Les Paul Guitars...
The Story Continues
The Les Paul Models...
Les Paul Gold Top
1952 Les Paul Gold Top
As we've said earlier, the first of the Les Paul guitars was released in 1952. The first Les Paul was the Gold Top which had a mahogany body with a maple top. It originally
was simply called the Les Paul but later became known as the Gold Top because of its finish. The Gold Top featured two P-90 single coil pickups, separate
volume and tone controls for each pickup and a pickup selector switch. The earliest of the Les Pauls had a few quirks. The fretboards had no binding and the
pickup selector switch did not have the rhythm/treble plastic surround. The biggest quirk, however, was that they were not issued serial numbers until 1953.
As a side note, Gibson has never been consistent with their numbering scheme which makes determining the exact model of a guitar - especially the older ones -
a difficult proposition. The Gold Top was discontinued in 1958.
Les Paul Custom:
1954 Les Paul Custom
The second Les Paul guitar to be released was the Les Paul Custom(also called the Black Beauty) which was released in 1954. The Custom featured a mahogany top, the
Tune-O-Matic bridge and binding on the body and headstock. In addition, it sported a P-90 in the bridge position but had an Alnico V magnet pickup(the P-480) designed by Seth
Lover in the neck position. It also sported separate tone and volume controls for the pickups as well as a pickup selector switch. In 1957 both the Gold Top and
the Custom were fitted with PAF pickups. The PAF's were a humbucking pickup designed(again by Seth Lover) to cancel out the 50/60 Hz hum that single coils are prone to.
An interesting side note is that PAF stood for Patent Applied For even though Gibson was granted the patent in 1959. The Custom was fitted with three of the PAF's
but kept the three position pickup switch resulting in the pickup combinations being limited. The neck and bridge only configurations were kept but the switch
was wired so that the middle position gave you the middle and bridge pickups. Many players modified the switching to get the standard bridge/both/neck configurations
and added a separate switch to enable the middle pickup only. The Les Paul Custom was discontinued in 1960.
Les Paul Junior:
1954 Les Paul Junior
In 1954 Gibson released the Les Paul Junior. The Junior's major target market was the beginning guitarist but the design also proved to be viable for professional use as well.
There were(are, it's still being produced) major differences between the Junior and other Les Paul guitar models. The Junior's body shape was the same as the more upscale Les Paul's
but the Junior features a flat mahogany top rather than an archtop. In addition, the Junior had a single p-90 single coil pickup with one volume and one tone control and an
unbound rosewood fingerboard with plain dot position inlays. The Junior did, however, feature the stud bridge/tailpiece that debuted on the second generation of the Gold Top.
1958 Les Paul TV
In 1955 Gibson released the
Les Paul TV
model. The TV was basically a Junior with a yellowish finish that allowed the wood grain to show through. The rationale for the finish
was that a white finish would glare too much on the black and white TV's of the day whereas the yellowish(Gibson called it Natural) would not. In 1958, the TV and the Junior
received major changes. Players had been requesting access to the higher frets than the original Les Paul body design allowed. In response to this, both guitars were redesigned
double-cutaway shape. In addition, the Junior received a bright Cherry finish rather the previous Sunburst finish and the TV received an even more yellowish tinge.
Les Paul Melody Maker:
Les Paul Melody Maker
Gibson introduced the Melody Maker in 1959. The Melody Maker has had an active history being in and out of production several times and also has seen many changes in its body
style and materials as well as pickups, volume and tone controls, etc. I'm not going to do a history of the Melody Maker here since this section of the site is dedicated to the history
of the Les Paul guitar.
After a series of production runs and subsequent discontinuations, the Melody Maker was revived in 2003 as a submodel of the Les Paul. The Les Paul Melody Maker featured
a straight sided headstock with white tuners as well as a single P-90 single-coil pickup at the bridge. In addition, it featured a single volume and tone control and the Tune-O-Matic bridge
with a separate stopbar tailpiece.
The Les Paul Melody Maker also featured a solid Jacareuba body with a 24.75" scale set Spanish Cedar neck and a rosewood fretboard with white dot position inlays. The Les Paul Melody Maker was
discontinued in 2005 with only 250 guitars being produced during its production run. Due to the limited number produced, the Les Paul Melody Maker is considered to be a collector's item.
If you can get your hands on one of these grab it! You'll have something that's worth quite a bit of money.