Spotlight On the 50th Anniversary 1959 Les Paul Standard
“The 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard represents the pinnacle of imaginative design and masterful craftsmanship. This guitar has become the Holy Grail of guitars in the minds of professionals and collectors the world over. Guitar legends such as Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Billy Gibbons, to name only a few, have forged their musical pathways utilizing the incredible tonal characteristics and playability created by the artistry of the 1959 Les Paul Standard. As an icon throughout the music industry, not only has this guitar become a legend, it has attained the highest, most acclaimed value in quality and investment. The year 2009 marks the 50th year anniversary for this guitar, and in celebration, Gibson is proud to reintroduce this legendary iconic guitar to the world.” —Tony Bacon, author of Million Dollar Les Paul and 50 Years of the Les Paul
The World’s Ultimate Electric Guitar
Widely regarded as the most desirable electric guitar ever manufactured, the 1959 Les Paul has achieved such heights on the collector’s market that it is unattainable to all but the most affluent investors. Now, however, with the release of the Custom Shop 50th Anniversary ’59 Les Paul Standard, Gibson is putting the most accurate, detail-perfect recreation of this vintage milestone ever produced back within the grasp of a limited number of players and collectors. In a production run of just 500 guitars, the Custom Shop 50th Anniversary ’59 Les Paul Standard captures all the glorious feel and tone of the original Les Paul Standard from the most revered year of its production.
The Les Paul’s Beginnings
When first introduced in 1952, the Gibson Les Paul was an instrument like none that had come before it and in a very real sense it was still a guitar in development. Over the next few years the model would undergo several key cosmetic and technical alterations that would truly set it apart from other six-stringed instruments.
The first modification made by Gibson was the improvement of its rudimentary trapeze tailpiece, which was swapped for a wrapover bar bridge in 1953. Gibson’s revolutionary Tune-o-matic bridge and separate stopbar tailpiece followed in 1955, and gradually the model was poised to reach its zenith, but two major developments yet to come — one a quantum leap in sound and performance, the other a sweet upgrade in appearance — would serve to crystallize this classic.
The first of these arrived on the 1957 model. As great as the Les Paul Goldtop played and sounded by 1956, Gibson was still chasing a full yet noise-free performance from its electric guitars. Noted Gibson engineer Seth Lover answered Gibson President Ted McCarty’s call and created one of the greatest tone icons of all time: the “Patent Applied For” (PAF) humbucking pickup. In addition to reducing hum in Gibson guitars, the new pickup also optimized the fuller, warmer and more sustaining tone that has come to be known as the inherent voice of the Les Paul.
Beauty and the Burst
The second development arrived in 1958, and finally heralded the arrival of the most legendary incarnation of the Les Paul Standard. In order to maximize the potential beauty of the carved maple tops being applied to Les Pauls, which often revealed highly figured quilted, flamed or tiger-striped maple, Gibson applied a lush, semi-transparent cherry sunburst finish to the model.
The “Burst” had been born, and not only did it look fantastic, but with its carved top, powerful humbucking pickups, versatile Tune-o-matic bridge and super-comfortable, hyper-fast set neck with full access to its 22 frets, it was the most advanced solidbody electric guitar the music world had ever seen. A year later, with the arrival of a somewhat slimmer, faster neck profile in 1959, the Les Paul had truly reached its zenith.
Developing the 50th Anniversary ’59 Les Paul Standard
Gibson Custom developed the 50th Anniversary ’59 Les Paul Standard after intensive digital assessment of several original 1959 Les Paul Standards. The master luthiers of Gibson Custom discovered that each of these stunning instruments was a little bit different (as is always the way with vintage guitars) but that they had a certain sound, feel and “vibe” in common. Through the course of this detailed analysis they perfected many details on the reissue — yielding a period-correct Les Paul Standard more accurate to the ’59 year of manufacture than has ever been reproduced before — while also instilling a consistency of design on this recreation, making it not just a “’59 Les Paul,” but “the ultimate ’59 Les Paul Standard.”
Everything about this ultimate recreation harks back to 1959, including such historically accurate appointments as its figured maple top, one-piece lightweight mahogany body, gold top-hat control knobs with dial pointers, nickel ABR-1 Tune-o-matic bridge and accompanying nickel stopbar tailpiece, period-correct pickguard, single-ply crème top binding, nickel tuners with green buttons and a molded bell-shaped truss rod cover.
As is appropriate to this vintage-accurate, limited release, the 50th Anniversary ’59 Les Paul Standard from Gibson Custom will only be produced in the two colors offered in 1959: Heritage Cherry Burst and Heritage Dark Burst.
Each of the 500 guitars will come with a Gibson Custom case, a certificate of authenticity and a custom care kit.
Click here for a closer look at the 50th Anniversary ’59 Les Paul Standard!
Check back for next week’s spotlight on the new Kris Kristofferson guitar from Gibson Acoustic!