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Music

The touching story behind the Les Paul John Frusciante gave Dave Navarro

@SamWKemp

Fans of 1990s alt-rock will know the name Dave Navarro. The tattooed guitar god was one of the most revered guitarists on the scene, best known for his work with Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers – the latter of whom he joined in 1993, filling in for John Frusciante’s initial replacement, Jesse Tobias. Navarro and Frusciante remained close despite John’s hurried departure from the band. Decades later, Navarro opened up about a touching moment shared between the pair after Frusciante’s recovery from drug addiction.

In a revealing radio interview, Navarro was asked about some of his favourite guitars and quickly got on to the subject of the Les Paul Frusciante gave him. “I was in the band [Red Hot Chili Peppers] for a couple of years, maybe five years,” he began.

“John had quit the band, and he ended up in rehab. I don’t think it’s a secret, and I myself have struggled with…” Navarro tailed off, eventually gathering his thoughts: “Anyway, he ended up in the same rehab that I went to. And he reached out to me and said, ‘Hey man, I’m stuck in here, can you bring me a guitar? Because I can’t play in here, I’ve got nothing to play.’ I was like, ‘no problem’. So I got a sunburst Les Paul guitar that I had because I was considering doing Guns ‘n’ Roses at the time.”

Navarro, as it happened, was also strung out on drugs at the time. For the sake of his health, he decided not to join Guns ‘n’ Roses on tour, leaving him with a Les Paul guitar that he had no real use for. Navarro told Frusciante that he could bring it down and let him borrow it for a while. “So I bought the Les Paul down to where he was in the facility,” Navarro continued. “We hung out, we talked a little bit, and I never saw it again. And I think he left the facility, and who knows what happened.”

For years, Navarro assumed that Frusciante had either decided to hang on to the guitar or had managed to break it in some intoxicated accident. Navarro left The Red Hot Chili Peppers and still didn’t know where Frusciante was. Then, quite out of the blue, ten years after their last meeting, “John calls me and is like ‘Hey man, can I come up to your house?’ And I was like, ‘sure, come on up.’ He comes up, knocks on the door, and he’s got a guitar case. And he opens it up, and it’s a black Les Paul.”

Frusciante took the guitar out of its case and thrust it towards Navarro. “‘Years ago,” Fruicante began, “you gave me a Les Paul, and I sold it and bought drugs with it, and I just wanna make it right.”

For a moment, Navarro didn’t know what to say; he just stood there, struck dumb by the gesture. The two guitarists spent hours talking about the intervening ten years; about addiction, about the challenges of getting clean. “That Black Les Paul is back at my house,” Navarro recalled fondly. “I love that he tried to make amends with that, but in a way that black Les Paul is now more special to me than that original one was.”