Gibson Les Paul Custom Solid Body Electric Guitar (1969)

Gibson  Les Paul Custom Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1969)

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Item # 8304
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Gibson Les Paul Custom Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1969), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 500725, black lacquer finish, mahogany body with maple cap; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black tolex hard shell case.

One of the all-time most sought after of late-1960s Gibsons, the 1968-9 Les Paul Custom has developed a mystique all its own. This gleaming black-and-gold beauty was arguably the greatest success story to come out of Kalamazoo after the departure of Ted McCarty, and remains an enduring classic today. Re-issuing the original '50s style Les Paul models was one of the few great ideas Gibson had in 1968, a year not otherwise remembered as a company high point!

The new "old" Les Pauls -- initially a gold-top Standard with P-90s and black Custom with humbuckers -- were introduced at the 1968 NAMM show and proved an immediate success. Within months of their introduction, the company ramped up production dramatically and started making production changes that were considered minor at the time, but have become the stuff of collector obsession since.

This particular guitar was almost certainly made in early 1969; we received it from the original owner who firmly recalls buying it brand new in March that year -- it was a major investment at the time! It has some transitional features that support this scenario. The visible pot dates are to the 52nd week of 1968, so they would have been available for installation at Gibson around January '69, at the earliest!

The body is the earlier 1968 style one-piece slab of mahogany with a maple cap. This is a distinguishing feature of the '68 Custom re-issue; the '50s original mahogany-bodied Customs did not feature the maple top, something Les Paul himself called a "mistake". As Les was a consultant on the re-issues, this was one thing that was changed! Later, in 1969, Gibson began laminating the Les Paul bodies out of multiple pieces of mahogany; these so-called "pancake" bodies are considered less desirable now.

This guitar has the new-in-1969 three-piece mahogany neck, which replaced single-piece mahogany construction right around this point. This neck is built with the just-introduced medium-length mounting tenon; the hole in the pickup cavity is still routed for the older long tenon. The Gibson logo has no dot on the "i" which also differs from the earliest 1968 examples. As is typical for the Custom model, it has a bound ebony fingerboard with pearl block inlay. The tuners are 1950s-style Kluson Sealfast units, nicknamed "wafflebacks" with metal keystone buttons.

This Custom mounts two Patent-sticker humbucking pickups, instead of the three PAFs used in the late 1950s. This is the other main variation from the original and was another change many considered to be for the better. Indeed, over the years players have come to regard the 1968 re-issue Custom a tonally superior instrument to its 1958-60 ancestor, due to the brighter maple capped body and the absence of the (to many) in-the-way third middle pickup.

The body itself is finished in gleaming black lacquer with multiple binding that has aged under the clear topcoat to an amber color. All hardware is gold-plated including the Tune-O-Matic bridge with Nylon saddles. The knobs are another distinguishing feature -- Amp-style "witch-hat" black plastic pieces with a gold cap.

Although the 1968-69 Les Pauls were a major success for Gibson, this is still a fairly rare guitar. Well under 2,500 of these "Black Beauties" shipped out of Kalamazoo in 1969, and only 433 the year before. Many of the 1969 models have multi-piece bodies, as well.

By 1970 Gibson made further changes to the Les Pauls, including adding a volute to the back of the neck and a "Made In USA" stamp, as the '70s kicked in and production was in the multiple thousands each year. In the years since these early re-issues, "Black Beauty" Customs have become one of the most recognizable and collectible of late-'60s Gibsons, and as always wonderful-sounding guitars with their own special character. John Fogerty still plays his 1968 original, and many other players who bought one "back in the day" still cherish it as well.
 
Overall length is 39 1/4 in. (99.7 cm.), 13 in. (33 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 2 in. (5.1 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This is a nicely preserved original guitar; definitely played, but well-cared for and never abused. The black lacquer finish has a beautiful look and still gleams in ebony splendor, with numerous small dings and dents but no large areas of loss.

There is a area of heavy scratching on the side down by the jack, but the original plastic jackplate is still intact with one small corner crack. There are scratches and buckle narks on the back into but not through the finish. The top is very clean overall but does have a few small dings that have been lightly touched up -- a few tiny spots above the neck joint and a slightly larger scrape on the cutaway tip. The back of the neck has only very small dings and dents.

The gold plating on the hardware is worn overall; most is gone from the stop tailpiece and rear pickup cover and the bridge itself and neck pickup cover show some loss as well. The pickup covers appear to have been removed and re-attached long ago, but the pickups themselves are not tampered with. The "Patent number" stickers have flaked away partially on the bridge pickup and completely on the neck pickup baseplates.

The guitar retains its original wiring rig, including the 1968 dated pots and Sprague "black beauty" caps. When this instrument came to us, the selector switch had been replaced in the 1970s; we were able to locate and install a correct original gold-plated 1968 switch and the guitar practically sighed in relief at being complete again. The only other non-original hardware is a very close reproduction pickguard and bracket.

The guitar looks to have been refretted long ago with somewhat wider wire; this is very typical for these older Customs as in the 1960s and '70s practically nobody liked the "fretless wonder" tiny, flat frets they originally came with. The current frets are fairly low and do a nice job of "splitting the difference" between the original low fret style and a more typical '70s jumbo feel.

The guitar plays very well and sounds spectacular. It is still housed in its original rectangular 1968-style case, which is a bit worn with a replaced handle but still does the job. A true gem of an old Les Paul, well-loved and now on the market for the first time since it was new nearly 50 years ago! Overall Excellent Condition.