The Les Paul was by no means the first solid body electric guitar to hit the market. 60 years before the Les Paul, company founder Orville Gibson had designed the arch top guitar. In 1936, Gibson issued the ES 150, the first standard electric guitar. When it came to designing the Les Paul, the company poured in decades of skills and craftsmanship and the result was a guitar that was a work of art in itself.
In 1952, Gibson introduced the Les Paul Standard’s forerunner, the Goldtop with its renouned P-90 pickups. The Les Paul had an intricately fashioned arch top placed on a solid mahogany body. It included a glued in neck with an adjustable truss rod and a pitched headstock. Also integrated in the deign were the accoutrements that helped distinguish the leader in electric guitars from the rest like a bound fret board and raised pick guard.
Although the Les Paul took off from the very time it appeared on the market, the design was still in its infancy. Two developments were to come which would change the shape of the Les Paul from a wood plank with strings to a classic. In 1957, Gibson was still attempting like other guitar manufacturers to produce a totally noise free performance from the Les Paul. Around this time, designer Seth Lover entered the picture with his patented humbucking pickup. By placing two coils side by side, Lover discovered he could reduce the noise from hum and other electrical disturbances that single coils were so prone to. The result was a deeper richer sound, free of noise while retaining the full, warm, and sustaining tone that has come to define the Les Paul.
Once the sound issues had been smoothened, Gibson proceeded to make another change to the Les Paul. This time the change was purely aesthetic. The carved maple tops were coated with a lush, semi-transparent cherry sunburst finish to enhance the beauty of the maple base. The results were spectacular and the “Burst ” as it came to be known as was not only the most stylish but also the most advanced electric guitar on the scene.
Ironically enough, sales of the Les Paul were declining even as it was undergoing periods of incredible transformation. In 1963, the Les Paul Standard was changed to the flat topped design that we know now as the SG model. The standard was hugely popular with a number of pop and jazz guitarists including the guitar’s namesake Les Paul himself but it was only in the lat 60s that the guitar would finally find its true place – in the hands of some of the greatest rock performers of all time. By the late 60s and early 70s, guitar legends like Jimmy Page, Peter Green and Mick Taylor were endorsing the Les Paul as their rock signature.
Although the Les Paul took a while to catch on, its popularity since has never really subsided. The Les Paul is in all its glory when accompanied by visionary artists and although that doesn’t happen all too frequently, the magic that occurs when these two get together is worth the wait.