A Black Beauty for the Black Tie Crowd
Custom: exclusive, elite, unparalleled. When guitar star Les Paul sound down with Gibson in the early 1950s to devise the revolutionary instrument that would carry his name, he envisioned two versions of the Les Paul Model: a “standard” version with gold top finish and nickel-plated hardware, and a Custom model that would be the crème de la crème. This Les Paul Custom would be dressed in formal wear, like the tux a jazz artist might pull on for a major performance, with a high-gloss Ebony black finish, multi-ply binding on body and headstock, an ebony fingerboard with pearl block markers, a larger headstock with mother-of-pearl split-diamond inlay, and gold-plated hardware throughout. As busy as Gibson was getting its debut solidbody electric guitar into production, the Goldtop was the first model out of the box in 1952, with the Custom on the back burner for further development. With the Goldtop off and running and gathering fans fast, Gibson turned its attention to designing the Les Paul Custom in 1953, planning for a release the following year, and prepared to make it something special. In addition to Paul’s desired Custom appointments, it gave this high-end electric the best of its new developments in hardware and electronics.
Though not a guitarist himself, Gibson president Ted McCarty had seen the need for a more efficient, more adjustable bridge, and had personally designed the Tune-o-matic (ABR-1), which had individual string saddles for precise intonation adjustment, and easy height adjustment via a pair of thumb-wheels on its body-mounted bolts. The Les Paul Custom of 1954 was the first to receive this revolutionary piece of hardware, which was partnered with a stopbar tailpiece (or optional Bigsby vibrato), and its inclusion marked a major step forward in the evolution of the Les Paul in general. Also new that year, at McCarty’s behest Seth Lover, who would soon contribute to the design of the legendary PAF humbucker, developed a new single-coil pickup based on the general proportions of the P-90, but with fully adjustable Alnico V bar-magnet pole pieces for a clearer, brighter, more precise tone. Another first on the Les Paul Custom of 1954, this new Alnico V pickup (also called the “staple” pickup by some), gave added note definition in the neck position, while a traditional P-90 in the bridge position provided its beloved bite and growl. With these appointments, plus a set of upgraded Grover “kidney button” tuners, the “Black Beauty” was unveiled as the 1954 Les Paul Custom, a guitar that lives again in the form of the Custom Shop 1954 Les Paul Custom. With its lightweight, non-weight relieved one-piece mahogany body, carved mahogany top, long neck tenon, rounded early ’50s neck profile, and all the custom-grade appointments of the original—from pickups, to hardware, to finish, to inlays and binding—the Custom Shop 1954 Les Paul Custom takes you back in time 56 years to a black-tie event, where tone is the guest of honor. It’s the crème de la crème, just like Mr. Les Paul ordered, and the only way of getting your hands on this original-spec package short of rooting out a rare and prized original. All Custom Shop 1954 Les Paul Customs come with a Custom Shop hardshell case, Certificate of Authenticity, and owner’s manual and care and adjustment literative.