Signature Models Saga: The Gibson Les Paul.

My buddy and Muzicosphere contributor Doc Loco remarks are relevant. He even made me change the course of the blogs publications… Last week I’ve started this new series of articles dedicated to the artists signature models (Signature Models Saga), and he noticed the following strange fact: I didn’t mention the Gibson Les Paul as one of the historical signature models. How did I dare not to mention such a legend and probably the most famous signature model?

Well Doc, I didn’t mention it mainly because this guitar is a pain in my neck (and in the back of most LP players but that’s another story)! The Gibson Les Paul actually deserves a fully dedicated post because:

  • As a matter of fact it is a legend of the electric guitar.
  • It is not really a signature model.
  • This guitar became a whole series of models at Gibson. As a matter fact, the Les Paul could even be considered as a whole brand inside the Gibson brand (I think only the Stratocaster  could pretend to the same status at Fender).

gibson_1952_goldtop_les_paulI won’t tell you the whole history of the Gibson Les Paul but it’s an interesting case of a blurry endorsement contract. Did Les Paul conceived this guitar? Only parts of the guitar (the trapeze tailpiece/bridge)? Was it a creation made by Ted McCarty and his staff? Did they give credit to Les Paul only because he was famous? For his contribution on this guitar? Only these guys knew the truth…

Whatever the truth is, Gibson released the first series of Gibson Les Paul in 1952… And it wasn’t a hit. The traditional customers of Gibson were mostly jazz guitar players, and they were not ready to use a solid body guitar to replace their wonderful archtops. This very first version featured a Gold Top finish, a trapeze tailpiece/bridge and 2 P90s pick ups. After this first shot Gibson released several series first giving up on the trapeze tailpiece/bridge that was to unreliable. Then they replaced the pick ups by their brand new patented humbucking system. Finally they’ve made many finish variations.

As they didn’t encounter the commercial success they were expecting, the Kalamazoo firm stopped the production of the sensu stricto Les Paul in 1960. However, until 1963 they’ve continued to build Les Paul branded guitars with a shape lately known as SG. Curiously, that’s approximately the period that some guitarists chose to finally use the Gibson Les Paul and perform some of the most famous rock’n’roll acts ever. In 1968, Gibson re-introduced the Les Paul and never stopped the production again. The rest of the story is about the legend we all know and Gibson produced a lot of models signatures and tributes based on the original Les Paul…

Let’s enjoy this video featuring Les Paul and Chet Atkins duet. Notice that Les Paul is not playing a regular Les Paul model but a Recording model.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByGsHTlKmWk[/youtube]

To be followed with an upcoming bunch of Les Paul Signatures.

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