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					Gibson Les Paul

The Gibson Les Paul is a solid body electric guitar originally developed in the
early 1950s. The Les Paul was originally designed by Ted McCarty and
endorsed, named and used by then popular jazz/pop guitaist Les Paul.

                        Gibson Les Paul Studio


The Les Paul model was the result of a design collaboration between Gibson
Guitar Corporation and pop star, electronics inventor and accomplished jazz
guitaist Les Paul. In the 1950s, with the introduction of the Fender Telecaster
to the musical market, electric guitars became a public craze. In reaction,
Gibson Guitar president Ted McCarty brought guitaist 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. In fact, he
had hand-built a solid-body prototype called ”The Log”, a design widely
considered the first solid-body Spanish guitar ever built, as opposed to the
”Hawaiian”, or lap-steel guitar. This guitar is known as ”The Log” because the
solid core is a pine block whose width and depth are a little more than the
width of the fretboard.
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.
In 1951, this initial rejection became a design collaboration between the
Gibson Guitar Corporation and Les Paul. It was agreed that the new Les Paul
guitar was to be an expensive, well-made instrument in Gibsons tradition.
Although recollections differ regarding who contributed what to the Les Paul
design, it was far from a market replica of the competing Fender models. Since
the 1930s, Gibson had offered hollow-body guitars, such as the ES-150; at
minimum, these hollow-body electric models provided a set of basic design
cues to the new Gibson solid-body, including a more traditionally curved body
shape than offered by competitor Fender, and a glued in (”set”) neck, in
contrast to Fenders bolt-on neck joint design.

The significance of Les Pauls contributions to his Gibson guitar design remains
controversial. The book ”50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul” limits Pauls
contributions to two: advice on the trapeze tailpiece, and a preference for color
(stating that Paul preferred gold as ”it looks expensive”, and a second choice of
black because ”it makes your fingers appear to move faster on the box”, and
”looks classy-like a tuxedo”)

Additionally, Gibson´s president Ted McCarty states that the Gibson Guitar
Corporation merely approached Les Paul for the right to imprint the musicians
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 became too heavy, and Pauls request was
refused. Another switch: the original Goldtop was to be all mahogany and the
later Custom was to have the maple cap/mahogany body.

Beyond these requests, Les Pauls contributions to the guitar line bearing his
name were stated to be cosmetic. 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 guality of the Les Paul instrument, as well. The later-
issue Les Paul models included flame maple (tiger stripe) and ”quilted” maple
finishes, and once again contrasted the competing Fender lines range of car-
like color finishes. Gibson was notably inconsistent with its wood choices, and
some goldtops or customs have had their finish stripped to reveal beautifully
figured wood hidden underneath.

Models and Variations

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 expect 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 Paul throughout each era.

Beyond shaping and body design, there are a number of characteristics that
distinguish the Gibson Les Paul line from other electrics. For example, in a
fashion similar to Gibson 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 Fenders 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 which
revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, and eliminated the 60-cycle
noice which had previously plagued guitars with magnetic pickups.

Goldtop (1952-1957)

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. The weight and the tonal characteristics of
the Les Paul were largely due to the mahogany and maple construction: both
are quite heavy woods. In addition, the 1952 Les Pauls were never issued
serial numbers and are considered by some as ”LP Model prototypes”.
Interestingly, the design scheme of some of these early models varied. For
instance, some of the Les Paul of this issue were fitted with black covered P90
pickups instead of the creme 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. In fact, re-sale prices of the
vintage Les Pauls have begun to compete with already high priced, but more
practical (and usable) Les Paul versions issued in later years.

Custom (1954-1960)

The second issue of the Les Paul guitar was introduced to the public in 1954.
Called the Gibson Les Paul Custom, this entirely black guitar was an expertly
decorated work of art, and dubbed the Black Beauty. The Les Paul Custom
featured a mahogany top to differentiate the instrument from its Goldtop
predecessors maple top. It also featured the new Tune-o-Matic bridge design
and a pickup with an alnico-5 magnet in the neck position. In addition, since
1957, the Custom was fitted with Gibsons new humbucker pickups, 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 and bridge-only settings were retained,
but the middle was changed to switch in 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.
Junior (1954-1960) and TV (1955-1960)

In 1954, to widen the solid-body electric market still futher, Gibson issued the
Gibson Les Paul Junior. Although previously the Melody Maker was marketed
toward the novice guitarist, Gibson targeted to the beginner again with a Les
Paul Junior design. Over time, this Gibson design has proven well-suited for
even proffessional use. There were marked differences between the other Les
Paul models and the Les Paul Junior. For instance, although the Juniors 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 buyers: 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 similar to the
second incarnation of the upscale Goldtop.

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.

In 1958, Gibson made a radical design change to their Junior and TV models
with the design change came cosmetic changes to thses guitars that would
later take on enormous importance. To accommodate player request for more
access to the top frets than the prevous designs allowed, Gibson revamped
both these electric guitar models with a new double-cutaway body shape. In
addition, the Juniors 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

Special (1955-1960)

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 that
the Junior and the TV received in 1958. However, when the new design was
applied to the two-pickup Special, the cavity for the neck pickup overlapped
with 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 Gibsons designers moved the neck pickup farther down the body,
producing a stronger joint and eradicating the breakage problem.
This stabilized version of the Special is currently offered as part of Gibsons
Faded series in Cherry or TV Yellow.

Standard (1958-1960, 1968-2008)
In 1958, Gibson changed the top finish on the regular Les Paul model from the
gold color used since 1952 to the Sunburst finish already being used on
Gibsons archtop acoustic and hollow electric guitars such as the J-45 model.
These Sunburst-finished guitars were later referred to as Les Paul Standards to
diffenentiate them from the earlier Goldtop. The hardware specification was to
same as that of the 1957 Goldtop, featuring the new humbucker pickups.
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.

2008 Standard (2008-)

Gibsons new version of the Les Paul Standard. Released August 1, 2008, it
features built-in lock on strap buttons, lager neck tenon, an asymmetrical neck
profile to make for a comfortable neck, frets levelled by Plek machine, and
locking Grover tuners with an improved ratio of 18:1. With the 2008 model
Gibson has 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 Gibsons
Les Paul lineup now is.

1961 Les Paul SG

In 1960, Gibson experienced a decline in electric guitar sales due to their high
prices and strong competition from Fenders 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 cut-aways and a vibrato system.
However, the redesign was done without Les Pauls knowledge. When the
musician saw the guitar, he asked Gibson to remove his name from the
instrument and parted ways with the company. Although this separation
occurred in 1960, 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 SG guitars 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
Juniors and Specials (and the Melody Makers) with the newer body style.
These were the standard Gibson electric models until the reintroduction of the
Les Paul Standard Goldtop and the Les Paul Custom guitars to the market in
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