(Re)discovering the Holy Grail
Following its release in 1952, the ‘Goldtop’ Les Paul Model gradually evolved into the Cherry Sunburst finish Les Paul Standard whilst receiving a Tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece in ’55, followed by PAF humbuckers in ‘57. Unveiled in ‘58, this iconic guitar – commonly known as the ‘Burst – eventually became Gibson’s most popular design of all time. Difficult as it may be to imagine, however, things weren’t always so rosy for the ‘Burst; after three consecutive years of poor sales, the single cutaway Les Paul Standard was deemed unsuccessful, and so in late-1960 it was superseded by the thin-bodied, double Florentine cutaway Les Paul Standard (redesignated as the SG Standard in 1963).
It would take a series of influential British guitar heroes to discover the discontinued ‘Burst and turn people on to its charms before Gibson decided to revisit their single cutaway Les Paul design (starting in ‘68 with the dual P-90 Goldtop and dual humbucker Custom reissues). One of the earliest high-profile ‘Burst appearances occurred during The Rolling Stones’ second ’64 tour of the United States when Keith Richards appeared with his Bigsby vibrato-equipped ‘59 on The Ed Sullivan Show – a national primetime TV programme that had broken records when 73 million people tuned in to watch The Beatles perform earlier that year. Elevating the status of the ‘Burst even further with his blistering electric blues licks on John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers’ 1966 ‘Beano’ album, Eric Clapton then set the bar with respect to the sublime tones a Les Paul Standard was capable of producing in the right hands. Having now been seen and heard in true style, the ‘Burst finally came into its own.
Although ‘Bursts were few and far between on British soil in the 60s (and still are!) they soon became an instrument of choice among the hip blues players of the day, including a young Peter Green who was smitten after seeing Clapton perform with the Bluesbreakers in ’65. After a brief stint in the band filling Clapton’s shoes, Peter went his own way to international stardom with Fleetwood Mac in the late-60s. His legendary ’59 ‘Burst – later dubbed ‘Greeny’ – eventually found its way into the hands of his friend and protégé Gary Moore, who used it to record two of his most celebrated albums: 1990’s Still Got the Blues and the 1995 Peter Green tribute, Blues for Greeny. The same guitar is now owned by Kirk Hammett, who considers himself merely a custodian. As he recently remarked: “It’s the people’s guitar.”
Currently looking for a new custodian is this Holy Grail 1959-spec ‘Burst dating to early-1960 available right here at Vintage ‘n’ Rare Guitars: https://www.vintageandrareguitars.com/collections/gibson-electric-guitars/products/1960-gibson-les-paul-standard-burst-0-0299