Frampton Comes Alive! the live double album by Peter Frampton was released in 1976, and is one of the best selling live albums of all-time. Following four solo albums with little commercial success, “Frampton Comes Alive!” was Frampton’s breakthrough album.
The guitar Frampton principally used on the album and pictured on the album cover is a distinctive black custom 1954 Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar (with three humbucking pick-ups as opposed to the usual two). The guitar was given to him by Mark Mariana and was used on the night the Humble Pie live album “Performance” was recorded. It was Frampton’s preferred guitar and the guitar he used almost exclusively throughout his early solo career.
In 1980, while Frampton was on tour in South America, the guitar was put on a cargo plane in Venezuela, en route to Panama. The plane crashed right after takeoff killing three people and destroying all the gear including his treasured black 1954 Les Paul Custom.
“Basically I’m thinking, ‘It’s gone,'” Frampton recalls. “But the thing is, I’m also sitting in a restaurant where I can see the pilot’s wife. She’s waiting in the hotel for her husband, who, unfortunately, didn’t make it. So we were all overcome, because people lost their lives as well as our complete stage of gear.”
It was without a doubt thought lost forever. Frampton said,
“For 30 years, it didn’t exist – it went up in a puff of smoke as far as I was concerned”
Nobody would have ever thought that the only thing recovered from the plane crash was the charred guitar. The damaged guitar was sold to a musician on the Caribbean island of Curacao. The owner of the guitar unknowingly played it in nightclubs and bars for years before a local guitar collector spotted it and contacted Frampton. After some negotiation, the guitar was eventually returned to Frampton in 2012.
“It’s sort of a matte black now — it’s not shiny so much anymore. The binding needs a little bit of work on the neck; the electronics need replacing,” Frampton says. He adds, though, that he’ll limit repairs on the instrument to “whatever needs to be replaced on it to make it just playable. But it must retain its battle scars.”
Frampton had the guitar restored and he now plays it live.