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The Fender Telecaster, colloquially known as the Tele /ˈtɛli/, is the world's first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. Its simple yet effective design and revolutionary sound broke ground and set trends in electric guitar manufacturing and popular music. Introduced for national distribution as the Broadcaster in the autumn of 1950, it was the first guitar of its kind manufactured on a substantial scale and has been in continuous production in one form or another since its first incarnation.
The Fender Telecaster was developed by Leo Fender in Fullerton, California in 1950. In the period roughly between 1932 and 1949, several craftsmen and companies experimented with solid-body electric guitars, but none had made a significant impact on the market. Leo Fender's Telecaster was the design that made bolt-on neck, solid body guitars viable in the marketplace.
Fender had an electronics repair shop called Fender's Radio Service where he first repaired, then designed, amplifiers and electromagnetic pickups for musicians — chiefly players of electric semi-acoustic guitars, electric Hawaiian lap steel guitars, and mandolins. Players had been "wiring up" their instruments in search of greater volume and projection since the late 1920s, and electric semi-acoustics (such as the Gibson ES-150) had long been widely available. Tone had never, until then, been the primary reason for a guitarist to go electric, but in 1943, when Fender and his partner, Clayton Orr "Doc" Kauffman, built a crude wooden guitar as a pickup test rig, local country players started asking to borrow it for gigs. It sounded bright and sustaining. Fender was intrigued, and in 1949, when it was long understood that solid construction offered great advantages in electric instruments, but before any commercial solid-body Spanish guitars had caught on (the then-small Audiovox company apparently offered a modern, solid-body electric guitar as early as the mid-1930s), he built a better prototype.
That hand-built prototype, an anonymous white guitar, had most of the features of what would become the Telecaster. It was designed in the spirit of the solid-body Hawaiian guitars manufactured by Rickenbacker — small, simple units made of Bakelite and aluminum with the parts bolted together — but with wooden construction. (Rickenbacker, then spelled "Rickenbacher", also offered a solid Bakelite-bodied electric Spanish guitar in 1935 that seemed to presage details of Fender's design.)
The initial single-pickup production model appeared in 1950, and was called the Fender Esquire. Fewer than fifty guitars were originally produced under that name, and most were replaced under warranty because of early manufacturing problems. In particular, the Esquire necks had no truss rod and many were replaced due to bent necks. Later in 1950, this single-pickup model was discontinued, and a two-pickup model was renamed the Broadcaster. From this point onward all Fender necks incorporated truss rods. The Esquire was reintroduced in 1951 as a single pickup Telecaster, at a lower price.[better source needed]
The so-called Nocaster was a short-lived variant of Telecaster. Produced in early to mid-1951, it was the result of legal action from the Gretsch company over the guitar's previous name, the Broadcaster (Gretsch already had the "Broadkaster" name registered for a line of drums). In the interim, before Fender had come up with an alternate name and printed appropriately revised headstock decals, factory workers simply snipped the "Broadcaster" name from its existing stock of decals, so guitars with these decals are identified simply as "Fender", without any model name. By the summer of 1951 the guitar was officially renamed as the Telecaster and has been known as such ever since.
The term Nocaster was originally coined by collectors to denote these transitional guitars that appeared without a model name on the headstock. Since they were manufactured in this form for only a few months very early in the Broadcaster/Telecaster's history, original Nocasters are highly prized and expensive collector's items. There are no official production numbers, but experts estimate that fewer than 500 Nocasters were produced. Fender has since registered Nocaster as a trademark to denote its modern replicas of this famous rarity.
In 1951, Fender released the innovative and musically influential Precision Bass as a similar looking stable-mate to the Telecaster. This body style was later released as the Fender Telecaster Bass in 1968 after the Precision Bass had been changed in 1957 to make it more closely resemble the Fender Stratocaster guitar. At the time Leo Fender began marketing the new, more refined Stratocaster in 1954, he expected it to replace the Telecaster, but the Telecaster's many virtues and unique musical personality have kept it in demand to the present day.
Leo Fender's simple and modular design was geared to mass production and made servicing broken guitars easier. Guitars were not constructed individually, as in traditional luthiery. Rather, components were produced quickly and inexpensively in quantity and assembled into a guitar on an assembly line. The bodies were bandsawn and routed from slabs, rather than hand-carved individually, as with other guitars made at the time, such as Gibsons. Fender did not use the traditional glued-in neck, but rather a "bolt-on" neck (which is actually affixed using screws, not bolts). This not only made production easier, but allowed the neck to be quickly removed and serviced, or replaced entirely. In addition, the classic Telecaster neck was fashioned from a single piece of maple without a separate fingerboard, and the frets were slid directly into the side of the maple surface—a highly unorthodox approach in its day (guitars traditionally featured rosewood or ebony fingerboards glued onto mahogany necks). The electronics were easily accessed for repair or replacement through a removable control plate, a great advantage over the construction of the then-predominant hollow-body instruments, in which the electronics could be accessed only through the soundholes.
In its classic form, the guitar is simply constructed, with the neck and fingerboard comprising a single piece of maple, screwed to an ash or alder body inexpensively jigged with flat surfaces on the front and back. The hardware includes two single coil pickups controlled by a three-way selector switch, and one each of volume and tone controls. The pickguard was first Bakelite, soon thereafter it was celluloid (later other plastics), screwed directly onto the body with five (later eight) screws. The bridge has three adjustable saddles, with strings doubled up on each. In its original design nearly all components are secured using only screws (body, neck, tuners, bridge, scratchplate, pickups to body, control plate, output socket), with glue used to secure the nut and solder used to connect the electronic components. With the introduction of the truss rod, and later a rosewood fingerboard, more gluing was required during construction. The guitar quickly gained a following, and soon other, more established guitar companies (such as Gibson, whose Les Paul model was introduced in 1952, and later Gretsch, Rickenbacker, and others) began working on wooden solid-body production models of their own.Telecaster in Pink Paisley
A huge range of aftermarket components are manufactured, including bridges with three vintage-look brass saddles, compensated (by having two separate string separation points on each saddle) to improve intonation. There are also "vertical stack" humbucker pickups which fit into a standard bridge in place of the traditional single-coil units and maintain the original appearance.
The original switch configuration used from 1950 to 1952 allowed selection of neck pickup with treble tone cut in the first position (for a bassier sound), the neck pickup with its natural tone in the second position with no tone, and in the third switch position both pickups together with the neck pickup blended into the bridge, depending on the position of the second "tone" knob. The first knob functioned normally as a master volume control. This configuration did not have a true tone control knob.
In 1952 the pickup selection circuit was modified by Fender to incorporate a real tone control. Between 1953 and 1967 the neck could be selected alone with a pre-set bassy sound and no tone control, in the middle switch the neck could be selected alone with the tone control and finally the bridge could be selected with the tone control. Although this provided the player with a proper tone control, this assembly did away with any sort of pickup combination. Eventually from late 1967 Fender again modified the circuit for the final time to give the Telecaster a more traditional twin pickup switching system: neck pickup alone with tone control in the first position, both pickups together with the tone control in the middle position and in the third position the bridge pickup alone with the tone control.
Typical modern Telecasters (such as the American Standard version) incorporate several details different from the classic form. They typically feature 22 frets (rather than 21) and truss rod adjustment is made at the headstock end, rather than the body end, which had required removal of the neck on the original (the Custom Shop Bajo Sexto Baritone Tele was the only Telecaster featuring a two-octave 24-fret neck). The three-saddle bridge of the original has been replaced with a six-saddle version, allowing independent length and height adjustment for each string. The long saddle bridge screws allow a wide range of saddle bridge positions for intonation tuning. The stamped metal bridge plate has been replaced with a flat plate, and the removable chromed bridge cover (often called the "ashtray" for its secondary use) has been discontinued for most models; it improved shielding but prevented players from muting strings at the bridge and made it impossible to pick near the saddles to produce the characteristic Telecaster 'twang'.
During the CBS era in the 1970s, the Telecaster body style was changed to a new "notchless" shape, having a less pronounced notch in the crook where the upper bout meets the neck. The notchless body style was discontinued in 1982.
The short-lived Elite Telecaster of 1983 incorporated two specially designed humbucking pickups powered by an active circuitry that featured a "TBX" guitar expander and an MDX midrange booster with 12 dB of gain. Other features included a "Freeflyte" hardtail bridge and die-cast tuning machines with pearloid buttons. This guitar was among the latest CBS-era Fenders to feature a BiFlex truss-rod system, low-friction EasyGlider string trees and active electronics. After CBS sold Fender to a group of employees led by Bill C. Schultz in 1985, production ceased on the Elite Telecaster and other Elite models. Fender Japan made its own version of the Elite Telecaster in late 1984, which featured a 22-fret neck with medium-jumbo fretwire and a modern 9.5 inch fingerboard radius. Notable Elite Telecaster players include Johnny Hallyday, Dave Davies of The Kinks, Michael Houser with Widespread Panic, and Andy Summers of The Police.
The Telecaster is known for its ability to produce both a bright, rich cutting tone (the typical Telecaster country twang) and a mellow, warm, bluesy jazz tone depending on the selected pickup, respectively "bridge" pickup or "neck" pickup, and by adjusting the tone control. The bridge pickup has more windings than the neck pickup, hence producing higher output, which compensates for a lower amplitude of vibration of the strings at bridge position. At the same time, a capacitor between the slider of the volume control and the output allows treble sounds to bleed through while damping mid and lower ranges. Slanting the bridge pickup also increased the guitar's treble response. The solid body allows the guitar to deliver a clear and sustaining amplified version of the strings' sound; this was an improvement over previous electric guitar designs, whose resonant hollow bodies made them prone to unwanted acoustic feedback when volume was increased. These design elements intentionally allowed guitarists to emulate steel guitar sounds, as well as "cut-through" and be heard in roadhouse Honky-Tonk and big Western Swing bands, initially making this guitar particularly useful in country music. Its wide range of tonalities allows the Telecaster to be used successfully for many styles of music including country, pop, rock, blues and jazz.
The Telecaster has also been a longtime favorite guitar for hot-rod customizing. Several variants of the guitar appeared throughout the years with a wide assortment of pickup configurations, such as a humbucker in the neck position, three single-coil pickups and even dual humbuckers with special wiring schemes. Fender offered hot-rodded Teles with such pickup configurations, the US Fat and Nashville B-Bender Telecasters around 1998. The Deluxe Blackout Tele was also equipped with three single-coil pickups, a "Strat-o-Tele" selector switch and a smaller headstock than a standard Telecaster. The most common variants of the standard two-pickup solid body Telecaster are the semi-hollow Thinline, the Custom, -which replaced the neck single coil-pickup with a humbucking pickup, and the twin-humbucker Deluxe. The Custom and Deluxe were introduced during the CBS period and reissues of both designs are currently offered.
Designed by German luthier Roger Rossmeisl, the Telecaster Thinline model first appeared in 1968/69. It is characterized by a body having a solid center core with hollow wings to reduce weight. The '69 version has two standard Telecaster single-coil pickups, string-through-body bridge, and a choice of an ash or mahogany body. Later a '72 version was introduced based on the Fender Telecaster Deluxe with two Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups. In 2011, Fender released the Modern Player Telecaster Thinline as a part of the Modern Player series. This guitar features two MP-90 pickups, similar to the Gibson P-90 and a mahogany body. The Fender Custom Shop has produced a variation referred to as the "50's Telecaster Thinline" with an ash body, maple neck and a Twisted Tele neck pickup matched with a Nocaster bridge pickup.Main article: Fender Telecaster Custom
The first edition of the Telecaster Custom was produced between 1959-1968, and featured a double-bound body but otherwise-standard configuration. While the guitar was known as the Telecaster Custom, the decal on the headstock read "Custom Telecaster". Later editions of the Tele Custom were popularized by Rolling Stones' guitarist and composer Keith Richards, featuring a Fender Wide Range humbucker in the neck position and a single-coil pickup in the bridge. To distinguish this model from the mid-1960s Custom with body binding, the market generally refers to the guitar as the "1972 Custom", indicating the year this model was originally released.Main article: Fender Telecaster Deluxe
This model includes two Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups and was originally produced from 1972 to 1981 and has since then been reissued. The Tele Deluxe sported a large headstock similar to the Stratocaster, maple neck and a contoured body, as well as a tremolo bridge option on models manufactured after 1973/74.Main article: Fender Telecaster Plus
Designed to restore Fender's reputation after a group of employees led by William C. Schultz took over ownership from CBS in the early 1980s. The pickups used in early models were dual humbucking Red Lace Sensors in the bridge position and a single Blue Lace Sensor in the neck position. Later models (post-1995 or so) used three Gold Lace Sensors or a Red/Silver/Blue set in a Strat-like configuration, as well as low-friction roller nuts, locking synchronized vibrato bridge and tuners, and a bound contoured alder body with ash veneers. These instruments were discontinued in 1998 with the advent of the American Deluxe series. In 2011 Fender released the Modern Player Telecaster Plus as a part of the Modern Player series. The guitar has a humbucker in the bridge, a Strat pickup in the middle, and a Tele pickup in the neck positions.Main article: Fender Tele Jr.
The Fender Tele Jr. is a variant of the Fender Telecaster electric guitar that the Fender Custom Shop produced in a limited run of 100 units in the early 1990s. It uses a Telecaster body shape, scale length, and electronics controls (albeit, with a reversed control plate). However, many of its construction and electronic features—for example its set-in neck and P-90-style pickups—are similar to those of a Gibson Les Paul Junior and Gibson Les Paul Special electric guitars.Main article: Fender J5 Telecaster
The Triple Tele Deluxe is Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie guitarist John 5's signature model. It is similar to the regular Telecaster Deluxe, but it features three Fender "Enforcer" humbuckers and a chrome pickguard.Main article: Fender Cabronita
The Cabronita (and Custom Shop variant La Cabronita) is a model that is distinguished by the use of Fidelitron or the more expensive TV Jones Classic humbucking pickups, which are identical in size and use the same basic design as the original Gretsch humbuckers. The La Cabronita is an American-made, custom-built-to-order instrument. It typically has one TV Jones Classic pickup in the bridge position although being custom built, in can be ordered in any configuration. All Cabronitas can be distinguished by use of a smaller pickguard that covers the lower horn only, similar to the pickguard used in the original prototype for the Telecaster in 1949.
The versions built in Mexico offered either a solid body or Thinline body, with both featuring two Fender Fidelitron pickups, a volume knob and pickup selector. They both have maple necks, 25.5" scale, a 9.5 inch radius fretboard, "Medium C" profile and 1 5/8" nut width, common to many standard Telecasters made in Mexico, although the Cabronita comes with 22 frets instead of the more common 21. For a brief period, Fender offered an American made "Telebration Cabronita" that used two of the TV Jones pickups.
While "Cabronita" isn't a proper Spanish word, it roughly translates to English as "little bastard" or "little devil".Main article: Fender Modern Player Telecaster
The Modern Player Telecaster is offered in two distinct styles: a Plus model and a Thinline model. The Plus utilizes a pine body, a standard Telecaster pickup in the neck position, a reverse wound single-coil strat-pickup in the middle position and a humbucker in the bridge position. It is equipped with coil tapping and a five way switch to provide seven different pickup combinations.
The MP Thinline adopts a pickguard similar to Deluxe models and a Stratocaster style bridge, without tremolo. It features a mahogany body, two P-90 style single-coil pickups, individual volume and tone controls and the three-way pickup selector in the upper horn position.
Both use the standard 25.5" scale on a 22 fret maple necks that are unlike any other Telecasters in that they do not utilize an overhang to accomplish the 22nd fret, but instead use a longer, square ended neck that is not fully compatible with previous Fender parts. They are manufactured in China and at the time of their introduction, represented the least expensive Telecasters under the Fender brand.
In keeping with other models Fender distinguishes product lines manufactured in different locations.
The American Deluxe Telecaster (introduced in 1998; upgraded in 2004, 2008, and 2010) features a pair of Samarium Cobalt Noiseless pickups and the S-1 switching system. Models made prior to 2004 featured two Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele single-coils, Fender/Fishman Powerbridge piezo system and four-bolt neck fixing. Other refinements include a bound contoured alder or ash body and an abalone dot-inlaid maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets, rolled fingerboard edges, and highly detailed nut and fret work. The HH model sported an ebony fingerboard, quilted or flamed maple top and a pair of Enforcer humbuckers with S-1 switching (discontinued as of 2008). As of March 23, 2010, Fender updated the American Deluxe Telecaster with a compound radius maple neck, N3 Noiseless Tele pickups and a reconfigured S-1 switching system for wider sonic possibilities. The new model now sports staggered, locking tuning machines, which provide a better break angle over the nut for increased sustain and improved tuning stability. The Thinline version has been introduced in 2013. Fender discontinued the American Deluxe series in 2016.
The American Series model used two single-coil pickups with DeltaTone system (featuring a high output bridge pickup and a reverse-wound neck pickup). Other features included a parchment pickguard, non-veneered alder or ash bodies and rolled fingerboard edges.
In 2003 Fender offered Telecasters with a humbucking/single coil pickup arrangement or two humbucking pickups featuring Enforcer humbucking pickups, and S-1 switching. These models were discontinued in 2007. As of 2008, all American Standard Telecasters came with a redesigned Tele bridge with vintage-style bent steel saddles. In March 2012 the American Standard Telecaster was updated with Custom Shop pickups (Broadcaster in the bridge, Twisted in the neck); the body is now contoured for reduced weight and more comfort. In 2014 the American Standard Telecaster HH was introduced, sporting a pair of Twin Head Vintage humbucking pickups (open-coil with black bobbins in the bridge, metal-covered in the neck). Controls include a dual concentric volume pot for each pickup, a master tone and 3-way pickup switching.
The American Nashville B-Bender guitar is modeled after the personally customized instruments of some of Nashville's top players, featuring a Fender/Parsons/Green B-Bender system, two American Tele single-coils (neck, bridge), a Texas Special Strat single-coil (middle) and five-way "Strat-O-Tele" pickup switching. Ideal for country bends and steel guitar glisses, this Tele is available only with a maple fingerboard.
The American Series Ash Telecaster is based on the '52 vintage reissue. It features an ash body, one-piece maple neck/fingerboard with 22 frets and two Modern Vintage Tele single-coil pickups. Fender discontinued this guitar in 2006.
The Custom Classic Telecaster was the Custom Shop version of the American Series Tele, featuring a pair of Classic and Twisted single-coils in the bridge and neck positions, as well as a reverse control plate. Earlier versions made before 2003 featured an American Tele single-coil paired with two Texas Special Strat pickups and 5-way switching. Discontinued in 2009 and replaced by the Custom Deluxe Telecaster series models. The 2011 version of the Custom Shop "Custom Deluxe" Telecaster featured a lightweight Ash body with contoured heel, Birdseye maple neck, and a pickup set that included a Twisted Tele neck pickup and a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop BG-1400 stacked humbucker in the bridge position.
The Highway One Telecaster (introduced in 2000) featured a pair of distortion-friendly alnico III single-coil pickups, super-sized frets, Greasebucket circuit, satin nitrocellulose finish, and 1970s styling (since 2006). The Highway One Texas Telecaster sported a one-piece maple neck/fretboard with a modern 12" radius and 22 jumbo frets, solid ash body and a pair of Hot Vintage alnico V pickups.
In 2010, the American Special Telecaster was introduced. While retaining such features from the Highway One as jumbo frets, Greasebucket tone circuit and 1970s logo, the American Special also includes some upgrades such as a glossy urethane finish, compensated brass 3-saddle bridge and Highway One Texas Tele pickups (alnico V). In the Fall of 2013, Fender upgraded the pickups on the American Special line to Custom Shop Texas Special pickups.
Artist Series Telecasters have features favored by world-famous Fender endorsees James Burton, John 5, Muddy Waters, Jim Root, G. E. Smith, Joe Strummer and Jim Adkins. Custom Artist models are made at the Fender Custom Shop, differing slightly quality and construction-wise; their prices are much higher than the standard production versions.
In September 2010, Fender introduced the Mexican-made Black Top Telecaster HH, featuring dual hot vintage alnico humbucking pickups, a one-piece maple neck with rosewood or maple fretboard and 22 medium-jumbo frets. Other features include a solid contoured alder body, a reversed control assembly and black skirted amp control knobs.
In 2011, Fender released the Modern Player series, which featured the Modern Player Telecaster Thinline and the Modern Player Telecaster Plus.
Squier model Telecasters are sold by Squier, a Fender-owned import brand. These can bear the Telecaster name, since Squier is owned by Fender. Squier guitars, especially the Telecasters, have gained popularity and a good reputation amongst guitar players, since it has expanded its production of guitar models. Squier has a wide range of different Telecaster-type guitars available, from the entry-level Affinity Series to the better quality Standard and Classic Vibe Series. Also available are the Artist Series and Vintage Modified Series. Among other famous musicians, Sheryl Crow has occasionally used a Squier Telecaster for recordings and live performances.
The Telecaster was important in the evolution of country, electric blues, funk, rock and roll, and other forms of popular music. Its solid construction let guitarists play loudly as a lead instrument, with long sustain if desired. It produced less of the uncontrolled, whistling, 'hard' feedback ('microphonic feedback') that hollowbodied instruments tend to produce at volume (different from the controllable feedback later explored by Pete Townshend and countless other players). Even though the Telecaster is more than half a century old, and more sophisticated designs have appeared since the early 1950s (including Fender's own Stratocaster), the Telecaster remains in production. There have been numerous variations and modifications, but a model with something close to the original features has always been available. In a recent article for Music Aficionado, Alex Lifeson of Rush wrote "I bought a reissue 1959 Telecaster back in 1981, and that guitar has since become my primary writing guitar for all of these years, especially for the electric work. Every time I pick it up, it feels like an old friend. I took all of the finish off of the neck, so it’s raw wood, and I feel very connected to it when I’m playing it. That is my number-one “go to” for writing new music."Further information: List of Telecaster players
The Gibson Les Paul is a solid body electric guitar that was first sold by the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1952. The Les Paul was designed by Gibson president Ted McCarty, factory manager John Huis and their team, along with guitarist/inventor Les Paul.
The Les Paul was originally offered with a gold finish and two P-90 pickups. In 1957, humbucking pickups were added, along with sunburst finishes in 1958. The sunburst 1958–1960 Les Paul – today one of the best-known electric guitar types in the world – was considered a failure, with low production and sales. For 1961, the Les Paul was redesigned into what is now known as the Gibson SG. This design continued as a separate guitar when the traditional single cutaway, carved top bodystyle was re-introduced in 1968. The Les Paul has been continually produced in countless versions and editions since. Along with Fender's Telecaster and Stratocaster, it was one of the first mass-produced electric solid-body guitars. Les Pauls have been used in many genres, including rock, country, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, reggae, punk, and heavy metal.Les Paul and "Clunker" (1947) ES-150 (1936)
In 1950, the ancestors of Fender Telecaster (Fender Esquire and Fender Broadcaster) were introduced to the musical market and solid-body electric guitars became a public craze. 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. He hand-built a solid-body prototype called "The Log", often suggested as the first solid-body Spanish guitar ever built. "The Log" was given its name from the pine block running through the middle of the guitar 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 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, Paul, McCarty, and his team at the Gibson Guitar Corporation began work on what would eventually become the Les Paul Model. Early prototypes are very similar to the final version. The new Les Paul guitar was to be an expensive, well-made instrument in accordance with Gibson's reputation at the time. Although recollections differ regarding who contributed what to the Les Paul design, it was far from a replica of rival guitar manufacturer Fender's models.Les Paul logo on headstock
Additionally, Gibson's president Ted McCarty stated that the Gibson Guitar Corporation approached Les Paul for the right to imprint the musician's name on the headstock with the intention of increasing sales; in 1951, Gibson presented Paul a nearly finished instrument for approval. Subsequently, McCarty claimed 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, this reversal would have caused the guitar to become too heavy, and Paul's request was refused. Paul states that the original Custom should have had the maple cap and the Goldtop was to be all mahogany. The Custom did not appear on the market for another two years following the introduction of the Goldtop; it is possible that Gibson had planned a full model range of guitars (with a roll-out over the course of several years) at the time when initial specifications were being set. Les Paul's contributions to the guitar line bearing his name were more than cosmetic, but certainly included them. For example, Paul specified that the guitar be offered in a gold finish, not only for flashiness, but to emphasize the high quality of the Gibson Les Paul instrument. The later-issue Les Paul models included flame maple (tiger stripe) and "quilted" maple tops, again in contrast to the competing Fender line's range of car-like custom color finishes.
The 1952 Les Pauls featured two P-90 single coil pickups, and a one-piece, 'trapeze'-style bridge/tailpiece with strings fitted under (instead of over) a steel stop-bar.[note 4]
The guitar made its public debut when Paul used it onstage in June, 1952, at the Paramount theatre in New York. On July 24, 1952, at a special musicians clinic at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, it was previewed by prominent guitarists such as Tiger Haynes, George Barnes, Mundell Lowe, Tony Mottola, and Billy Mure. The clinic preceded the annual NAMM Show held at the New Yorker hotel starting July 27, where the guitar was first received by the general public at Gibson's exhibit in rooms 611 through 615."Patent Applied For" (PAF) pickups on a Les Paul Standard Tune-o-matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece
A second Les Paul model was introduced in 1953. Called the Les Paul Custom, this black guitar with gold-plated hardware was dubbed the "Black Beauty". Various bridge and tailpiece designs were added in 1953 and 1954, including the popular Tune-o-matic bridge. The Goldtop and Custom models continued without significant changes until 1957. In 1957, P-90 pickups were no longer offered on Les Pauls. New humbucker pickups designed by Seth Lover in 1955 (U.S. Patent 2,896,491) debuted on Les Pauls in 1957. This innovation in pickups became the flagship pickup design most associated with Gibson. Many other guitar companies followed suit, outfitting their electrics with versions of the humbucking pickup.1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue Peter Green (1970) Jeff Beck (1968)
In 1958, the Les Paul saw its first major design change. A new model, called the Standard, retained most features of the 1957 Goldtop. However, Standards featured a cherry-red sunburst finish. These guitars were priced higher than the Goldtop models, but lower than the Customs. At this time, Gibson instruments were marketed toward an older, jazz-oriented audience rather than young burgeoning guitarists. As a result, over the three-year period of production, only c. 1,700 Standards were made.
These Les Pauls were considered to be too heavy and old-fashioned, and they initially did not find favor amongst guitarists. In 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 Standard. In 1964, The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards began using a sunburst, 1959 Les Paul Standard – becoming the first "star-guitarist" to play a Les Paul on the British scene. The guitar, outfitted with a Bigsby tailpiece, served as one of the guitarist's prominent instruments and provided the first impetus to the use of Les Pauls during the British blues boom. In 1965, Eric Clapton began using Les Pauls because of the influence of Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin, and played a 1960 Standard on the groundbreaking album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. In America, Mike Bloomfield began using a 1954 Les Paul goldtop 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 for a 1959 Standard with which he became most identified. By 1967, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was using mid-1950's, P-90 pickup-equipped goldtops or black custom models, which he used through 1968. Concurrently, artists such as Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Paul Kossoff, and Jimmy Page began using sunburst Les Paul Standards in the late 1960s. Responding to this influence and increased pressure from the public, Gibson reintroduced Les' single-cutaway guitar in July 1968, and the guitar remains in production today.
1969 Standard (refinished) 1974 Custom Sunburst
In 1969, Gibson's parent company (Chicago Musical Instruments) was taken over by the conglomerate ECL. Gibson remained under the control of CMI until 1974 when it became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments.The pancake-like layers, seen on the edge of cross-banding, multi-piece body in Norlin Era
These ownership changes, often called the "Norlin Era", caused Gibson products of the time to decline in quality. Les Paul designs were altered and a reinforced upper neck volute to decrease headstock breaks was added. Neck woods were changed from one-piece mahogany to a three-piece maple design. The body was also changed from one-piece mahogany with a maple top to 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 to make use of less expensive and more readily available thinner mahogany. Crossbanding was phased out by 1977.
In this era, Gibson began experimenting with new models, such as the Les Paul Recording. This guitar was generally unpopular with guitarists because of its complex electronics. Less noticeable changes included, but were not limited to, optional maple fingerboards (added in 1976), pickup cavity shielding, and the crossover of the ABR1 Tune-o-matic bridge into the wide "Nashville" 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.Gibson Les Paul Custom Florentine
In January 1986, Gibson again changed ownership and began manufacturing a range of varied Les Paul models. The 1980s also saw the end to several design characteristics, including the volute and maple neck. However, because of consumer demand, the Gibson Les Paul guitar is available today in a wide 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.
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. 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.
The post-1954 Les Paul guitar line included two models: the Standard (nicknamed the Goldtop), and the Custom (which offered gold 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 multiple price-points and market levels.1952–53 Goldtop with trapeze bridge[note 5] 1953–55 Goldtop with stopbar bridge 1955–57 Goldtop with Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece 1957–58 Goldtop with PAF pickups
Goldtops, the first Les Paul model, were produced from 1952–1957. Early 1952 Les Pauls were not issued serial numbers, did not have bound fingerboards, and are considered by some as "LP Model prototypes". However, later 1952 Les Pauls were issued serial numbers and also came with bound fingerboards. Interestingly, the design scheme of some of these early models varied. For instance, some early Les Pauls were fitted with black covered P90 pickups instead of the cream-colored plastic covers that are associated with this guitar. The weight and the tonal characteristics of the Goldtop Les Paul were largely due to the mahogany and maple construction.
In 1953, the trapeze tailpiece was dropped, and a new stopbar design was added. This design combined a pre-intonated bridge and tailpiece with two studs just behind the bridge pickup. This increased the sustain of the Goldtop noticeably; however, the intonation and string height adjustability were limited. A new design, the Tune-o-matic, replaced the stopbar in 1955. It consisted of a separate bridge and tailpiece attached directly to the top of the guitar, combining an easily adjustable bridge with a sustain-carrying tailpiece. This design has been used on most Les Pauls ever since. The tuners were produced by Kluson.1954 Custom with P90 pickups. 1960 Custom reissue with PAF pickups. Main article: Gibson Les Paul Custom
The Les Paul Custom features gold hardware, multilayer binding including the headstock, ebony fingerboard, real mother-of-pearl inlays and two or three-pickup layout. 1950s Customs were all-mahogany, rather than the mahogany-with-maple-cap of the Goldtop. The original Customs were fitted with a P-90 pickup in the bridge position and an Alnico V "staple" pickup in the neck. In 1957, the Custom was fitted with Gibson's new PAF humbucker pickups, and later became available with three pickups instead of the usual two. The traditional Les Paul Custom was discontinued in 1961 and its name transferred to the custom version of the then-new Gibson SG.
In 1968, Gibson reintroduced the Les Paul Custom as a two-pickup-only model. The headstock angle was changed from 17 degrees to 14, and a wider headstock and a maple top (in lieu of the original 1953-1961 mahogany top construction) were added. White and two sunburst finish options were added to the color palette in 1974. Also new in 1974 was the optional TP-6 fine-tuner tailpiece, allowing for micro-adjustment of string tuning from the bridge. The mahogany neck was replaced with a three-piece maple neck in 1975 (though mahogany still saw limited use) with this change lasting till around 1982. Popular colors, such as wine red and "silverburst," were added in the 1970s and '80s. Gibson currently produces several Custom models with various finishes and pickups.See also: Flame maple § Gibson Les Paul Standard Paul McCartney playing a 1960 left-handed cherryburst Les Paul Gibson Custom 50th Anniversary 1959 Les Paul Standard (2009)
In 1958, new Standard model retained most specifications of the 1957 Goldtop, including PAF humbucker pickups, a maple top, and a tune-o-matic bridge with a stop tailpiece or Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The gold 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. Since the maple cap was now visible, tops were made either with a solid "plaintop" piece of maple or two bookmatched pieces of figured (curly or quilted) maple. To differentiate from the earlier Goldtop model, the new Les Paul was referred to as The Les Paul Standard. Specifications during 1958–60 varied from year to year and also from guitar to guitar. Typical 1958 Les Paul Standard necks had a thicker 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.[note 6][note 7] The cherry dye used on the 1958–59 models faded rapidly from ultraviolet light exposure, so in early 1960 Gibson switched to a new, fade-resistant formulation which was also less translucent and slightly more orange; this is sometimes called the "tomato soup burst." Original production of the Standards lasted from 1958 to early 1961. Only about 1,700 of these early models were made and have subsequently become highly valuable.[note 7]
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.Main article: Gibson Les Paul Junior 1958 Junior 1959 TV reissue
(Junior DC in TV Yellow)
In 1954, the Les Paul Junior debuted, targeted the beginning or student guitarist. The Junior is characterized by its flat-top "slab" mahogany body, finished in sunburst. It had a single P-90 pickup, simple volume and tone controls, an unbound rosewood fingerboard with plain dot-shape position markers, and a combination bridge/tailpiece unit similar to the Goldtop.
In 1955, Gibson launched the Les Paul TV model, which was identical to the Junior except for the name and a fashionable contemporary "limed oak" style finish, later more accurately named "limed mahogany". This natural wood finish with white grain filler often aged into a natural wood or dull yellow appearance, and eventually evolved into the opaque mustard yellow, popularly called "TV yellow". The model was not, as a popular myth says, to avoid glare from old TV cameras, but a modern look and a name to promote "The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show" then on television.
Gibson made a radical design change to their Junior and TV models in 1958: to accommodate player requests for more access to the top frets than the previous designs allowed, these electric guitar models were revamped with a new double-cutaway body shape. In addition, Juniors were now available with a cherry red finish, while the re-shaped TV adopted a more yellow-tinged finish.1956 Les Paul Special Singlecut in TV Yellow 1960 SG Special (Les Paul Special Doublecut) Recent Les Paul Special Faded Main articles: Gibson Les Paul Special and Gibson Les Paul Doublecut
The Les Paul Special was released in 1955, featuring a slab body, two soapbar P-90 single coil pickups, and was finished in a color similar to TV Yellow (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. Around this time, Les Paul decided to discontinue his affiliation with Gibson; the model was renamed "SG Special" in late 1959. 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.Gibson The Paul See also: Gibson The Paul
A single sharp cutaway Les Paul-style walnut body, set walnut neck, 22-fret ebony fingerboard with pearl dot inlays, walnut headstock overlay with gold Gibson logo (1978-1981) or Gibson logo branded into the headstock (Firebrand, 1981-1982), three-per-side tuners, tune-o-matic bridge, stop tailpiece, two exposed humbucker pickups, four knobs (two v, two tone), three-way pickup switch, chrome hardware, available in Natural Walnut finish, 24.75 in. scale, 1.6875 in. nut width, mfg. 1978-1982. It included such high end items as the Grover tuning keys and the Tune-O-Matic bridge. Affectionately called by some, "The Coffee Table Burst" because of its natural finish.
Main article: Gibson SG 1962 Les Paul Standard (SG Standard)
In 1960, Gibson experienced a decline in electric guitar sales due to strong competition from Fender's comparable but much lighter double-cutaway design, the Stratocaster. In response, Gibson modified the Les Paul line. For 1961, the Les Paul was thinner and much lighter than earlier models, with two sharply pointed cutaways and a vibrato system. However, the redesign was done without Les Paul's knowledge, and he hated the design, so he asked Gibson to remove his name. The single cutaway designed retained the "Les Paul" name until 1963 when Les Paul's endorsement deal with Gibson ended. Without a contract, Gibson could no longer call its guitars "Les Pauls', and it renamed them "SGs" (for "Solid Guitars").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 in order to use a surplus supply of Epiphone mini-humbuckers. 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. The multipiece body (a thin layer of maple on top of two layers of Honduran mahogany) arrived in 1969. In late 1969, a reinforcing neck 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 specially-ordered with full-size humbucker pickups; such full size versions of the Deluxe were "Standard" spec. 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 it. In 2005, the Deluxe was re-introduced.
In 1978, the Les Paul Pro Deluxe was introduced. This guitar featured P-90 pickups (like the original 1952-1956 LPs) 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 finish. It was discontinued in 1983.
The Gibson Dark Fire, a variant of the Gibson Les Paul, was an electric solid body guitar produced by Gibson Guitar Corporation. It was a second generation Robot Guitar, using an updated version of the Powertune self-tuning system produced by Tronical Gmbh. The Dark Fire also introduced Gibson's Chameleon Tone Technology, a system consisting of onboard electronics designed to simulate various guitar tones. Additionally, the guitar included an audio interface called the Robot Interface Pack or RIP.
The Dark Fire had one Burstbucker 3 humbucker in the bridge position, a P-90H at the neck, and a special Tronical-designed piezoelectric tune-o-matic sat in the place of the bridge. The Burstbucker 3 and P-90H were selected via the three-way selector switch. The piezoelectric could be activated via the MCK, blending the magnetic and piezoelectric together under a standard 1/4" guitar cable. Gibson supplied a TRS stereo cable that allowed the piezo signal and the magnetic signal to be split between two different amps.See also: Gibson Les Paul Studio Studio 2001 Studio headstock
The Studio model was introduced in 1983, and is still in production. The guitar is intended for the studio musician; therefore, the design features of the "Les Paul Studio" are centered on optimal sound output and not on flashy appearance. This model retains only the elements of the Gibson Les Paul that contribute to tone and playability, including the carved maple top and standard mechanical and electronic hardware. However, the Studio design omits several stock Gibson ornamentations that do not affect sound quality, including body/neck binding. The first Studios from 1983 to 1986 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 weight relieved mahogany body and top and a satin finish.
Gibson also offered the Studio in a "standard" model. This variant was adorned with neck and body binding, ebony fretboard and sunburst paint job. All Studios at the time had dot fretboard markers and a thinner body.
Gibson released the ES-Les Paul in 2015. It is a semi-acoustic model with f-holes and two Alnico humbuckers. The neck is mahogany, but the sides and back are laminated maple and poplar. A mahogany block runs throughout the body to increase sustain.Les Paul playing his customized Les Paul Recording guitar
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 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.Main article: Epiphone Les Paul Les Paul Special II Les Paul Ultra II
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.
Epiphone also makes several less common models of the Les Paul such as the Les Paul Goth, Les Paul Ultra/Ultra II, Les Paul Prophecy, and Les Paul Tribute Plus.Jimmy Page with a Goldtop Classic Premium, one of his many Les Pauls Main article: Jimmy Page § Signature models
Gibson has produced three Jimmy Page signature models. The first was issued in the mid-1990s. It is based on a stock sunburst Les Paul Standard. In 2005 the Gibson Custom Shop issued a limited run of Jimmy Page Signature guitars based on Jimmy Page's 1959 "No. 1". Several years later, Gibson issued its third Jimmy Page Signature guitar, this one based on Jimmy Page's #2, issued in a production run of 325 guitars.Slash with one of his signatures in 2007
Slash has collaborated with Gibson on eight signature Les Paul models.
The first of these guitars is the Slash "Snakepit" Les Paul Standard, which was introduced by the Gibson Custom Shop in 1996, based on the smoking snake graphic off the cover of Slash's Snakepit's debut album and a mother of pearl snake inlay covering the length of the ebony fretboard. Production was limited to 100.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. 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. Also in 2008, the Gibson Custom Shop introduced the Slash "Inspired By" Les Paul Standard. This guitar is a replica of his 1987 Les Paul Standard.
In 2010, Gibson released the Slash "Appetite" Les Paul Standard as a tribute to Guns N' Roses' debut album, Appetite for Destruction, which resembles the Kris Derrig built 1959 Les Paul replica Slash used for the recording of the album. Production was limited to 400, with 100 aged guitars signed by Slash, and another 300 finished with the Custom Shop's VOS process.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 1996 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 "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.Gary Moore Les Paul
Gary Moore created his own signature Les Paul in the early 2000s, characterised by a yellow flame top, no binding and signature truss rod cover. It featured two open-topped humbucker pickups, one with "zebra coils" (one white and one black bobbin). 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, with the added styling of Moore's various 1950s Les Paul Standards.Peter Frampton '54 Custom
A replica of the three-pickup "Black Beauty" Les Paul Custom used by Peter Frampton as his main guitar from his days in Humble Pie through his early solo career was introduced through the Gibson Custom Shop in 2012. Frampton's original guitar was a 1954 Les Paul modified extensively. His famous guitar was presumed lost in a South American plane crash in 1980, but was returned to Frampton in 2011.
Gibson used hundreds of photographs of the late blues guitarist's instrument 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 VOS 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 characterized by the kidney-shaped Grover tuning keys installed on the guitar before Bloomfield traded for it.Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend with his modified Les Paul Deluxe
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 3-pickup Les Paul Custom Billy Gibbons
with a Les Paul Goldtop
The Ace Frehley (KISS) signature model (released in 1997 and re-released in 2012) has three double-white DiMarzio pickups, a cherry sunburst finish (AAAA), a color image of Frehley's face in his Kiss make-up on the headstock, mother-of-pearl lightning bolt inlays, and Ace's simulated signature on the 12th fret. A Custom Shop run of only 300 guitars 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. 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), Grover machine heads with pearloid banjo buttons, and a grade A maple top.
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top has a signature model and pick-up based on his famous "Pearly Gates" 1959 Les Paul Standard.Eric Clapton playing a Les Paul in 1987, on the right of George Harrison
Clapton played a 1960 Standard as a member of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers as well as 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. 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 but all feature period-correct hardware, two Gibson reproduction PAF humbucking pickups, and subtly figured "antiquity burst" maple tops.
Paul Kossoff, of Free and Back Street Crawler, favored 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.Main article: List of Gibson players
Although early Les Paul imitations in the 1960s and 1970s, such as those made by Höfner, Hagström, Harmony Company, and Greco differed from Gibson's designs, with different electronics and even bolt-on necks, in the late 1970s some Japanese companies came very close to perfecting copies of the original 1958-1960 Standards.
A lawsuit was brought by the Norlin Corporation (the parent company of Gibson) in 1977, against Elger/Hoshino U.S.A. (manufacturer and distributor, respectively, of Ibanez) over use a headstock shape and logo, both considered similar to the Gibson designs. However, the suit was based on an Ibanez headstock design that had been discontinued by 1976. The case was officially closed on February 2, 1978. Those mid-1970s guitars later became known as "lawsuit era" guitars.
ESP Guitars makes several guitars based on the Les Paul design. The Edwards and Navigator lines are made in Japan in the vein of the late 1970s and 1980s 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 at the original factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Many of their models are inspired by Gibson's late-1950s/early-1960s sunbursts and Customs.
In 2006, Gibson lost a lawsuit against PRS Guitars, Gibson claiming PRS was infringing on the Les Paul shape and design. The court's decision allowed PRS to reintroduce single cutaway versions of its instruments.
In 2008, Gibson lost the trademark for the 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.
- ^ Original "The Log" was exhibited at Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville. A replica of "The Log" (loaned from Les Paul Foundation) have been exhibited on "Les Paul Experience" permanent exhibition at Waukesha County Museum.
- ^ This Les Paul prototype was refinished in cherry sunburst from original goldtop, pickups are replaced with his lo-impedance type, and also Bigsby vibrato tailpiece is installed. This guitar have been exhibited on "Les Paul Experience" permanent exhibition at Waukesha County Museum.
- ^ This Les Paul prototype (white) has an appearance similar to the later Les Paul Personal model because its pickups were replaced by the low-impedance type, however, the existence of trapezoid-type bridge/tailpiece imply that it is early Les Paul.
- ^ In the summer of 1952, Gibson Les Paul Goldtop was priced at US$209.
- ^ This guitar (1953 Goldtop exhibited at FUZZ Guitar Show 2008) was used by Carl Perkins on many of his early "Sun Records" Recordings
- ^ "10 Most Valuable Guitars", Vintage Guitar (2010) , mentioned on:Paul Schille (Dec 17, 2010), Vintage Guitar Releases List of 10 Most Valuable Guitars, TheGiggingMusician.com
- ^ 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.