1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom, Black

By Gibson

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Superb, refinished, player grade 1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom - the top of the range solid body electric guitar offered by Gibson. Easily one of the most iconic and beautiful instruments made. A lightweight fantastic sounding example, this guitar features the earlier P-90 and ‘Staple’ Alnico pickup combination and has undergone a full refinish and a few mods over the years that help keep the price down.

Introduced officially in 1954 as the deluxe Les Paul Model with features and appointments taken from the top-of-the-range Archtop guitars of the period. As a Signature instrument the guitar was developed with input from Les himself with the Black finish one of Les’ specifications. There was more to this new model than solely the finish as Gibson took the opportunity to fit the Les Paul Custom with the new innovations such as the Alnico Pickup and the newly patented adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece. Underneath the Les Paul Custom's gleaming Black nitrocellulose lacquer the body eschewed the Maple cap of the Les Paul Model with a body crafted entirely from Mahogany.  The appointments were suitably high-end; the fretboard is Ebony with pearl block inlay, and the elaborate split diamond motif on the headstock came from the Super 400, Gibson's most expensive guitar. The Catalog gives the new model the moniker “The Fretless Wonder” thanks to the “extremely low smooth frets and playing action”. During 1957 the Les Paul Custom specs would change in line with other high end models in the range and gain a trio of Gibson’s newly released Humbucker pickups.

This guitar has undergone a full restoration prior to coming to the shop with a full refin in black Nitrocellulose lacquer. The work was completed prior to the previous owners purchase. The quality of the refinish is to a high standard and the work has been done a sufficient time ago that it has naturally aged and visually softened. There is the same level of lacquer checking and cracking evident that you would expect for a well maintained original example. There is no evidence of any repairs to the headstock or heel of the instrument and the transition from neck to headstock is in appearance and feel as you would expect for an un-repaired guitar. Likewise the neck tenon appears untouched and free of damage or repair. Under backlight there is evidence of two plugged holes on the guitar's top by the volume and tone control locations and the side of the guitar offers  clues to the finish work with multiple filled holes in the area of the input jack, repairs that are easily evident on inspection from inside the control cavity. The top looks to have been over sanded in the area by the pickup selector as the binding is thinner at this point. The serial number has been reapplied in yellow ink as part of the refinishing work. The headstock features original celluloid tipped Kluson Waffleback tuners with replacement crosshead screws. The Pearl inlayed Gibson Logo has the open O and B with the dot on the I free from the G and distinctive split diamond motif almost meets the Truss Rod cover in the correct elevated position often seen in ’57. The model specific engraved Les Paul Custom Truss rod cover is made from the correct material with rolling marks from the manufacturing process evident from the right angle. The Ebony fingerboard is in good condition and the Pearl Block inlays are as flawless as they were in 1957. Frets and binding nut are in good condition, the binding nibs are present and the wire is the correct type used pre-59.

Inside the control cavity there are two BumbleBee capacitors and a set of CentraLab Pots with a 40th week of 1957 source code. Pickups measure 8.24K at the bridge and 8.41K in the neck position. The P-90 bridge and Alnico neck pickups are a defining part of these early Les Paul Customs with both pickups appearing to be original parts, the P-90 baseplate is corroded and the tape does not fluoresce leading us to suspect the pickup has been rewound. The Alnico neck pickup likewise looks to have been worked on. The solder joints look tidy but have been broken as expected to necessitate the finish work. The Centralab pots are the solid shaft variety that potentially have been sourced later for the guitar as part of the restoration work. This does mean the knobs will spin on the shaft if too much pressure is applied.
Plastics are black throughout and comprise of the thin ’poker chip’ pickup selector, 5-ply pickguard, input jack cover and pickup covers. The wide bevel 3 ply pickguard is made from the correct material with rolling marks from the manufacturing process evident from the right angle. The bracket is likely a later replacement part. The Gold plated hardware is all in good condition with the rare gold, no-wire ABR-1 and stoptail piece showing wear to the plating but still functioning perfectly. Knobs are the correct black bonnet variety used by Gibson from 1955 up to 1960.

The guitar is a fantastic sounding and inspiring instrument to play, the combination of an old and seasoned solid Mahogany body with a fast ebony fingerboard and two articulate single coil pickups is quite special. The neck Alnico pickup is warm and transparent with a cleaner, less gritty quality when compared to a P90 but still with enough poke to balance nicely with the more visceral and punchy sounding bridge pickup. The weight is right in the sweet spot for many Les Paul Custom aficionados at a 8.9lbs. It's a very comfortable guitar to play: the neck has a wonderful profile tapering from a depth of 21.95mm at the first fret and 24.32mm at the 12th fret. The guitar is currently set up with a good low action and with 10 gauge strings it more than lives up to its reputation playability wise.

1950’s Les Paul Customs are a rare instrument with fewer than 2000 produced; approximately 1000 of those featuring the earlier twin P-90 and ‘Staple’ Alnico pickup combination before the guitar would go on to feature a trio of PAF pickups followed by the newly designed SG/Les Paul in the early 1960's. This guitar has undergone a full restoration prior to coming into the shop and wants for nothing. The repair work has been completed to a high standard and the guitar now looks, feels and plays every bit as well as you would want from this range topping guitar. The guitar comes with its original Lifton case.
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