Gibson Les Paul

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Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul (Deutsches Museum).jpg
1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Manufacturer Gibson
Period 1952–1960
1961–1963 (in SG form)
Body type Solid
Neck joint Set-in
Body Mahogany (often with a maple top), swamp ash (rare)
Neck Mahogany, maple
Fretboard Rosewood, ebony, maple (usually 22 frets), Richlite (24)
Bridge Usually (Tune-O-Matic)
Pickup(s) Usually H-H (2 Humbucker)
Colors available
Various (often burst-type finishes), Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Vintage Sunburst, Honey Burst, Light Burst, Iced Tea, Wine Red, Chicago Blue, Ebony, Alpine White, Goldtop

The Gibson Les Paul is a solid body electric guitar that was first sold by Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1952.[1] The Les Paul was designed by Ted McCarty who later enlisted popular guitarist Les Paul, to endorse the new model. Although Les later claimed to have been intimately involved in the design of the guitar, it is now generally accepted that the guitar was substantively designed by McCarty and his team with Les' contributions being limited to the initial gold finish on the top and the short-term implementation of the ill-fated Les Paul trapeze tailpiece. It is one of the best-known electric guitar types in the world, along with the Gibson SG, as well as Fender's Telecaster and Stratocaster.

Origins and history[edit]

External images
Prototypes on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Les Paul House of Sound (2009)
"The Log" prototype
"The Log" (c.1940)[2][note 1]
Les Paul's electric guitar "Clunker"
based on 1942 Epiphone Broadway
Les Paul prototype with older bridge & tailpiece, resembling Personal model.[5]
Les Paul prototype[6] with Little Black Box (a triggering device for live performance effects)[7]
Les Paul and "Clunker" (1947)
ES-150 (1936)

In 1950, with the introduction of the innovative Fender Telecaster to the musical market, solid-body electric guitars became a public craze. Hollow-body electric guitars have more acoustic resonance but are more prone to amplifier feedback. They have less natural note duration or "sustain". In reaction to market demand Gibson Guitar president Ted McCarty brought guitarist Les Paul into the company as a consultant. Les Paul was a respected innovator who had been experimenting with guitar design for years to benefit his own music. He had hand-built a solid-body prototype called "The Log", often suggested as the first solid-body Spanish guitar ever built. Controversy still exists as to whether Les Paul, Leo Fender, Paul Bigsby or O.W. Appleton crafted the very first. Les told a story of his invention of an even earlier impractical solid body guitar made from a piece of railroad track with strings and a microphone to Sue Baker of the Les Paul Foundation.[8][9] "The Log" was known by the name because the solid body is a pine block whose width and depth are a little more than the width of the fretboard; conventional hollow guitar sides or "wings" were added for shape. Although many individuals see this guitar as being similar in design to the popular Gibson ES-335 semi-hollowbody guitar introduced in 1958, the Log was roughly as deep as a classical guitar, the sides on the Log served a purely aesthetic purpose, rather than serving as sound chambers as on the 335. Although numerous other prototypes and limited-production solid-body models by other makers have since surfaced, it is known that in 1945–1946, Les Paul had approached Gibson with "The Log" prototype, but his solid body design was rejected.[10][11]

In 1951, McCarty and his team at the Gibson Guitar Corporation began work on what would eventually become the Les Paul Model. Early prototypes - created well before Les Paul was ever involved - are very similar to the final version. An early prototype can be viewed in Robb Lawrence's book, The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy: 1915-1963.[12]

It was agreed that the new Les Paul guitar was to be an expensive, well-made instrument in Gibson's tradition.[13] Although recollections differ regarding who contributed what to the Les Paul design, it was far from a replica of Fender models. Founded in 1902, Gibson began offering electric hollow-body guitars in the 1930s, such as the ES-150; at minimum, these hollow-body electric models provided a set of basic design cues for the new Gibson solid-body, including a more traditionally curved body shape than offered by competitor Fender, and a glued-in ("set-in") neck, in contrast to Fender's bolt-on neck.

The significance of Les Paul's contributions to his Gibson guitar design remains controversial. The book "50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul" limits Paul's contributions to two: advice on the trapeze tailpiece, and a preference for color (stating that Paul preferred gold as "it looks expensive."[14]

Les Paul logo on headstock
Flame maple sample
(tiger stripe)

Additionally, Gibson's president Ted McCarty states that the Gibson Guitar Corporation merely approached Les Paul for the right to imprint the musician's name on the headstock to increase model sales, and that in 1951, Gibson showed Paul a nearly finished instrument. McCarty also claims that design discussions with Les Paul were limited to the tailpiece and the fitting of a maple cap over the mahogany body for increased density and sustain, which Les Paul had requested reversed. However, according to Gibson Guitar, this reversal would have caused the guitar to become too heavy, and Paul's request was refused.[15] Les also later claimed that the original Custom should have had the maple cap and the Goldtop was to be all mahogany. However, it should be noted that the Custom did not appear on the market for two full years following the introduction of the Goldtop; it is doubtful that Gibson had planned a full model range of guitars, with a roll-out over the course of several years, at the time that initial specifications were being set. Rather, it appears that Les Paul's contributions to the guitar line bearing his name were purely cosmetic, and relatively minor. For example, ever the showman, Paul had specified that the guitar be offered in a gold finish, not only for flashiness, but to emphasize the high quality of the Les Paul instrument, as well.[15] The later-issue Les Paul models included flame maple (tiger stripe) and "quilted" maple finishes, again in contrast to the competing Fender line's range of car-like color finishes. Gibson was notably inconsistent with its wood choices, and some goldtops have had their finish stripped to reveal beautifully figured wood hidden underneath.[citation needed]

Market failure and resurgence[edit]

By the late 1950s, the Les Paul was considered "staid and old-fashioned" as well as too heavy and expensive, no longer competitive with the Stratocaster, and by 1961 Gibson stopped producing the traditional Les Paul in favor of a lighter redesign which was later called the SG. The mid-1960s, however, brought a resurgence of interest in the Les Paul, a development credited to one man and one album: Eric Clapton, using a Les Paul plugged into a Marshall Bluesbreaker amplifier as recorded on John Mayall's Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (the "Beano" album, 1966),[16] set the standard for tone for a new generation of guitar players in blues and rock and roll (see Keith Richards' contribution to the Les Paul legend below in the section 'Renewed interest in the Les Paul models').[17][18] Clapton was initially followed by American guitarist Michael Bloomfield and British guitarist Peter Green, and the subsequent rise in the instrument's popularity was such that in 1968 Gibson reintroduced an updated Les Paul and a variety of other instruments "in its mold", including a bass guitar.

Models and variations[edit]

The Les Paul guitar line was originally conceived to include two models: the regular model (nicknamed the Goldtop), and the Custom model, which offered upgraded hardware and a more formal black finish. However, advancements in pickup, body, and hardware designs allowed the Les Paul to become a long-term series of electric solid-body guitars that targeted every price-point and market level except for the complete novice guitarist. This beginner guitar market was filled by the Melody Maker model, and although the inexpensive Melody Maker did not bear the Les Paul name, its body consistently followed the design of true Les Pauls throughout each era.

Beyond shaping and body design, there are a number of characteristics that distinguish the Gibson Les Paul line from other electric guitars. For example, in a fashion similar to Gibson's hollow-body instruments, the strings of Les Paul guitars are always mounted on the top of the guitar body, rather than through the guitar body, as seen in competitor Fender's designs. The Gibson also features a variety of colors, such as Wine Red, Ebony, Classic White, Fire Burst, and Alpine White. In addition, the Les Paul models offered a variety of finishes and decorative levels, a diversity of hardware options, and an innovative array of electric pick-up options, some of which significantly impacted the sound of electric music. For instance, in 1957, Gibson introduced the humbucker (PAF), which revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, and eliminated the mains hum, which had previously plagued guitars with single coil magnetic pickups.

Goldtop (1952–58)[edit]

1952-53 Goldtop has trapeze bridge. [note 2]
1953-55 Goldtop with stopbar bridge
1955-57 Goldtop with Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece
1957-58 Goldtop with PAF pickups

The 1952 Les Paul featured two P-90 single coil pickups, and a one-piece, 'trapeze'-style bridge and tailpiece, with strings that were fitted under (instead of over) a steel stop-bar.[note 3] The weight and the tonal characteristics of the Les Paul were largely due to the mahogany and maple construction: maple is a hard and quite heavy wood, but was restricted to a cap over somewhat lighter mahogany, to keep weight under control.[note 4] In addition, the early 1952 Les Pauls were never issued serial numbers, did not have bound bodies, and are considered by some as "LP Model prototypes". However, the later 1952 Les Pauls were issued serial numbers and also came with bound bodies. Interestingly, the design scheme of some of these early models varied. For instance, some of the Les Pauls of this issue were fitted with black covered P90 pickups instead of the cream-colored plastic covers that are associated with this guitar, even today. Of note, these early models, nicknamed "Goldtops", have begun to gain the interest of collectors, and subsequently, the associated nostalgic value of this instrument is increasing.[note 5]

Custom (1954–60, 1968–present)[edit]

Tune-o-matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece
PAF pickup (1956–)
1954 Custom with P90 pickups and tune-o-
1960 Custom (reissue) with PAF pickups.

The second issue of the Les Paul guitar was introduced to the public in 1953. Called the Gibson Les Paul Custom, this entirely black guitar was dubbed the Black Beauty. The Les Paul Custom featured a mahogany top to differentiate the instrument from its Goldtop predecessor's maple top. It also featured the new Tune-o-Matic bridge design and a pickup with an alnico-5 magnet, P-480, in the neck position. In addition, since 1957, the Custom was fitted with Gibson's new humbucker pickups, PAF,[19] and later became available with three pickups instead of the more usual two.

The three pickup model retained the standard Gibson 3-way switch so not all pickup combinations were possible. The 'neck-only' and 'bridge-only' settings were retained, but the middle switch position was set to enable the middle and bridge pickups. A common modification was to restore the standard 'neck/both/bridge' switching combination and add a switch to enable the middle pickup on its own.[citation needed] The guitar is wired as a "normal" 2 pick up Les Paul except there is a master volume, master tone (for neck and bridge pickups) while the middle pickup has its own volume and tone. This allows the middle pickup to be taken out of the circuit or mixed with the other two, allowing many different tones.

The Les Paul Custom single cutaway was discontinued in 1961 and its name transferred to another design of guitar that has since been renamed the Gibson SG (an initialism for "solid guitar"). This model featured a thin 1-5/16" body and a double cutaway. This temporary change creates confusion over the name Les Paul Custom.

Junior (1954–60) and TV (1955–60)[edit]

1958 Junior
1959 Junior DC (TV Yellow)
1960/1961 Melody Maker

In 1954, to broaden the solid-body electric market still further, Gibson issued the Gibson Les Paul Junior, again targeting the beginning player or student. Over time, this Gibson design has proven well-suited for even professional use.

There were marked differences between the other Les Paul models and the Les Paul Junior. For instance, although the Junior's body outline was clearly reminiscent of the original upmarket Les Paul guitar, the Junior issue was characterized by its flat-top "slab" mahogany body, finished in traditional Gibson Sunburst. The Junior was touted as an inexpensive option for Gibson electric guitar buyers[citation needed]: it had a single P-90 pickup, simple volume and tone controls, and the unbound rosewood fingerboard bore plain dot-shape position markers. However, as a concession to the aspirations of the beginning guitarist buyer, the Junior did feature the stud bridge/tailpiece similar to the second incarnation of the upscale Gold-Top.

Later, in 1955, Gibson launched the Les Paul TV model, which was essentially a Junior with what Gibson called a natural finish. This finish was actually more of a translucent mustard yellow through which the wood grain could be seen, and was not unlike the finish that competitor Fender called butterscotch yellow. The idea behind this TV Yellow was that white guitars would glare too much on early black and white television broadcasts, whereas TV Yellow guitars would not cast a glare yet still appear white onscreen.

In 1958, Gibson made a radical design change to their Junior and TV models: with the design change came cosmetic changes to these guitars that would later take on enormous importance. To accommodate player requests for more access to the top frets than the previous designs allowed, Gibson revamped both these electric guitar models with a new double-cutaway body shape. In addition, the Junior's fresh look was enhanced with a new cherry red finish, while the re-shaped TV adopted a new, rather yellow-tinged finish for its new design.

1956 Les Paul Special Singlecut in TV Yellow
1960 SG Special (Les Paul Special Doublecut)
Les Paul Special Faded

Special (1955–60)[edit]

The Les Paul Special was released in 1955, featuring two soapbar P-90 single coil pickups, finished in a TV Yellow variation (but not called a TV model).

In 1959, the Special was given the same new double-cutaway body shape as the Junior and the TV received in 1958. Then, Les Paul decided to discontinue his affiliation, so, the model name was changed to "SG Special" in late 1959.[20]

However, when the new design was applied to the two-pickup Special, the cavity for the neck pickup overlapped the neck-to-body joint. This weakened the joint to the point that the neck could break after only moderate handling. The problem was soon resolved when Gibson designers moved the neck pickup farther down the body, producing a stronger joint and eliminating the breakage problem.
This stabilized version of the Special is currently offered only by Gibson's Custom Shop in the "VOS" series in TV Yellow.

In the 2000s, the Les Paul Special Faded series was released by Gibson, with rosewood fretboards and dot inlays. With bodies made from Honduran mahogany, they are equipped with 490R and 496T humbuckers and are sold at a much cheaper price.

Standard (1958–60, 1968–present)[edit]

Paul McCartney playing a 1960 left-handed cherryburst Les Paul
Gibson Custom 50th Anniversary 1959 Les Paul Standard (2009)
A licenced Kahler tremolo system on a '87 Gibson Les Paul Standard

In 1958, Gibson updated the Les Paul yet again. The new model retained most of the specifications of the 1957 Goldtop, including PAF humbucker pickups, maple top, tune-o-matic bridge with a stop tailpiece or Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The most significant change in the new models was the finish. The Goldtop color used since 1952 was replaced by a cherry-red version of the Sunburst finish long used on Gibson's flat-top and archtop acoustic and hollow electric guitars, such as the ES-175 model. Since the maple cap was now visible, it was made of two symmetrical pieces of figured (curly or quilted) maple, whereas the painted Goldtop had indiscriminately used maple of any grain and variable width. To differentiate from the earlier Goldtop model, the new Les Paul was referred to as The Les Paul Standard. Original production of the Standards lasted from 1958 to early 1961. Only 1,700 of these early models were made and have subsequently become highly collectible.[note 6] Original production ended when, in 1961, Gibson redesigned the Les Paul to feature a "double cutaway" body, which has subsequently become the Gibson SG. Because of high demand, Gibson resumed production of Les Paul Standards in 1968. Today, the Gibson Les Paul Standard has BurstBucker pickups on the Vintage Original Spec models and Burstbucker Pro on the lower end models bearing the 'Standard' name.

In the 1980s, Gibson also sold a limited number of Les Pauls carrying Kahler tremolos.

2008 Standard (2008)[edit]

Gibson's new version of the Les Paul Standard was released August 1, 2008 and features a long neck tenon, an asymmetrical neck profile to make for a comfortable neck, frets leveled by Plek machine, and locking Grover tuners with an improved ratio of 18:1. With the 2008 model, Gibson introduced their "weight relief" chambering, which includes routing "chambers" in specific areas of the mahogany slab body as specified by Gibson R&D. Before 2008, Les Paul Standards were "swiss cheesed." In other words, it had holes routed into the body, but it was not chambered like most of Gibson's Les Paul lineup now is.[21]

2008 Standard Traditional (2008)[edit]

In 2008, Gibson also introduced the Les Paul Traditional also known as the Les Paul Standard Traditional. The Traditional is built using the traditional Les Paul specifications; such as Kluson style tuners, 57 Classic pickups, and an unchambered body. The Traditional also comes in a plus version with the plus referring to the AAA flame maple cap.

2012 Standard[edit]

Gibson announced the new 2012 Les Paul Standard at Winter NAMM 2012. The new Standard features two Burstbucker Pro humbuckers with coil splitting, and Pure Bypass. Pure Bypass gives the option of bypassing the volume and tone potentiometers, sending the signal directly from the bridge pickup to the output jack. The 2012 Standard also features Gibson's "modern weight relief" as opposed to the chambered body of previous Standards. Other changes include a phase switch and compound fretboard radius.

Les Paul SG (1961–63)[edit]

Main article: Gibson SG
1962 Les Paul Standard (SG Standard)

In 1960, Gibson experienced a decline in electric guitar sales due to their high prices and strong competition from Fender's comparable but much lighter double-cutaway design, the Stratocaster. In response, Gibson modified the Les Paul line. This 1961 issue Les Paul guitar was thinner and much lighter than the earlier models, with two sharply pointed cutaways and a vibrato system. However, the redesign was done without Les Paul's knowledge. Although pleased with the sound, he hated the design, so he asked Gibson to remove his name from the instrument until they fixed a design issue with the neck.[22] This separation occurred in 1960, but Gibson had a surplus stock of "Les Paul" logos and truss rod covers, and so continued to use the Les Paul name until 1963. At that point, the guitar's name was finally changed to "SG", which stood simply for Solid Guitar. In addition to the SG line, Gibson continued to issue the less expensive Jrs and Specials (and the Melody Makers) with the newer body style. These, together with the Firebird, were the standard Gibson solid-body models until the reintroduction of the Les Paul Standard Goldtop and the Les Paul Custom guitars to the market in 1968.

Renewed interest in the Les Paul models[edit]

Jeff Beck (1968)

In 1964, The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards obtained a 1959 sunburst Les Paul.[23] The guitar, outfitted with a Bigsby tailpiece, was the first "star-owned" Les Paul in Britain and served as one of the guitarist's prominent instruments through 1966. In 1967, during the recording of "Their Satanic Majesties Request" at Olympic Studios in London, Richards sold the guitar to 18-year-old Mick Taylor (then with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers), who had been playing a sunburst Les Paul (without Bigsby) prior to that.

Because he switched guitars often enough in that period (using models ranging from the Epiphone semi-hollow to various other guitars made by Guild and Gibson), Richards is sometimes forgotten as an early post-1960 Les Paul player.[24][25] In 1965, Eric Clapton also recognized the Blues rock potential of the late 1950s Les Paul guitars (particularly the 1958–1960 Standard sunburst models), and gave them wide exposure. He began using Les Pauls because of the influence of Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin, and played a 1960 Standard on his groundbreaking album Blues Breakers – John Mayall – With Eric Clapton. At the same time, Mike Bloomfield began using a 1954 Les Paul goldtop he apparently purchased in Boston while touring with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and recorded most of his work on the band's East-West album with that guitar. A year later, he traded it to guitarist/luthier Dan Erlewine for the 1959 Standard with which he became most identified. Concurrently, artists such as Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page began using the late-1950s Les Paul Standards.

"Patent Applied For" (PAF) pickups on Les Paul Standard
Seymour Duncan pickup (right) on Gibson Invader

These 1950s models featured the thicker, more sustaining tone of Gibson's humbucker pickups with the original units known as "Patent Applied For" (PAF) pickups. These PAFs were designed by Seth Lover while working for Gibson in 1955 (U.S. Patent 2,896,491), and debuted on Les Pauls in 1957. This innovation became a standard pickup design for Gibson, and subsequently, many other guitar companies followed suit, outfitting their electrics with copycat versions of the humbucking pickup altered to avoid infringing Gibson's patent. Gretsch had their Filtertron pickups, and when Fender entered the humbucker market in 1972, it was with the radically different Fender Wide Range pickup. "Standard" humbuckers from other guitar manufacturers and third party replacement pickups from the likes of DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan were only offered after Gibson's patent had expired.

Over the years, authentic 1950s Les Pauls have become some of the most desirable and expensive electric guitars in the world. Only 1700 were made between 1958 and 1960[citation needed]. Today, a 1959 Les Paul Standard in good condition can be easily priced between $US200,000 and $US750,000, making it the most valuable production model electric guitar ever built (however, Gibson Custom Shop reissue versions of the 1950s and 1960 Les Paul can be purchased for less, between $US3,000-$US6,000 - certain artist signature model versions of the guitars are considerably more expensive). Jimmy Page has been offered 1 million pounds (1.6 million USD) for his "number 1" 1959 Les Paul should he ever decide to sell it.[26]

Thanks to the work and influence of Richards, Clapton, Bloomfield, Green, Taylor, Beck, and Page in the mid-1960s, demand for Les Paul guitars had begun to increase. Responding to that influence and increased pressure from the public, Gibson re-introduced the single cutaway Les Paul in July 1968.

Les Paul models in the Norlin era (1969–85)[edit]

1969 Standard (refinished)
1974 Custom

Subsequent years brought new company ownership to the Gibson Guitar Company. During the "Norlin Era", Gibson Les Paul body designs were greatly altered, most notably, the change to the neck volute. Because the Les Paul had the reputation of having an easily broken neck joint, the volute strengthened the neck where it joined the headstock to avert breakage. To further increase the strength, the neck woods were changed from mahogany to a three-piece maple design. The LP body was changed from a one-piece mahogany with a maple top into multiple slabs of mahogany with multiple pieced maple tops. This is referred to as "multipiece" construction, and sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "pancake" body. The expression "pancake body" actually refers to a body made of a thin layer of maple sandwiched between two slabs of mahogany, with a maple cap. The grain of the maple was placed at 90 degrees to that of the mahogany. The "pancake"-like layers are clearly visible when looking at the edge of the guitar. This process is also known as "crossbanding", and was done for strength and resistance to cupping/warping. Crossbanding was phased out by 1977.

In this era, as well, Gibson began experimenting with new models such as the Les Paul Recording. This model is generally unpopular with guitarists because of its complex electronics. The Recording featured low-impedance pickups, many switches and buttons, and a highly specialized cable for impedance-matching to the amplifier. Less noticeable changes included, but were not limited to, maple fingerboards (1976), pickup cavity shielding, and the crossover of the ABR1 Tune-o-matic bridge into the more modern Nashville Tune-o-matic bridge. During the 1970s, the Les Paul body shape was incorporated into other Gibson models, including the S-1, the Sonex, the L6-S, and other models that did not follow the classic Les Paul layout.


1972 Deluxe  with mini-humbuckers
1969 Deluxe

The Deluxe was among the "new" 1968 Les Pauls. This model featured "mini-humbuckers", also known as "New York" humbuckers, and did not initially prove popular. The mini-humbucker pickup fit into the pre-carved P-90 pickup cavity using an adaptor ring developed by Gibson (actually just a cut-out P90 pickup cover) in order to use a supply of Epiphone mini-humbuckers left over from when Gibson moved Epiphone production to Japan. The DeLuxe was introduced in late 1968 and helped to standardize production among Gibson's U.S.-built Les Pauls. The first incarnation of the Deluxe featured a one-piece body and slim three-piece neck in late 1968. The "pancake" body (thin layer of maple on top of two layers of Honduran mahogany) came later in 1969. In late 1969, a small "volute" was added. 1969 Deluxes feature the Gibson logo devoid of the dot over the "i" in Gibson. By late 1969/early 1970, the dot over the "i" had returned, plus a "Made In USA" stamp on the back of the headstock. The Deluxe could be special ordered with full-size Humbucker T-Top pickups, these full size versions of the Deluxe were "Standard" spec. They were also available with "Gibson" embossed pickups in 1972 only; these are considered rare, as only 9 were produced. David Bowie can be seen playing one of the 1972 "Standards" in his 1972 release Jean Genie video. By 1975, the neck construction was changed from mahogany to maple, until the early 1980s, when the construction was returned to mahogany. The body changed back to solid mahogany from the pancake design in late 1976 or early 1977. Interest in this particular Les Paul model was so low that in 1985, Gibson canceled the line. However, in 2005, the Deluxe was re-introduced with more popularity because of its association with Pete Townshend [1][27] and Thin Lizzy.

In 1978, the Les Paul Pro Deluxe was introduced. This guitar featured P-90 pickups instead of the "mini-humbuckers" of the Deluxe model, an ebony fingerboard, maple neck, mahogany body and chrome hardware. It came in Ebony, Cherry Sunburst, Tobacco Sunburst or Gold finishes. Interestingly, it was first launched in Europe, rather than the United States. It was discontinued in 1983.



The "Studio" model was introduced in 1983, and is still in production. The intended market for this guitar was the studio musician; therefore, the design features of the "Les Paul Studio" were centered on optimal sound output. This model retained only the elements of the Gibson Les Paul that contributed to tone and playability, including the carved maple top and standard mechanical and electronic hardware. However, the Studio design omitted several stock Gibson ornamentations that did not affect sound quality, including the binding on the body and neck. The two notable exceptions to this are the Studio Standard and the Studio Custom. Both models were produced in the mid-1980s, and included body and neck binding, though with dot fingerboard inlays instead of more ornate trapezoids. The first Studios from 1983 to 1986, except for Studio Standard and Studio Custom, were made with alder bodies rather than mahogany/maple. The current Studios come with a chambered mahogany body with either a maple or mahogany cap. The entry level Les Paul Studio "faded" has a chambered mahogany body and top and a satin finish.

Custom Shop models[edit]

Gibson Les Paul Custom Florentine

In 1986, to respond to the high demand for vintage models, Gibson formed a "Custom Shop" division. Originally, the Shop began producing accurate reproductions of early Les Pauls as well as one-off orders.[28] Today, the Custom Shop produces numerous limited-run "historic-spec" models, as well as signature artist models. The first Custom Shop artist guitar was the 1996 Joe Perry Les Paul.

Modern Les Pauls[edit]

In January 1986, Gibson changed ownership and began manufacturing a range of varied Les Paul models to suit different user needs. The 1980s also saw the end to several design characteristics that were classic to the Les Paul, including the volute and maple neck. However, because of consumer demand, the Gibson Les Paul guitar is available today in an array of choices, ranging from guitars equipped with modern digital electronics to classic re-issue models built to match the look and specifications of the guitar's earliest production runs from 1952 to 1960.

Les Paul playing his guitar (customized Les Paul Recording)

Les Paul's guitar[edit]

Until his death in August 2009, Les Paul himself played his personal Les Paul Guitar onstage, weekly, in New York City. Paul preferred his 1971 Gibson "Recording" model guitar, with different electronics and a one-piece mahogany body, and which, as an inveterate tinkerer and bona fide inventor, he had modified heavily to his liking over the years. A Bigsby-style vibrato was of late the most visible change although his guitars were formerly fitted with his "Les Paulverizer" effects.

Per a statement made by Les Paul himself in the "Chasing Sound" bio-pic, the "Les Paulverizer" was a hoax with the actual effect being provided via multitrack recording. Les Paul was also a pioneer of stereo and multitrack recording.[29]

Epiphone Les Pauls[edit]

Main article: Epiphone Les Paul
Les Paul Special II
Les Paul 100
Les Paul Ultra II
Les Paul ES Custom

The Gibson-owned Epiphone Company makes around 20 models of the Les Paul, most are similar copies of Gibson-made models. Made in places outside the U.S., the Epiphone Les Pauls are made from more commonly available woods using less expensive foreign labor and have less hand detailing than the Gibson models, and, as a result, sell for a lower price. Epiphone Guitar Co. has been owned by Gibson Guitars since the 1950s. Once Gibson purchased Epiphone, they quickly began making lower-quality guitars based on Gibson designs.[30]

Epiphone currently produces several models of the Les Paul including the entry level "Les Paul Special II", which is generally made of a basswood body and a veneered top, a bolt-on neck (with dot inlays instead of the usual trapezoid inlays), lacks a binding, and has simplified electronics. It is priced at about US$150.[31] The next model up is the "Les Paul 100", which costs approximately $US250, has similar features but it has the standard Les Paul wiring, mahogany body and a higher-quality paint job. The Epiphone "Les Paul Studio" is the least expensive Les Paul model to have a carved top and a set neck (features considered central to the feel and sound of more expensive Les Paul models), and is between $350–$400 depending on features and finish. The standard models are the "Les Paul Standard Plain Top" and the "Les Paul Standard Plus Top". They cost $US550 and $US650 respectively. They both feature a solid mahogany body with a maple veneer and carved top; the "Plus" model includes a "flamed" maple finish while the "Plain" top is unfigured.[32]

Epiphone also makes several less common models of the Les Paul such as the "Les Paul Goth", "Les Paul Goldtop", "Les Paul Ultra" and "Les Paul Ultra II", "Les Paul Custom", "Les Paul Black Beauty", "Les Paul Prophecy Series", "Zakk Wylde Custom Les Paul Model", "Slash signature Les Paul Models", "Les Paul Tribute Plus", and the most current, "Joe Bonamassa '59 Gold Top Les Paul".[33][34][35]

In 2004, Epiphone released the Epiphone Les Paul Baritone which requires the instrument to be tuned down 2-1/2 steps to "B", instead of the traditional "E". Because of this lower tuning, heavier strings must be installed.[36]

Gibson Robot Guitar[edit]

Gibson Robot Guitar
(alongside assorted guitar effect pedals)
Gibson Dusk Tiger
Main article: Gibson Robot Guitar

In 2007, Gibson announced the idea to create a computerized Les Paul, dubbed the "Robot Guitar" which was released on December 7, 2007. The guitar has a computer integrated into the body with a "master control" knob next to the volume knobs, which can be pulled out, turned, or pressed to issue different commands to the guitar. One of the more notable features is the ability to tune the guitar to standard tuning simply by pulling out on the master control knob and strumming the guitar, while the tuning pegs adjust themselves to standard tuning. Another use of the master control knob is to be able to tune the guitar to alternative tunings, such as drop D, by pressing on the control knob to fit the setting. The new Les Paul has a new custom silverburst blue finish.[37]

Gibson Dark Fire[edit]

Main article: Gibson Dark Fire

Gibson announced a new interactive computerized Les Paul that produces more sounds, named the Dark Fire. It was released on December 15, 2007. The guitar has a computer integrated into the body and is controlled by the "Master Control Knob" (MCK). The MCK allows players to change the pickups and coils, adjust each tone and tunings automatically and simultaneously, even during a song being played. Like the Robot, the Dark Fire features the ability to tune the guitar; however, in an improvement over the Robot, the player can tune it up to 500 times per battery charge, allowing the tuning pegs to adjust themselves to different tuning styles. Using the "Chameleon Tone Technology" Gibson claims this guitar will produce every imaginable guitar sound. In addition to the improved and advanced tuning features, the guitar has three types of pickups which include Burstbucker (humbucker), a P-90 single-coil and a bridge-mounted piezo acoustic, all of which contribute to organic blends of original sounds.

Gibson Dusk Tiger[edit]

Gibson has made another guitar in the robot series: The Dusk Tiger. This third robot guitar has lightweight 45 gram tuners and chameleon tone editor support (which means you can make your own sounds by modeling in chameleon tone).

Signature models[edit]

Jimmy Page[edit]

Jimmy Page with his Goldtop Classic Premium, one of his many Les Pauls

Gibson has produced three Jimmy Page signature models. The first was issued in the mid-1990s. It was based on a stock Les Paul Standard of the time (rather than the more prestigious and historically correct 1958/1959 re-issues issued by the Gibson Custom Shop). The modifications were based on Jimmy Page's "#2" 1959 Les Paul, which had been modified with push-pull potentiometers on all four control knobs, as well as mini push-pull switches under the pickguard. This first version of the Jimmy Page Signature did not have the mini-switches under the pickguard, nor did it replicate the custom-shaved neck profile of Jimmy Page's guitar, but it did include the four push-pull pots. With all four pots pushed down, the guitar operated as normal. Pulling up the volume pot for the Bridge or Neck pickup turned the respective pickup into a single coil, rather than humbucking pickup. Pulling up the tone pot for the Neck pickup changed Bridge & Neck pickups wiring from series (stock) to parallel. Pulling up the tone pot for the Bridge pickup put Bridge & Neck pickups out of phase with each other. The first iteration of the Jimmy Page Signature utilized Gibson's then-current high-output humbuckers: a 496R in the neck position and a 498T at the bridge.

In 2005, after two years of research and development utilizing Jimmy Page's actual guitar, Gibson Custom Shop issued a limited run of Jimmy Page Signature guitars based on Jimmy Page's No. 1 1959. This time, Gibson worked directly from Jimmy Page's actual guitar, which he lent to Gibson for the project. The guitar featured just one push-pull pot, just like Page's No. 1, which reversed the phase of the pickups in the up position, which in Page's own words gave "a close approximation to the Peter Green sound." Gibson also went to great lengths to replicate the accuracy of the pickups, creating two custom pickups, which were available only in this guitar. The pickups were based on the Burstbucker vintage-style pickups, but featured stronger Alnico magnets and slightly higher output than the other Burstbuckers, as well as slightly higher treble response, which accurately reproduced the sound of the pickups in Page's guitar. Gibson also replicated the neck profile, which was heavily modified prior to Page acquiring the guitar, and the Grover tuners that Page favored.

Several years later, Gibson issued its third Jimmy Page Signature guitar, this one based closely on Jimmy Page's #2. Issued in a production run of 325 guitars, the guitar more accurately reproduced Page's heavily modified No. 2 than the original Signature model of the 1990s, and featured the 4 push-pull pots, the two mini-switches under the pick guard, accurate tuners and sound-accurate pickups (the same pickups that were used in the 2005 Jimmy Page No. 1 Signature), as well as an accurate neck profile. As in the original Signature model of the 1990s, pulling up the neck or bridge volume pots switched the respective pickups' coils from series to parallel, and pulling up the tone pots switched the respective pickups from humbucking to single coil. The two push-button DPDT switches mounted beneath the pickguard provide universal switching functions, regardless of the positions of the push-pull pots. With the switch mounted toward the bridge-end of the pickguard in the out position, the bridge pickup's phase is reversed. With the switch mounted toward the neck-end of the pickguard in the out position, both pickups are wired in series and out of phase. With both switches out, both pickups are in series and in phase. The Jimmy Page "Number Two" Les Paul is finished with a sunburst finish to replicate the appearance of the original guitar. 325 of these guitars were made, with the initial 25 being autographed by Jimmy Page and priced at US$25,000 when new.


Slash with one of his signatures in 2007

Slash has collaborated with Gibson on twelve signature Les Paul models—four through Gibson USA; four through the Gibson Custom Shop; and four through the Gibson subsidiary Epiphone.

The first of these guitars was the Slash "Snakepit" Les Paul Standard, which was introduced by the Gibson Custom Shop in 1996. It has a transparent cranberry red finish over a flame maple top, a relief carving of the smoking snake graphic off the cover of Slash's Snakepit's debut album, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, hand carved by Bruce J. Kunkel (owner of Kunkel Guitars -, and a mother of pearl inlay of a cobra wrapped up the length of the ebony fretboard. Production was limited to 100, with Slash receiving the first four including the prototype, the only one with the carving on the body turned 90 degrees to be viewed right side up when displayed on a guitar stand. In 1998 Slash's studio was broken into and his guitars were stolen, including the "Snakepit" prototype, so the Gibson Custom Shop built him a replica. These guitars are by far the rarest and most collectible of any of the Gibson Slash signature guitars, they sold for around $5,000 when new, the Hollywood Guitar Center was asking $20,000 for one in 2002.[citation needed] In 1997, Epiphone released a more affordable version of the "Snakepit" Les Paul, featuring a decal of the smoking snake logo and standard fretboard inlay.[38]

Gibson Slash "Appetite" Les Paul

In 2004, the Gibson Custom Shop introduced the Slash Signature Les Paul Standard, a guitar that Gibson has used ever since as the "standard" non limited edition Slash Les Paul (this guitar is in the Gibson range all year round).[39] This guitar features a plain maple top with a Dark Tobacco Sunburst finish, and has a piezo pickup with a switch located near the tone and volume knobs .[38] In 2008, Epiphone issued the Slash Signature Les Paul Standard Plus Top, which was modeled after the Gibson Custom Shop model.[38] It has a solid mahogany body, flame maple top, and a Dark Tobacco Burst finish.[40]

In 2008, Gibson USA released the Slash Signature Les Paul Standard, an authentic replica of one of two Les Pauls Slash received from Gibson in 1988. It has an Antique Vintage Sunburst finish over a solid mahogany body with a maple top. Production was limited to 1600.[41] The Gibson Custom Shop introduced the Slash "Inspired By" Les Paul Standard. This guitar is a replica of the 1987 Les Paul Standard and it features a carved three-piece maple top, one-piece mahogany back, and rosewood fingerboard, with a Heritage Cherry Sunburst finish. Two versions were made available—the "Aged by Tom Murphy," aged to resemble the original guitar (a limited number of these were signed by Slash in gold marker on the back of the headstock), and the "Vintage Original Spec," created to resemble the guitar as it was when Slash first received it.[38][42]

Two more guitars were introduced in 2008. Gibson USA issued the Slash Signature Les Paul Goldtop, modeled after a 1990 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop that was stolen from Slash's collection in 1999 and never recovered.[43] It features a mahogany body and a hand-carved maple top with Gibson's classic Bullion Gold finish. Production was limited to 1000.[44] Epiphone introduced a more affordable version of the Gibson model, featuring a traditional Les Paul body with a maple top, a mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, and Epiphone's classic Goldtop finish. Production was limited to 2000.[45]

In 2010, Gibson USA released the Slash "Appetite" Les Paul Standard as a tribute to Guns N' Roses' debut album, Appetite for Destruction. It resembles the original Les Paul Standards of the late 1950s, including the 1959 Les Paul replica Slash used for the recording of the album. It has a maple top with a nitrocellulose Sunburst finish, rosewood fingerboard with acrylic inlay, and a Slash headstock graphic. It also features Slash's signature Seymour Duncan pickups.[46] The Gibson Custom Shop introduced the Slash "Appetite" Les Paul Standard. Production was limited to 400, with 100 guitars hand-aged and signed by Slash himself, and another 300 finished with the Custom Shop's VOS process.[47] Epiphone issued a more affordable version of the "Appetite" Les Paul, production of which was limited to 3,000.[48][49]

In 2013, Slash teamed up with Gibson again, this time to create a signature Les Paul with a "Rosso Corsa" (racing red) finish on a carved solid Grade-AAA figured maple top. The guitar has 2 Seymour Duncan Alnico pickups and has Slash's graphic on the headstock. Production was limited to 1,200.

In 2014, Epiphone released the Les Paul Special ii "AFD Outfit" made to be a lower end version of the Gibson Slash "Appetite" Les Paul. It came in only bundles, one that included A gigbag, jack, the guitar, tuner etc. and one of them included the same as the first however it also came with an Epiphone amplifier. The guitar looked very similar to the original "Appetite" guitar however it did not have neck binding, it had dot inlays, and was a flat top guitar. It had two humbucking pickups with a tuner installed in the side of the bridge pickup mounting ring. In October they also made a video and page on their website for a more affordable Epiphone model of the Gibson "Rosso Corsa" Slash model. It appears to be identical to the Gibson model except for Epiphone's headstock. it uses Slash's signature pickups instead of the standard Epiphone Les Paul pickups. It has not yet been released.

Joe Perry[edit]

Joe Perry playing his signature "Boneyard" Les Paul

Gibson has issued two Signature Les Paul guitars for Joe Perry of Aerosmith. The first was developed in the 1990s and was customized with an active mid-boost control, black chrome hardware, and a translucent black finish. It was replaced in 2004 by a second, more visually distinctive Les Paul, the Joe Perry Boneyard Les Paul. This guitar is characterized by Perry's custom "Boneyard" logo on the headstock and a figured maple top with a green tiger finish, and is available with either a stopbar tailpiece or a Bigsby tailpiece. Perry has also endorsed a lower-priced replica version of the Boneyard guitar made by Epiphone that carries the same USA made Burstbucker pickups as the Gibson model.

Jeff Beck[edit]

The Jeff Beck Oxblood is available in limited numbers. The first 50 of these historic guitars were aged at Gibson Custom to look like Beck’s original, then signed, numbered and played by Beck himself. The next 100 guitars were prepared with Gibson Custom’s V.O.S. finish, bringing the total run to 150 instruments. Each one also comes with a standard Gibson Custom case.

Gibson Gary Moore Les Paul

Gary Moore[edit]

Gary Moore also created his own signature Gibson Les Paul in the early 1990s. Characterised by a yellow flame top, no binding and a Gary Moore truss rod cover. It featured two open-topped humbucking pick-ups, one with "zebra coils" (one white and one black bobbin). Gary formerly owned Peter Green's vintage Les Paul Standard with an accidentally reversed pick-up magnet.

In 2009, Gibson released another Gary Moore signature guitar, the Gibson Gary Moore BFG Les Paul. The Gary Moore BFG is much like their previous Les Paul BFG series, while having the style of Moore's 1950s Les Paul Standards.

John Sykes[edit]

John Sykes of Tygers of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and Blue Murder had two signature models. In 2006 Gibson released a "John Sykes" model signature Les Paul. It was created to look exactly like John's main guitar - a 1978 Les Paul Custom complete with mirrored pickguard and chrome pickup rings. There were 2 versions of this guitar, one version had all the wear and aging to look as close to John's guitar as possible and the other had the same specs, but without the wear. The bridge pick-up was a recreation of a 1970s Dirty Fingers humbucker.[50]

Peter Frampton[edit]

Peter Frampton 54 Custom with three humbuckers

Guitar Center added a replica of the "Black Beauty" Les Paul Custom, with three pickups, that Peter Frampton used as his main guitar from his days in Humble Pie through his early solo career, photographed playing the instrument on the front jackets of his albums Frampton and Frampton Comes Alive. It has all the same qualities such as the three uncovered humbucking pickups and missing pickguard. The Black Beauty was not issued until 1957; however, the one given to Frampton by a fan named Mark Mariana was a 1954 model that had been routed out for a middle pickup.

Michael Bloomfield[edit]

Mike Bloomfield with 1959 Les Paul Standard

Michael Bloomfield is credited with Eric Clapton for helping seed the renewed interest which compelled Gibson to return the original Les Paul to full production; both musicians began using Les Pauls at about the same time. Bloomfield first played a 1954 Les Paul goldtop (with the strings wrapped around the tailpiece rather than suspended and intonated over a bridge) while with the Butterfield Blues Band in 1966, but he swapped the guitar (plus $100) to guitar technician Dan Erlewine in exchange for a 1959 Les Paul Standard. This guitar was characterised by mismatched volume and tone control knobs (a reflector-topped "tone" knob for the bridge pickup volume, two top-hatted knobs for neck pickup volume and bridge pickup tone, and a cylindrical "speed knob" for the neck pickup tone), a missing cover on the rhythm/treble toggle switch, a truss rod cover with "Les Paul" engraved in script (this feature had originated with the early Les Paul SG models, not the original Les Paul single cutaways), and a crack in the wood behind the tailpiece. Because the guitar was lost in the 1970s (Bloomfield biographers Jan Mark Wolkin and Bill Keenom, in Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues, disclosed that a Canadian venue owner claimed it as compensation after Bloomfield missed a scheduled performance and never reclaimed the instrument), Gibson used hundreds of photographs of the late blues guitarist's instrument (and consulted with Bloomfield's family) to produce the limited-edition Bloomfield signature. The company produced one hundred Bloomfield models with custom-aged finishes and two hundred more with the company's Vintage Original Specifications finishing in 2009. They reproduced the tailpiece crack on the aged version, plus the mismatched volume and tone control knobs and the "Les Paul"-engraved truss rod cover on both versions, while including a toggle switch cover. The headstock was characterised by the kidney-shaped Grover tuning keys installed on the guitar before Bloomfield traded for it, and the pickups were Gibson Burstbucker 1 (at the neck) and Burstbucker 2 (at the bridge).

Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend with his modified Les Paul Deluxe

Pete Townshend[edit]

In 2005, Gibson issued three Pete Townshend signature edition Les Paul Deluxe guitars, based on Townshend's heavily customised "#1" Wine Red 1976 Les Paul Deluxe, "#3" Gold top 1976, and "#9" Cherry Sunburst 1976. These guitars were modified by Alan Rogan and used extensively on stage and in the studio with The Who. In addition to the two mini-humbuckers the guitar carried, Rogan modified Townshend's originals with a DiMarzio humbucker in the middle. Toggle switches located behind the guitar's tailpiece turned the pickup on and off and added volume boost. The control knobs were wired for volume, one for each pickup and a master volume. The reissues differed from Townshend's originals in that the reissues had an inlay at the first fret while the originals did not.

Ace Frehley
with his 3pick-ups Les Paul
Billy Gibbons
with Les Paul Goldtop
with his white Les Paul

Ace Frehley[edit]

The Ace Frehley (KISS) signature model, released in 1997 and re-released in 2012, has three humbucking DiMarzio pick-ups, a cherry sunburst finish (AAAA), a color image of Frehley's face in his Kiss make-up on the headstock, and mother-of-pearl lightning bolt inlays, and Ace's simulated signature on the 12th fret. There was a limited edition, Gibson Custom Shop run of only 300 guitars that were built with DiMarzio PAF, Super Distortion, and Dual Sound pickups. The production run model was only built with DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. This was one of Gibson's best selling artist runs. These guitars are now valued at between $US4,000–12,000.[citation needed] The more recent 2012 "Budokan" model, intended to pay tribute to the guitar used during the KISS' first trip to Japan in 1977, features mother-of-pearl block inlays (no signature at the 12th fret), a Richlite fingerboard, Grover machine heads with pearloid banjo buttons, and a grade A maple top.[50]

Billy Gibbons[edit]

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top has a signature model and pick-up based on his favorite "Pearly Gates" Les Paul. Gibbons' authorized Les Paul is a re-issue of the 1959 Les Paul Standard..


Buckethead's signature model has an oversized chambered mahogany body, alpine white maple top, a 27" scale length, and a push/pull switch on the bridge. The electronics are also re-wired to make use of the two arcade-style "killswitch" buttons on the guitar. This guitar is identical to the Les Paul that Buckethead toured with in 2009.

Sammy Hagar[edit]

Sammy Hagar's signature Les Paul model is equipped with dual "zebra-striped" humbuckers on a red flame maple top. The headstock is inlaid with the logo of Sammy's new supergroup, Chickenfoot.

Billie Joe Armstrong
with his first signature Les Paul Junior
Zakk Wylde
with his bullseye Les Paul
Neal Schon
with his Les Paul Custom

Billie Joe Armstrong[edit]

Billie Joe Armstrong's two signature guitar models are Les Paul Juniors. The first has been in production since 2006 and is based on the '56 Junior he uses that is named 'Floyd' which was used on every Green Day album since 2004's American Idiot. The second is a TV Yellow double-cutaway model which began production in 2012 and was used on Green Day's ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! album trilogy. Both models have one Billie Joe Armstrong signature pickup, the H-90, a humbucking version of the P-90 pickup. In 2011, Gibson released a limited run of Acoustic signature Gibson Billie Joe Armstrong J-180s.

Neal Schon[edit]

The Neal Schon Signature Les Paul model has a carved mahogany top, mahogany back, multi-ply black/white binding on top, chrome-plated hardware and a Floyd Rose tremolo. The one-piece mahogany neck has a scarfed heel joint a "Schon custom" slim-taper neck profile. The 22-fret ebony fingerboard features pearl split-diamond inlays and single-ply white binding. The pickups are a DiMarzio Fast Track/Fernandes Sustainer in the neck position and a Gibson BurstBucker Pro in the bridge position. In addition to the standard Les Paul electronics (individual pickup volume and tone controls, plus three-way selector switch), the Schon Signature features two mini-toggles – an on/off for the Sustainer and an octave effect – along with a push/pull pot for midrange cut. Only 60 of the guitars were made, and sold it out in days upon release.

Eric Clapton[edit]

Eric Clapton playing Les Paul in 1987, on the right of George Harrison

When Eric Clapton plugged his 1960 Les Paul into a Marshall Bluesbreaker in the mid 60's (the set-up used to record Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, the "Beano album") he created a new rock tone that immediately became a standard.[18] Clapton played a 1960 Standard as a member of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and in the early days of Cream. The guitar was said to have been stolen while Clapton was preparing for the first Cream tour in 1966, following the recording of Fresh Cream, and was long considered an iconic instrument by Clapton's fans and Les Paul guitar admirers. Gibson announced production of the Clapton 1960 Standard, also nicknamed the "Beano Burst", in 2010. Gibson says the instrument "accurately represents what Eric Clapton personally feels his 1960 Les Paul should be", with Clapton consulting on the design of the guitar. Production is limited to 55 hand-aged instruments signed by Clapton (who was allowed to keep the first five of these instruments), another 95 hand-aged instruments, and 350 Vintage Original Spec instruments, but all five hundred instruments feature period-correct hardware, two Gibson reproduction PAF humbucking pickups, and subtly figured "antiquity burst" maple tops.

Steve Jones[edit]

Steve Jones (Sex Pistols)

Steve Jones, of the Sex Pistols, signed a Les Paul Custom with pin-up girl stickers.[51]

Marc Bolan[edit]

Marc Bolan's unusual Les Paul was reproduced as a signature model. It was a 1950s Standard body with a 1970s Custom neck; the guitar was known to have gone through three necks in Bolan's lifetime.

The prototype was introduced at the 2011 NAMM exhibition. Bolan is seen holding the instrument on the outer gatefold jacket of T. Rex, his first album after shortening the band name from "Tyrannosaurus Rex". The guitar was stolen from Bolan in London, and for the last months of his career he was using a wine-red 1970s Les Paul Standard. Gibson announced the availability of the Marc Bolan signature Les Paul in February 2011.

Lou Pallo[edit]

Lou Pallo (Les Paul & His Trio), Ilidium Jazz Club, 2008

Lou Pallo, a longtime member of Les Paul's performing trio until the virtuoso's death in 2009, earned a signature Les Paul model in late 2010. Nicknamed "The Man of a Thousand Inversions," Pallo played a Les Paul Custom in the Les Paul Trio. However, the Les Paul on which he consulted for its design features a Standard headstock and body but Custom fretboard block inlays including at the first fret. The body wood is natural-coloured mahogany while the top is ebony-painted maple and bound in single-ply binding like the production Standard. The guitar features, unusually, a black-covered P-90 single-coil pickup at the neck—the same pickup that was standard on the Les Paul from 1952 to 1956—and a double-coil Dirty Fingers pickup without a cover but with a black pickup frame at the bridge. The familiar "rhythm/treble" poker chip around the toggle switch is also black, and the guitar features no pickguard. (Interviewed for the guitar's introduction, Pallo himself said he had actually wanted the guitar to feature a cream-coloured pickguard, cream-coloured Dirty Fingers frame, cream-coloured P-90 cover, and cream-coloured poker chip.) The Lou Pallo model also features a small reproduction of Pallo's signature in the twelfth-fret inlay. Pallo introduced the guitar at New York's Iridium club, where the Les Paul Trio played for many years. Pallo explained for a video of the event that he rejected Gibson's original idea to put Pallo's signature on the headstock, out of respect to his old friend and partner, suggesting the inlay signature in its place. After introducing the guitar to the gathering, Pallo played the jazz standard Begin the Beguine on the instrument.

Matt Heafy[edit]

Matt Heafy, of Trivium is working on a signature 6 string and 7 string Les Paul with Epiphone. Heafy has said that '(I) chose Epiphone, because I have to work my way up, from an Epiphone, Gibson USA, then a Gibson Custom. The thing is if it was a Gibson Custom, the kids would be paying $6000 for it, and they can't afford that. I want it to be affordable but something I will use on stage"[citation needed]

Paul Landers[edit]

Paul Landers, of Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein has a signature guitar based on his custom-built guitar. It features a mahogany body with a maple cap finished in satin black with silver binding only around the front of the body. The neck is also made of mahogany and features an Obeche fingerboard with no inlays or binding. Hardware includes a hardtail tune-o-matic bridge and Grover locking keystone tuners. The guitar also feature chrome-covered EMG pickups; an 81 in the bridge, and a 60 in the neck. It also only has a single volume control and a 3-way pickup toggle switch.

Paul Kossoff[edit]

Paul Kossoff, of Free and Back Street Crawler, favoured a 1959 Les Paul Standard. In 2011-12, Gibson's Custom Shop made a reproduction of Kossoff's Standard, featuring a so-called "green-lemon" flametop, two-piece carved maple top, mahogany body and neck, Custom Bucker humbucking pickups and kidney-bean shaped Grover tuners similar to those Kossoff had installed on the instrument. 100 Kossoff models were made to resemble the guitar at the time of Kossoff's death in 1976, with another 250 in a VOS finish.

Chad Kroeger[edit]

Nickelback singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger collaborated with Gibson to create a signature Les Paul. The guitar, called the Blackwater Les Paul, features a mahogany body and neck, a Trans Black finish on a AAA flamed maple top, Gibson 490R/498T pickups, a GraphTech Ghost piezo bridge, Grover kidney tuners, acrylic trapezoid inlays, and painted white stars corresponding with the fingerboard inlays.[52]

Les Paul users[edit]

Les Paul imitations[edit]

Gibson Les Paul specifications during 1958–60 varied from year to year and also from guitar to guitar. Typical 1958 Les Paul Standard necks had a thicker "club-shaped" neck, thinner frets and lower fret height, which changed during the course of 1959 to develop into typical 1960 necks with a thinner cross-section and wider, higher frets. Les Paul Customs from the same period had totally different frets and were referred to as "The Fretless Wonder", which were designed for jazz guitarists with thick flat-wound strings.[note 7][note 6]

Although early Les Paul imitations in the 1960s and 1970s, such as those made by Höfner, Hagström, Harmony Company and Greco Guitars differed from Gibson's design, with different electronics, and even bolt-on necks, in the late 1970s some Japanese companies came very close to perfecting copies of the original 1958–60 Standards. These guitars later became known as "lawsuit" guitars. The lawsuit was brought by the Norlin Corporation, the parent company of Gibson guitars, in 1977, and was based on an Ibanez headstock design that had been discontinued by 1976. Ibanez settled out of court, and by 1978 had begun making guitars from their own designs.[citation needed]

ESP Guitars makes seven types, the Eclipse series, James Hetfield Truckster, and Kirk Hammett KH-3 from ESP, the LTD EC series and Truckster, the Edwards E-LP series, and the Navigator N-LP series, which are based on the Les Paul design. Certain EC models have 24-fret necks and active electronics using EMG pickups instead of the standard passive pickups and 22 frets found in the traditional Les Paul. The Edwards and Navigator lines are made in Japan, and available only on the Japanese market; they come standard with Gotoh hardware and Seymour Duncan pickups (EMG pickups in a few models), and unlike the EC and Eclipse series guitars, which are updated variants on the Les Paul, these are made to be as close to the Gibson 1959 Les Paul design as possible, in the vein of the late 1970s and 1980s "lawsuit" model guitars from Tokai, Burny, and Greco, complete with Gibson style headstocks.

Heritage Guitars, founded in 1985 by four long-time Gibson employees when Gibson relocated to Nashville, continues to build guitars in the original factory at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Many of their models evoke memories of Gibson's late-1950s/early-1960s "golden years." The H-150 and H-157 are reminiscent of the original Les Paul and Les Paul Custom, while the H-535 is a modern version of the Gibson ES-335.

In 2006 Gibson lost a lawsuit against PRS Guitars,[53] Gibson claiming PRS was stealing the Les Paul shape and design.

Gibson lost the trademark for Les Paul in Finland. According to the court, "Les Paul" has become a common noun for guitars of a certain type. The lawsuit began when Gibson sued Musamaailma, which produces Tokai guitars, for trademark violation. However, several witnesses testified that the term "Les Paul" denotes character in a guitar rather than a particular guitar model. The court also found it aggravating that Gibson had used Les Paul in the plural form and that the importer of Gibson guitars had used Les Paul as a common noun. The court decision will become effective, as Gibson is not going to appeal.[54]


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  35. ^ "Epiphone Ultra II". Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Epiphone Les Paul Baritone Review". Guitarhoo!. June 30, 2004. Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  37. ^ Yuri Kageyama (The Associated Press) (December 3, 2007). "World's first robot guitar takes care of the tuning". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 
  38. ^ a b c d Drozdowski (2008-04-08). "[title missing]". 
  39. ^ "Slash Signature Les Paul on SlashParadise". November 10, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Epiphone Slash Signature Les Paul Standard Plus Top". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Gibson USA Slash Signature Les Paul Standard". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  42. ^ "Gibson Custom "Inspired By" Slash Les Paul Standard". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  43. ^ Hernandez, Gabriel J. (2008). "The Gibson Classic Interview: Slash Talks Gold Tops". Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  44. ^ "Gibson USA Slash Signature Les Paul Goldtop". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  45. ^ "Epiphone Slash Les Paul Goldtop". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Gibson USA Slash "Appetite" Les Paul Standard". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  47. ^ "The Guitar That Saved Rock N' Roll". 2010. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  48. ^ "Epiphone Slash "Appetite" Les Paul Standard". Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  49. ^ "Epiphone Slash Appetite Les Paul Standard". Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  50. ^ a b "John Sykes Les Paul Custom". Gibson Guitar Co. 
  51. ^ Steve Jones Les Paul Custom, 
  52. ^ "Chad Kroeger "Blackwater" Les Paul". Gibson Guitar Co. 
  53. ^ Rob Power (June 8, 2006). "Gibson lawsuit ends with PRS victory". MI Pro (UK: Intent Media).  – PRS win victory over Gibson guitars
  54. ^ Tuomo Pietiläinen (Sep 5, 2008). "Käräjäoikeus tuomitsi Gibsonin Les Paul -kitaran yleisnimeksi" [The district court sentenced Gibson Les Paul guitar to be generic]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish).  – Les Paul loses trademark in Finland


  1. ^ Original "The Log" was exhibited at Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville.
  2. ^ This guitar (1953 Goldtop exhibited at FUZZ Guitar Show 2008) was used by Carl Perkins on many of his early "Sun Records" Recordings
  3. ^ In the summer of 1952, Gibson Les Paul Goldtop was priced at $US209.
  4. ^ Nonetheless, most guitarists consider a standard Lester to be a very heavy guitar, especially at the end of a long set
  5. ^ Greenwood, Alan; Gil Hembree (April 2011). "25 Most Valuable Guitars". Vintage Guitar. pp. 38–39. 
    The 1957 model is one of the highest price vintage guitar models on the market, ranked at No. 9 on the 2011 Top 25 published by Vintage Guitar, and worth between $86,000 and $106,000.
  6. ^ a b Greenwood, Alan; Gil Hembree (April 2011). "25 Most Valuable Guitars". Vintage Guitar. pp. 38–40. 
    The 1958–60 Standard is one of the highest priced vintage guitar models on the market, ranked at # on the 2011 Top 25 published by Vintage Guitar, and worth between $225,000 and $375,000.
  7. ^ "10 Most Valuable Guitars", Vintage Guitar (2010) , mentioned on: Paul Schille (Dec 17, 2010), "Vintage Guitar Releases List of 10 Most Valuable Guitars", 

Further reading[edit]

  • Electric Guitar Man: The Genius of Les Paul (Library Binding). Edwin Brit Wyckoff. Enslow Elementary (April 2008). ISBN 978-0-7660-2847-0
  • 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul: Half a Century of the Greatest Electric Guitars (Paperback). Tony Bacon. Backbeat Books 1st edition (April 26, 2002). ISBN 0-87930-711-0
  • Million Dollar Les Paul: In Search of the Most Valuable Guitar in the World (Paperback). Tony Bacon. Jawbone Press 1st edition (2008). ISBN 978-1-906002-14-5

External links[edit]