Gibson Les Paul Custom Solid Body Electric Guitar (1970)

Gibson  Les Paul Custom Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1970)
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Item # 8777
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Gibson Les Paul Custom Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1970), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 918200, black lacquer finish, mahogany body with maple cap; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

One of the most sought-after of all late '60s and early '70s Gibsons, the first re-issue 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.

The return of the original '50s style Les Paul models was one of the few really good 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 made in the first half of 1970 and has some features specific to that period. The only visible pot date is to the 15th or 15th week of 1970. The body is the 1969-style, made up of laminated mahogany with a maple cap top. This was 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!

This guitar also has the new-in-1969 three-piece mahogany neck, which replaced the traditional single-piece mahogany construction. This neck is built with the just-introduced volute on the back behind the headstock, which is much smaller on the 1970 necks than on later construction. There is no "Made In USA" stamp on the headstock, which was introduced later in this same year. The Gibson logo has no dot on the "i" which also differs from the earliest 1968 -- and later '70's -- examples. The tuners are still 1950s-style Kluson Sealfast units, nicknamed "wafflebacks" with metal keystone buttons.

As is typical for the Custom model, this guitar has a bound ebony fingerboard with pearl block inlay. The frets are the original very small and flat-crowned "Fretless Wonder" style specified by Les Paul. A large proportion of these have been replaced with larger wire over the years as many rock players find them less friendly for string bending, and also they tend to wear quickly. This guitar has not seen a lot of play time and the original frets are in much better than average condition.

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 some players have come to regard the re-issue Custom a tonally superior instrument to its 1958-60 ancestor, due to the brighter maple capped body and the absence of the in-the-way (to many) third middle pickup.

The body itself is finished in gleaming black lacquer with multiple binding that has aged under the clear topcoat to a light 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 second generation Les Pauls were a major success for Gibson, this is still a somewhat rare guitar, at least in this well-kept condition. Under 2,500 of these "Black Beauties" shipped out of Kalamazoo in 1969, and about 2400 the next year. As the '70s kicked in The Custom became one of Gibson's biggest success stories and production was in the multiple thousands each year. In the years since "Black Beauty" Customs have become one of the most recognizable 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" cherish it as well. This early 1970 example is fresh to the market, having not been circulated since it was purchased in 1970 or '71.
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 very well-preserved guitar, which has apparently remained little used over the past 50 years. There is some minor wear here and there, but really this guitar has not seen a lot of play time. Apart from one small ding in the back of the neck behind the 9th fret, the finish shows only relatively superficial wear, mostly scuffs and scratches.

The back has some minor buckle scratching into but not through the lacquer in the lower waist area. There is one spot on the top where the finish has a cluster of tiny dot-like dings, from an unknown source. The gold plating is very strong with minimal rubbing or tarnishing. The original "fretless wonder" fretwire does not have much wear and the guitar plays well, though as always this very small fret is not to every player's taste. Overall this is a superb example of the 1970 version of this perennial Gibson classic, complete in its familiar original shaped case. Excellent + Condition.