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1955 Les Paul Custom 1955 Les Paul Custom
A Custom Black Beauty from the Year of Innovation
Having racked up more innovations in guitar design in the previous 50 years than all other major guitar manufacturers combined, Gibson was rolling toward a historical peak in the middle of the 20th century. Nowhere is this drive for innovation better expressed than in the Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty” of the mid ’50s, rendered in period-perfect detail in this exclusive special-run Gibson Custom Shop 1955 Les Paul Custom. With rock and roll barely a year old and a musical revolution still in the making, the nation itself was in the midst of social and cultural innovation. Gibson was in the throws of its own revolution in instrument design, and groundbreaking innovations on all frontiers—body construction, hardware, and electronics—are beautifully expressed in one instrument on the 1955 “Black Beauty.” Physically, the 1955 Les Paul Custom expresses Les Paul and Gibson president Ted McCarty’s joint vision of the ultimate solidbody guitar, with a sold mahogany body with carved top and glued-in mahogany neck, but it also embodied Paul’s notion of a “black-tie guitar for the black-tie musician.” Custom by name, custom by nature, it was made with a gloss ebony black finish, ebony fingerboard with pearloid block inlays, enlarged headstock with mother-of-pearl split-diamond inlay, and gold-plated hardware throughout.

In addition to a screaming P-90 pickup in the bridge position—a meaty, thick, yet extremely articulate single-coil unit still beloved of countless rockers today—the 1955 Les Paul Custom carried Gibson’s new Alnico V (aka “Staple”) pickup in the neck position. In development in the hands of Seth Lover since 1952, at the request of McCarty, the Alnico V pickup was intended as an upgrade of the P-90, using six individual rectangular Alnico V magnets as pole pieces within the coil (rather than carrying bar magnets beneath the coil), a design change that gave it a crisp, bright tone with plenty of snap and clarity. Employed on several of Gibson’s high-end archtop electrics of the mid ’50s, including the L-5CES, ES-5, and Byrdland, the Alnico V pickup made its debut on the original Les Paul Custom of 1954.

Ensuring that this killer pair of pickups was dealt all the resonance and sustain it could handle was a further Gibson innovation, and another “first” on the Les Paul Custom. The Tune-o-matic (ABR-1) bridge, developed the year before by McCarty himself, offered exponential increases in both intonation adjustment facilities and resonant coupling between vibrating strings and solid tonewood. Paired with a stopbar tailpiece, the Tune-o-matic bridge helped to maximize the tone of any instrument on which it appeared, and gave the 1955 Les Paul Custom degrees clarity, depth, and sustain never before heard in the electric guitar world. And to top all the other period-correct details on this special-issue instrument, the 1955 Les Paul Custom is fitted with Gibson Custom’s new “Soft Shoulder” ’55 neck profile. Gibson’s luthiers selected an original ’55 Les Paul that had a neck with a magical feel, and modeled this for its new profile. With a similar front-to-back depth as standard rounded mid-’50s necks, it differed in its gently sloping sides, a feature that made it sit incredibly comfortably in the hand—and the detailed reproduction of this profile makes the Gibson Custom Shop 1955 Les Paul Custom a pure joy to play. This exclusive guitar comes with a Gibson Custom hardshell case and a “Year of 1955 Innovation” certificate. Check it out now at selected online dealers.

Technical Specifications
Body Mahogany
Top Mahogany
Neck Mahogany
Neck Joint Set in
Profile Soft Shoulder '55 neck profile
Scale Length 24-3/4"
Fretboard Species Ebony
Frets 22
Nut Width 1-11/16"
Tuners Kluson tuners
Bridge/Tailpiece ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece with TonePros long steel Anchors and long-locking studs
Tone Controls Two Volume, Two Tone
Toggle Switch 3-way Pickup Selector
Neck Pickup Vintage-style Alnico V Single-coil
Bridge Pickup P-90 Single-coil
Hardware Gold
Finish Ebony
Sealer Nitrocellulose Finish
Other Includes Hardshell Case and Year of 1955 Innovation Certificate