1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, Burst

By Gibson

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A truly magnificent guitar, and a very well documented example of what most consider to be the holy grail of electric solidbodies: the ’59 Les Paul Standard ‘Burst.’ A single family owned instrument for 50 years of its life and featured in 3 of Vic Da Pra’s Burst Believers books this guitar has a wonderful history and is without doubt a compelling example of the iconic model.

We believe this guitar started out life in St Louis at a music store called Hugo Music Center, located on 5889 Easton Avenue, EV 2800 as the badge on the original Lifton 5-latch case would suggest. Unfortunately the store has long gone but we know it was trading throughout the 1950s and 60s until it was eventually dissolved in 1971. Accounts from previous owners tell us the guitar was originally purchased by a travelling musician who a few years later c.1963 was passing through ‘coal country,’ West Virginia where he met a Preacher to whom he sold the guitar for the sum of $100. The guitar would stay with the Preachers’ family for the next 50 years during which time it was passed down to the Preacher’s son, who we believe is the person playing it in a photograph we have, dated 1972. Overall the guitar saw little use during this time and in 1978 was put into storage in its original case where it remained until 2013 when it was sold to the next owner. As a result of its time in storage the guitar needed a little TLC to get it to its best which largely involved a thorough clean to remove the verdigris from the hardware and the discolouration and tarnishing to the plastics.  As is commonly seen the original Kluson tuner buttons suffered from shrinkage so were replaced with a repro set with the originals retained in the case. The guitar retains all of its original parts and overall is in excellent condition for an instrument of this age.

This guitar has a stunning top with an attractive, understated flame. It has an almost feather-like, holographic appearance in certain light, complimented by a striking, intricate grain pattern. The colour is rich in amber hues and wonderfully ‘honeyed.’ The red Analine dye has faded to a faint shadow giving a very subtle ‘burst to the finish completing what is a very characterful, intriguing and striking looking guitar. There is subtle wear in places, but overall the condition is excellent; a testament to it’s careful ownership and infrequent use over the years.

The headstock bears the original ink stamped serial number 9 1106. The original single line/single ring Kluson tuners are retained in the case and a stable period correct set have been added in their place. The guitar has also had a changed nut and some prior work to the frets to get it playing to an excellent standard. Besides this the guitar is stock and retains all original hardware and plastics. The finish is original and blacklights consistently besides a small chip near the pickguard bracket which has been drop-filled. It has some very attractive, consistent lacquer checking throughout and overall shows relatively minimal wear besides the odd ding and minor worming/light buckle wear to the back. The Nickel hardware is in good overall condition with a tarnished appearance commensurate with age. The plastics were all cleaned post-storage and show some wear and discolouration, and the ‘Rhythm’ and ‘Treble’ is no longer present on the ‘poker chip.’ Blacklight shows a difference in fluorescence where a US flag sticker was stuck to the pickguard and part of the treble pickup surround, consistent with the photo dated Jan 1972, where it would remain until c.2013.

Pots all appear original and the guitar appears solder intact. Two pot codes are legible, both are of CentraLab manufacture and date to the 7th week of '59. The original bumblebee caps are present and correct.

One of the many big reasons for the ’59 Burst’s popularity and desirability is its neck profile. We can safely say this guitar plays like butter. The perfect played-in ’59 neck sits very comfortably in the hand, not too slim not too chunky. The guitar is currently set up with a low to medium action and with 10 gauge strings it more than lives up to its reputation playability wise. Chords sit well, stretching feels unrestricted and supported allowing lots of control when bending strings, especially with vibrato. The neck thickness at the 1st fret measures 23.96mm tapering to 25.6mm at the 12th. The action at the 12th fret is 3mm.

Having had the opportunity to play a number of Bursts over the years, one thing i feel most of them share in common is an acoustic ‘snap’ and attack to the sound when unplugged. This example is no different, there is a fast attack and response when digging in; an initial bite that is both percussive and loud which decays into a resonant sustain. It feels like everything about this guitar is working in perfect harmony, giving you much more than the sum of its parts. These guitars are inspiring to play, both as instruments and knowing what they represent not only of Gibson’s history but that of popular music. When amplified the double white PAFs really sing; from soaring leads that will cut through a mix to sumptuous jazz like mellow/‘flutey’ tones on the neck pickup. There’s no doubt these PAF’s are on the hotter side. The bridge pickup has a strong output and really benefits from being played hard, rewarding you with an aggressive attack that would cut through a band with ease. The neck pickup is warm and mellow with excellent sustain. There is no overcrowding of harmonics, or ‘bloatedness’ in the mids, there is an airiness and spaciousness to the tone; an almost ‘hollow-ness’ which I find synonymous with these instruments, and the sound you’ve heard on records over the years. The bridge pickup resistance measures 7.95 Ohms and the neck 8.49 Ohms. The nut measures 42.8.mm and the guitar weighs a comfortable 8.7lbs. The guitar comes complete with the original 5-latch Lifton case.

We can only echo what has already been said about this fine model. Documented, original, clean models such as this are increasingly hard to find and time has proven them to be excellent investments. Given their unique appearance, short period of manufacture, limited output and association with some of the greatest guitar players of all time it’s no wonder the Burst market is where it is today, and with high end collectibles in general seeing considerable rises in value over the past couple of years alone we think these guitars will prove to be fantastic investments for the future.

Serious enquiries welcome, viewings strictly by appointment only.

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