Gibson Les Paul Custom

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Les Paul Custom
1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom.JPG
Manufacturer Gibson
Period 1954-1960; 1968-Present
Construction
Body type Solid
Neck joint Set
Scale 24.75 in (629 mm)
Woods
Body Mahogany or Mahogany/Maple
Neck Mahogany
Fretboard Ebony, rosewood, maple, Richlite
Hardware
Bridge Fixed, Tune O Matic, Tremolo
Pickup(s) 2 or 3 Humbuckers, Originally 2 P-90s
Colors available
Ebony, Silver Burst, Wine Red, Alpine White, "the Natural" (maple top w/maple fingerboard)

The Gibson Les Paul Custom is a higher end variation of the Gibson Les Paul guitar. It was developed in 1953 after Gibson had introduced the Les Paul model in 1952.

History[edit]

The Gibson Les Paul was introduced in 1952, and was originally made with a mahogany body and a 1" thick maple cap, mahogany neck with rosewood fret board and two P-90 pickups. The guitar was only available in a gold finish. In late 1953, a more luxurious version was introduced, most probably on specific request by Les Paul himself, as he wanted a more luxurious and classy looking guitar. He requested a black guitar as he wanted it to "look like a tuxedo". Nicknamed the Black Beauty, the guitar had a mahogany body and neck, ebony fret board, and mother of pearl block markers inlays in the fret board. The "Split Diamond" inlay on the headstock was taken from the carved archtop Super 400,[1] which was the top of the Gibson line. The pickups were a P-90 in the bridge position and an Alnico V pickup, newly designed by Seth Lover, in the neck position.[1][2] The frets are low and flat, as opposed to the usual medium jumbo frets found on other Les Paul customs, and the guitar soon was given the nickname "The Fretless Wonder". The 1954 Les Paul Custom also saw the introduction of Gibson's new bridge, the ABR-1. The new Custom also shipped with a different case from the Standard, using a black and gold case instead of the brown and pink case that was the top-of-the-line case for the Les Paul Standard models. This was to be the case until the Custom was replaced and discontinued (though a similar black case was used with the LP/SG Custom models).

In mid-1957, Gibson began to equip the Les Paul Custom with the new PAF (Patent Applied For) pickup designed by Seth Lover. Most Customs have three PAFs, though there are a small number that have the traditional two-pickup configuration. By 1958, Gibson had replaced the Kluson tuners with Grover Rotomatics. It is this configuration that remained until the guitar was discontinued in 1960, replaced by the new double cutaway body Les Paul model. There are a small number of 1961 Les Paul Customs that were made with the single cutaway body before the transition to the new, SG-style body was complete.

The Les Paul Custom remained a double cutaway model until 1963, when Les Paul's endorsement with Gibson ended, and the guitar was subsequently renamed the SG Custom.

In 1968, Gibson reintroduced the Les Paul Custom as a two pickup model. The headstock angle was changed from 17 degrees to 14, a wider headstock and a maple top (in lieu of the original 1953-1961 mahogany top construction). In 1969, Norlin had acquired Gibson, and the Les Paul Custom saw many changes between 1969 and 2004. The mahogany neck was replaced with a three-piece maple neck in 1975 (though some mahogany ones were still made)with this change lasting till around 1982, and the solid mahogany body was replaced with a "pancake" body in late 1969, where a small strip of maple resides between two thicker pieces of mahogany. This would last until 1977. In 1970, a "Made in USA" stamp was added to the back of the headstock, and a volute was added to help strengthen the headstock.

In 1974, Gibson released the 20th anniversary Les Paul Custom in a white, black, cherry sunburst and honey sunburst finish (at least these four colors were made) with "20th Anniversary" engraved on the 12th fret block inlay. By 1976, the new Nashville bridge begins to replace the ABR-1. In 1977, the pancake body was replaced by the traditional solid mahogany body, though the top was still maple, as was the neck. It was around this time that the current serial number system appears as well. Starting in 1975, Gibson made a number of Customs with maple fingerboards, instead of the typical ebony (this was discontinued by the early 1980s). In 1981, the volute is phased out. In 1984, Gibson closed the Kalamazoo plant, and all production was moved to Nashville. In 1986, Norlin sold Gibson to a group of investors led by Henry Juszkiewicz.

The Les Paul Custom specs by the end of the 1980s:

  • Smaller headstock
  • Mahogany neck
  • Mahogany body
  • Maple top
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Gold hardware
  • 2 humbucking pickups
  • Nashville bridge

Gibson has been using the 490R/498T pickups in the Custom since the 1990s, and these are still standard spec on the regular production model.

Current Models[edit]

In 2004, Gibson moved construction of the Les Paul Custom to its Nashville Custom Shop. The specs remained similar, with the only immediate changes being a TKL-made Custom Shop case (black with a crushed red interior) and a Certificate of Authenticity, as well as a Gibson Custom decal on the back of the headstock. The serial number system for the Custom also changed from the 8 digit USA numbering system to the Custom Shop numbering system, which reads as CS YNNNN (Y = last number of the year of manufacture, N = guitar's place in sequential production for the year).

In 2012, Gibson replaced the ebony fingerboard on the production Custom with a phenolic resin composite material called Richlite.

While the Custom is currently only available in ebony, it is often offered in Alpine White, Wine Red, Cherry Sunburst and Silverburst as well. The Custom model differs from the Les Paul Standard in many ways. The cosmetic differences include gold hardware (though silverburst Customs have chrome hardware); block inlays on the fretboard rather than the trapezoid inlays of the Standard (with an inlay at the 1st fret, whereas the Standard has none); a "split-diamond" pearl inlay on the headstock; and multi-ply binding around the body and headstock (the neck retains single-ply binding). The construction differences are a physically larger headstock; an ebony, maple or richlite fretboard, both of which tend to sound "snappier" than the rosewood fingerboard found on the Les Paul Standard; lower frets with more squared off tops (though lower than the frets on a Standard, today's production Custom does not have "Fretless Wonder" frets) and larger round "speed" style knobs (though other knob types can be seen depending on the year and model). Gibson also does limited color runs, such as Pelham Blue, Frost Blue, Kerry Green, transparent colors, metallic colors and sunbursts that are not typically offered on a normal Custom. The hardware for these models can be either gold or chrome, depending on the color/specs. Starting in 2011, Gibson began to reintroduce maple fingerboards to the Custom, offering limited runs in the traditional colors, as well as transparent colors with figured tops.

In 2013, Gibson did a limited run of 1957 reissue Customs (both 2 and 3 pickup models) with ebony fingerboards. These were the only Customs since 2011 to feature ebony fingerboards, and came with white handling gloves, a 20th anniversary toggle switch control cover, a special COA and a Gibson Custom case. In 2012, Gibson reintroduced the original brown and pink "California girl" case for its Custom Shop models, largely replacing the black and red case that had been in use for years.

The current Les Paul Custom specs are:

  • Weight relieved mahogany body
  • Maple top
  • Mahogany neck
  • Richlite fingerboard
  • Ebony finish
  • Gold hardware
  • 490R/498T humbucking pickups
  • Nashville bridge
  • Stop tailpiece
  • Speed knobs
  • Grover tuners

Additionally, Gibson makes a number of signature Les Paul Custom models that are distinctly separate models from the standard production Custom, including:

  • Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom
  • Peter Frampton Les Paul Custom
  • Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Custom

Previous Models[edit]

Gibson has also made a number of other Custom models, including:

1954 Les Paul Custom Reissue

  • Solid mahogany body
  • "Fretless Wonder" frets
  • Alnico "staple" neck pickup
  • P90 bridge pickup
  • Kluson tuners
  • ABR-1 bridge
  • Non-weight relieved body

1957 Les Paul Custom Reissue (2 and 3 pickup models)

  • Solid mahogany body
  • "Fretless Wonder" frets
  • 2 or 3 '57 Classic pickups
  • Kluson tuners (some released with Grover tuners)
  • ABR-1 bridge
  • Optional Bigsby
  • Non-weight relieved body

1961 Les Paul/SG Custom

  • SG body shape and contours
  • Original neck/body joint

1968 Les Paul Custom Reissue

  • Maple cap
  • Larger neck
  • '57 Classic pickups
  • ABR-1 bridge
  • Non-weight relieved body
  • There was also a small run of Guitar Center-exclusive models available in sunburst with a figured maple top and a slim neck profile

60th Anniversary Les Paul Custom (2010)

  • Specs similar to the 1957 Reissue, with minor changes to reflect the 1960 Les Paul Custom

Les Paul Custom Rosewood Maduro (2013 model)

  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Pickup specs varied based on color

Les Paul Custom Lite (approx. 1986-1990)

  • Slim body
  • No back binding
  • Belly contour
  • 2 volume, 1 tone, coil tap
  • Ebony fingerboard

Les Paul Custom Lite (2013 Limited Edition)

  • Slim body
  • No back binding
  • Belly contour
  • 2 volume, 1 tone, coil tap
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • USA production model (non-Custom Shop)

Les Paul Classic Custom (2012 Limited Edition)

  • No back binding
  • Baked maple fingerboard
  • Acrylic inlays
  • USA production model (non-Custom Shop)

Past Signature Model Customs:

Randy Rhoads Les Paul Custom (Limited Edition)

  • Reproduction of Rhoads' 1974 20th Anniversary Custom
  • Available in both VOS (Vintage Original Spec) and Aged

Mick Jones Les Paul Custom (Limited Edition)

Jimmy Page Les Paul Custom (Limited Edition)

  • Based on the Les Paul Custom stolen from Page
  • 3 pickup model
  • Bigsby tailpiece
  • Custom wiring with a six-way toggle switch
  • VOS finish

Gibson discontinued many models with ebony fingerboards as factory spec after the August 2011 federal raid due to concerns regarding the legality of ebony that the company had purchased. The 2013 Les Paul Custom that commemorates the Custom Shop's 20th anniversary is the first and only Custom to feature an ebony fingerboard since late 2011.

Notable Les Paul Custom players[edit]

Other Models[edit]

Gibson's subsidiary, Epiphone, also makes the Les Paul Custom guitar.[5]

As of 2009, it comes in various finishes and variations. It comes in Ebony (with gold hardware, chrome hardware and chrome-plated pickguard on a limited edition, and with aged white binding, gold hardware, and uncovered pickups another limited edition), Alpine White (with gold hardware), Silverburst (with chrome hardware), Prophecy EX (with EMG pickups, transparent black finish with a quilted maple top, and black hardware), Prophecy GX (Gibson Dirty Finger pickups, transparent red finish with a quilted maple top, and gold hardware), and the Zakk Wylde signature (antique ivory with bulls eye graphic and gold hardware, Camo finish with a bulls eye graphic, maple fingerboard and gold hardware, and orange with a buzzsaw graphic and chrome hardware, EMG pickups).[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Duchossoir, A. R. (1998-07-01) [1994]. "Chapter Six: The Expansion of the Electric Line, 1953-1955". Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years : An Illustrated History from the Mid-'30s to the Mid-'60s. Milwaukee, WI USA: Hal Leonard. p. 52. ISBN 0-7935-9210-0. Retrieved 2012-12-23. "Equally, the electronics combined Seth Lover's Alnico pickup in the neck position with a regular P-90 in the bridge for tonal versatility." 
  2. ^ Bishop, Ian Courtney (1990) [1977]. "Chapter 1: The Les Paul Series". The Gibson Guitar: From 1950, Volume 1. Bold Strummer Guitar Series. The Bold Strummer. p. 5. ISBN 0-933224-46-X. Retrieved 2012-12-22. "The Les Paul Custom... was equipped with a single coil black covered Les Paul Special pickup in the treble position and a very distinctive Alnico pickup with six oblong pole pieces in the bass position." 
  3. ^ Guitar world presents one hundred greatest guitarists of all time from the pages of Guitar world magazine
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ a b "Epiphone Les Paul Custom". Epiphone.com. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 

External links[edit]