Nothing in the world of musical instruments approaches the level of craftsmanship, and the resulting playing experience, attained by the guitars produced by Gibson Custom in Nashville, Tennessee. Every one of these hand-made guitars has a story behind it: the story of the world’s most celebrated artists and instruments.
Ironically, the foundation of Gibson Custom—the Les Paul solid body guitar—was not a commercial hit when introduced. But in the early 60s, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards played a ’59 Les Paul on the Ed Sullivan show. It caught the attention of future guitar legends like Mike Bloomfield and Eric Clapton, and as they became stars in their own right, the demand surged for Les Pauls that were in extremely limited supply. Prices for vintage ’59 guitars (and other Les Pauls of that era) kept rising, eventually hitting hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Custom Shop is committed to the intricate, time-consuming, and expensive process of reproducing classic guitars like the ’59 Les Paul with such a high level of detail that even guitar aficionados have a hard time telling the difference. Concurrently, the Custom Shop produces exact replicas of guitars used by some of the most respected musicians of all time, from Alex Lifeson’s double neck, to Peter Frampton’s Phenix triple-pickup Les Paul, to Robby Krieger’s 1954 Les Paul Custom.
The lengthy process of creating a Custom Shop guitar starts by working with collectors to scour the world for the best examples of classic Gibson guitars, as well as collaborating with artists for exclusive access to their prized instruments. Then comes the challenge of analyzing every aspect of the guitar in painstaking detail—from the number of windings in the pickups, to the exact way finish ages over the decades, to the construction techniques that were used half a century ago, and so much more. This is the ultimate combination of art and science, as world-class luthiers work with cutting-edge computer technology to uncover and replicate the qualities that made particular instruments “magic.”
Sometimes Gibson Custom’s goal is to duplicate every battle scar of life on the road in an artist’s prized guitar, and sometimes it’s to produce an instrument that’s indistinguishable from a new guitar that just arrived at a music store in the 1950s, and sometimes it is about creating a unique work of art that can change the way we think about the world. In all cases, total faithfulness to the guitar and the consumer experience is paramount.
In the rarefied atmosphere of one-of-a-kind guitars, Gibson Custom is not just about technical perfection, but the emotional experience of playing a guitar that offers outstanding playability, historical accuracy, and brings a hallowed past into the present.