worn, it still looks fancy.”
Gibson, the leading iconic guitar brand, has shaped the sounds of generations of musicians and music lovers across genres for 130 years. Founded in 1894 and headquartered in Nashville, Gibson Brands has a legacy of world-class craftsmanship, legendary music partnerships, and progressive product evolution that is unrivaled among musical instrument companies. The Gibson Brands portfolio includes Gibson, the leading guitar brand, as well as many of the most beloved and recognizable music brands, including Epiphone, which has been on every stage since 1873, Kramer, the original MADE TO ROCK HARD guitar brand, MESA/Boogie, the home of tone, KRK, behind great music for over 30 years, and Maestro, the founder of effect pedals. Gibson Brandsis dedicated to quality, innovation, and sound excellence so that music lovers for generations to come will continue to experience music shaped by Gibson Brands. Explore more at Gibson.com, Gibson App, and on Gibson TV, follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and visit us at the Gibson Garage.
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