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I live here in Jacksonville where this band is still held to God like status. I have met a lot of folks that knew the band personally. There are hundreds of stories about this band, some I am sure are true and some fiction. I was talking with a fellow music sage down here that said Rossington never named this guitar Bernice nor referred to it as such. Not sure it is true but thought I would throw it out there. There are still a lot of family members down here and there is even a bar/concert hall just down the street from me call Freebirds.
Hey everyone! In the 1970's I heard this guitar referred to many times by people in the band/working for the band/close to the band as "Gary's '59". The name Bernice seemed to pop up in interviews after the 1987 Tribute Tour was going on. Either way, what an important Les Paul in rock music history! I played it at the end of the first Jacksonville Fl. guitar show in either 1995 or 1996. The guitar was strung with Dean Markley 9-42's like all of the Southern Rockers from Jax. like Molley Hatchet and .38 Special used back in the day. I was surprised that the action was very high and the frets were worn down/dressed very low. Mike Sparks (their main guitar tech for many years) said that Gary would not let anyone do anything but restring it and check intonation.
I read a few intervews where Gary also shared the story about the headstock breaking off, said he left it on a stand in a studio at the end of a long day and when he returned the next day he picked it up and the headstock just fell off. He said he walked around all bumbed out and the maintanance man at the studio approached him and said he could fix it. He said the guy took it and the next day it was fine. I may have some of the details wrong, I'd hafta dig out the articles out of my hundreds of magazines.
There are adjacent shots of the real deal and a Rossington artist model on ppg 115 of Tony Bacon's book Sunburst - How the Gibson Les Paul became a Legendary Guitar, and the "aged' reissue shown even appears to have a different bridge angle.