The Goldtops: Left to Right:
100% Original Very Early 1968 GT, 100% Original Very Early 1952 GT, 100% Original Early 1953 GT, 100% Original 1954 GT, 100% Original 1955 GT, Modified 1969 GT, 100% Original 1956 GT.
When Gibson first launched the Les Paul solid body electric guitar in 1952, Les Paul specified that the guitar be offered in a gold finish so as to emphasize the high quality of the instrument. In fact, some examples can be found painted completely in gold back and front. The all gold guitars are indeed more rare, but less coveted by
collectors due to their tendency to turn green in more places. Greening occurs
due to the oxidation of copper within the paint used at the time.
My first goldtop was the 2001 VOS R7. I
was looking to build my Les Paul collection as a tribute to the great guitars of the ‘50s. The 1957 goldtop was the first guitar to have Seth Lover’s revolutionary
humbucking pickups, known the world over as Patend Applied For (PAF) humbuckers. Although my R7 reissue does not have original PAF humbuckers, it is made to vintage original specs and plays and sounds fantastic. I was so happy with it that I wanted to get closer to the original.
To get closer to an original goldtop, I first began looking into the late 1960s models. In June of 1968, Gibson re-launched the Les Paul, but not as a burst. Instead they produced a guitar much more akin to the 1956 goldtop complete with Tune-o-matic bridge and P90s. During the first years of producing the Les Paul again, Gibson made many changes including the addition of a wider headstock in late 1968, the use of 3 piece necks in early 1969 and the introduction of mini-humbuckers in late 1969, along with a new name, the Les Paul Deluxe. The best and most coveted models are from early 1968.
My 1968 is a very early model with flower/crown inlay on the headstock, and Les Paul printed on the truss rod cover. It has a solid one piece mahogany body and one piece neck. The ’68 pictured here (back row on left side) is one of the best sounding Les Pauls I have ever come upon, only second to my '50s era goldtops.
Sitting in the back row on the right side is a heavily modified 1969 Les Paul Deluxe. Former owner, producer and famed studio session guitarist Jimmy Calvert (Tommy James and the Shondelles, Ringo Starr, John Lennon) had Seymour Duncan humbuckers installed, as well as a coil splitter mini toggle switch for the neck pick up to help reduce low-end. Body shows extreme wear that only comes from decades of gigging live and countless studio sessions. Oh if this guitar could talk, the stories it would tell.
And although I am a huge fan of the late sixties gold tops, I continue looking for and acquiring just the right specimens of 1950s Les Pauls. To date, my collection has five 1950s era Les Pauls; a early 1952 GT, a 1953 GT, a 1954 GT, a 1955 GT, and a 1956 GT.
I am especially in awe of my very early 1952 Les Paul. It is one of the very first ever produced Les Pauls by Gibson. This is evidenced by it's lack of binding on the neck, 5/8" knobs, diagonal screws on the bridge P90 and the dot of the "i" touches the "G" in the Gibson logo on the headstock. But beyond these very rare and unique features, this guitar has beautiful wear and was played and cared for a great deal over the years. I acquired this guitar from a private owner in Nottingham, England, who had once sold this guitar at Christie's Auction House in London, and then bought it back from the buyer at the auction many years later. Proof that this guitar leaves a strong mark and memory to all those who play her.
As indicated by the guitar's trapeze tailpiece, this 1953 Les Paul is an early '53 and is 100% original. Held by a collector for the past 35 years, she is in excellent condition.
This guitar has amazing P90 pickups. The neck pickup as a deep, rich, and warm tone with lots of power. The bridge pickup is bright, but with the perfect balance of mids to highs.
Neck is fat and bold. With original small frets, the Brazilian Rosewood fret board is in excellent condition.
Regarding the 1954 Les Paul featured in this page's photo, I searched a long time before acquiring this amazing specimen. Completely original in every way, and extremely clean, this guitar screams vintage vibe and sounds amazing. Someone took extremely good care of this guitar. I will do the same.
Like the '54, I also spent a lot of time looking for just the right '55 Les Paul. After visiting many collectors and dealers and playing many great guitars, I finally found "the one". This 1955 Les Paul is completely original in every way, with an amazing neck with particularly dark Brazilian Rosewood. Complimented by gorgeous checking and wear, this guitar screams with vintage mojo and sounds as good as can be found.
Most recently, I acquired a different kind of 1956 Les Paul. This '56 GT is all gold front and back, and has the Tune-o-matic bridge which first appeared at the end of 1955. The combination of the stoptail and Tune-o-matic bridge became the standard for all Gibson Les Pauls and continues on all modern day models.