"One of the world's great guitarists…I think he plays beautifully. As a matter of fact, if you weren't looking at him, you'd swear he was an octopus."
-Frank Sinatra, Paris 1962
Those the words of Frank Sinatra when talking about his long time guitarist, Al Viola. Viola played the same vintage 1939 Gibson L-5 for over 40 years with Sinatra. This is the "My Way" guitar.
As a session musician, Viola was also called in to do movie tracks including Camelot, Blazing Saddles, Come Blow Your Horn, The Godfather and the Sound of Music all with his Gibson L-5.
The Gibson L-5 came to Brass from Guitarist Howard Leese who played with the band 'Heart' for 22 years and continues today as a guitarist with the Paul Rodgers Band and Bad Company. Leese were told actually recorded an album of old classic tracks using the L-5.
The Gibson L-5, first built in 1922 is normally worth about $25,000 dollars in good condition, but because it belonged to Sinatra's personal guitar player, Al Viola it's priced for sale at $125,000.
I discovered Al's Guitar one day after paying a visit to David Brass' Fretted Americana Rare Vintage Guitars in Calabasas. Tucked away in an office building complex - David has a treasure trove of some of the most rare and famous guitars on the planet.
"I have been collecting and studying rare vintage electric guitars for over forty years. This love affair began when I was a bass player touring England during the Swingin' Sixties and met the key British guitar players on their rise to greatness.
Now David, specializes in acquiring and offering for sale only the finest examples of rare guitars in the world.
As we found, David not only has a very impressive collection of vintage guitars,often frequented by unnamed famous guitar players, but he is an expert on the history of electric guitars. From Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck to the Beatles, David knows guitar history like nobody I have ever met.
Brass has some help these days selling his guitars from top L.A. Session Guitarist Theofilos Xenidis, better known as Phil X. Phil is a Canadian guitarist and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based turbo pop band Powder. He also has a second band, parody-rock band the Drills. Phil also filled in for Richie Sambora on the Bon Jovi Tour in 2009. Take a listen HERE
Since Brass sells many of his guitars over the internet, he needed someone to come in and play each guitar for prospective buyers. That's where Phil X comes in. His guitar demonstration videos on Youtube have gone viral with more than 27 million views.
Recently I sat down with David and Phil at Vintage Americana in Calabasas while doing a shoot for Calabasas TV. It was fun to learn more about this incredible collection of rare guitars and the history of those in Rock and Roll who have played them.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT AL VIOLAS 1938 GIBSON L-5 FROM PHIL X CLICK HERE
Did I mention David also deals in Rare Books too? Check out more on Brass' other hobby here. The books are right next to the guitars as his Calabasas location.