1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard, Goldtop

By Gibson

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Incredible and iconic early 1957 Gibson Les Paul Model in stunning Goldtop finish. The guitar has been in a private collection since the 1990’s and is in fantastic condition. Featuring a wonderful sounding set of early brushed Steel, no-decal PAF pickups, the guitar features black plastics parts throughout, a natural back and the lower set Gibson headstock inlay. 

1957 was an important transitional year for the Gibson Les Paul Standard that would see the instrument available in a variety of guises. The Les Paul Model was initially released in 1952 as a response to the changing habits and necessities of the modern 1950’s guitarist and by 1957 it was an established part of the catalog joined by the higher appointed Les Paul Custom Model and the Student level Les Paul Special and Junior models. Upon its release in 1952, the Les Paul Model was unmistakably Gibson with many aesthetics, characteristics and production qualities carried over from decades of stringed instrument manufacture. From the set-in-neck, carved top, inlayed headstock and Rosewood fingerboard to the inherent quality and craftsmanship; the guitar was a Gibson through and through.

One departure from the norm was the strikingly opulent Gold finish that the new instrument would receive - a characteristic that would endure until 1958. The 1952 configuration of two single-coil P-90 pickups, cream plastics with combination bar bridge/trapeze tailpiece was superseded by the simplified ‘stud’ bar bridge/tailpiece in ‘53. ’55 would see the addition of an ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece offering additional adjustment and intonation. 1957 would arguably bring the biggest change to the Les Paul Model with the introduction of two, newly designed Gibson Humbucking pickups. Developed by Seth Lover at the request of the then-president Ted McCarty, the humbucking pickup or P.A.F. as it would become known, would for many go on to define the Les Paul sound.

The model transitioned from P-90 to P.A.F pickups in early to mid '57 during the serial number range of ‘7 2000’ to ‘7 3800’. During this period some guitars were released as ‘dark back’ versions with the natural Mahogany finish replaced with dark brown back, sides and neck. These are easily identifiable by their yellow ink serial number and black control cavity covers. It is widely accepted that for the first month of humbucker production Gibson used black plastic parts as featured on the Les Paul Custom (pickguard, pickup rings, switch surround) before transitioning to cream by about serial number '7 32XX’. This would be the final iteration of the ‘Goldtop’ Les Paul until the Autumn of 1958 and the release of the equally iconic Sunburst Les Paul ‘Burst’.

Visually this guitar has a stunning appearance, its original Goldtop finish is deep and lustrous with plenty of fine, light checking when viewed from certain angles, highlighted by the deep dish top carve. Unlike many, this guitar has largely resisted the age related greening that affects some Goldtops from this era, and although it shows some play wear (most notably an area of wear to the edge of the pickguard) it is in excellent overall condition for it's age.

The headstock displays the serial number #7 2349 putting the guitar within the early group of humbucker equipped instruments. The tuners are the original Single line/Single ring PAT APPLD Kluson Deluxe tuners with Keystone buttons. The Gibson Logo is inlayed lower into the headstock, a trait often seen from this period. The guitar has its original nut and original narrow wire frets. Plastics are black throughout and comprise of the thin ’poker chip’ pickup selector, 5-ply pickguard, input jack cover and M-69 pickup rings. The Nickel hardware is in good overall condition with the ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge and tailpiece gently burnished with use. Knobs are the correct gold bonnet variety used from 1955 into mid 1960.

Inside the control cavity are two original bumblebee capacitors and a matched set of CentraLab pots dating 1st week of 1957. Pickups measure 7.06K at the bridge and 7.09K in the neck position - this lower output is to be expected from these early examples, and they sound superb. As is typical of early PAF pickups they have no PAF sticker, have brushed stainless steel covers and steel baseplate screws. The pickups are out of phase with each other in the middle position: Although rare, there are examples of 50’s Gibson guitars that have that have left the factory with the pickups out of phase, and given the solder on the covers appears intact/unmolested we suspect this is one of those rare examples. The wiring is 'modern' spec rather than 50s (a two-solder-joint mod) meaning you get a really well balanced top-end roll-off with the volume. As this work was done over 25 years ago (prior to the previous owners stewardship), and given it sounds so good we have decided to leave the option of reverting it to factory setup to the next owner.

The guitar sounds fantastic and is an inspiring instrument to play. Original P.A.F pickups are in themselves a wonderful thing to behold but these early examples have a quality unto themselves. There is a purity to the tone, somewhat softer and less mid focused sounding than some later examples, with a harmonic bloom that never becomes crowded, with overtones drifting in and out as the note decays. The neck pickup has a wonderful woody hollowness yet retains it characteristic flutey sustain. The bridge pickup has a precision and clarity that really responds to picking dynamics. This guitar will snarl, twang and bite like the best of them. The out-of-phase middle position gives the guitar the characteristic, delicate vocal tone popularised and synonymous with Peter Green, and makes for a very versatile, useable guitar.

The weight is right in the sweet spot for many Les Paul aficionados at 8.6lbs. It's a very comfortable guitar to play: the neck has a wonderful played in feel, the profile is unmistakably ’50s Gibson - more refined than many earlier ‘50s examples, it tapers from a delicate V at the headstock to a rounder C at the heel. Depth is approx. 22mm at the first fret and 23mm 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. The original frets are the smaller ‘banjo’ wire and play well. They are low but display no pitting and each note rings out with no dead spots.

It is thought that only approximately 750 Les Paul Goldtops with PAFs were shipped between 1957 and 1958 and with only 598 Goldtop Les Pauls shipped in 1957 the number of instruments with black plastics and Humbuckers would be a small proportion of that making this guitar one of the rarest variations of Les Paul Models from the 50s. Rarely seen in today's market, this is an excellent opportunity to acquire an original, early PAF Les Paul complete with original 5-latch Lifton hard case.

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