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Gibson Les Paul Guitar. The Gibson Icon.

Mar 18, 2008
One of the stars of the guitar world is the Gibson Les Paul Guitar. A solid body electric guitar, the partnership between Les Paul and Gibson Guitars began in the 1940s. Lester Paul was a very popular guitarist musician of the time and was well known due to his radio show. In his spare time Les Paul also enjoyed playing around with the idea of amplification of the guitar sound and dubbing of various sounds over the top of others.

The initial ideas around the solid body guitar were beginning to take shape in the 1940s and Les Paul began to experiment and come up with his own solid body test guitars. Les Paul was very interested in the sustaining quality of the sound that would come from a solid piece of wood as well as being able to produce a pure sound of the strings as opposed to that altered by the acoustic design of the existing instruments.

The "log guitar" was Les Pauls first home-made attempt at the solid-body guitar. It was a very simple guitar that unfortunately attracted more amusement than genuine interest. Its similarity to a strung broom stick didn't help Les Paul but he persevered with the concept and eventually put forward the instrument to the Gibson Guitar company in 1946.

The guitar was initially dismissed completely by Gibson as they did not find anything serious or viable about the instrument. It would soon be a different story after Fender Guitars put out the first version of the Fender Telecaster in 1950 and it started to receive some commercial success.

This put commercial pressure on Gibson Guitars and they needed to think about their position in the market with this new instrument. In 1951 they again spoke to Les Paul explaining that they now wanted to work with him to put Gibson back in the running. This was important as there were a number of other guitar manufacturers such as Bigsby and Richenbacker working on the same concept.

This partnership proved to be a good one as we all know by the close brand association between Gibson Guitars and Les Paul. In 1952 Gibson released the Gibson Les Paul Standard Guitar. Les became an endorsee and signed an agreement where for his input and promotion of the guitar he would be paid a royalty of 5% of sales for a period of 5 years.

The price of the first Gibson Les Paul Standard was $210 which placed it slightly more expensive than Fender's rival Telecaster guitar. The Les Paul Standard has a gold finish so was always to be referred to as the Gold Top. The Les Paul combined a mahogany body with a carved maple top. This combined the clean, clear sound of the maple with the warmer resonance of the mahogany.

The original Gibson Les Paul had a combined bridge and tailpiece that connected to the bottom of the guitar. Les Paul had designed this for support on his big hollow bodied guitars but it was no longer necessary on the solid body guitar so it was soon replaced in 1953. The original guitar also started with two single coil pickups, (P 90s). A volume and tone pot for each pickup was controlled by the three way selector switch. The Les Paul Standard had a mahogany neck topped with a rosewood finger board. There were crown shaped pearl inlays to mark the positions on the fret board.

In 1954, Gibson Guitars introduced two more Les Paul models. They were the Les Paul Junior, which was essentially a cheaper version designed for beginners, and the Les Paul Custom, a top end range. This began the era of the rock guitarist and the Lead Soloist. For the last 50 years, guitar players are often divided between being Fender or Gibson. The Gibson Les Paul played a unique and much loved role in the rock and roll revolution.
About the Author
Terry Booth is very much an advocate of the Gibson Les Paul. Terry has many examples of them currently available showing at his site for Gibson Guitars.
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