Back in the early 50’s and Mr Paul himself required a more classy version of the Les Paul – The result is what many now refer to as the ’54 Black Beauty’ – You’d pay a hefty price now for an original model, but thankfully there is demand for a replica – So let me introduce you to a Gibson Historic Les Paul Custom Reissue, circa 2006 and crafted by the Custom Shop team – A small run of replicas was first released in 1972 (around a 1000 guitars) – In 2006 Gibson offered a further run of the original Black Beauty 54 LP Custom and again only as part of a limited run – I’m led to believe this model was not offered prior to 2006 – Yet the serial number supports a 2005 date of birth – As such I suspect this example might have been completed in the final months of 2005, ready for release in 2006 – The serial number suggest this was #98 of the run, from Nashville – Let me commence with some basic information first :- Condition wise this 2006 LP is very clean – We all know that a black finish, be it on a car, or a guitar, can mark so easily as it instantly shows up any finger prints – As such it is a total pain to keep clean at all times – If a fly landed on that shiny nitro gloss finish then I dare say it would leave a small visible footprint – So taking this into account I can report no dings, dints or anything of any consequence, so any hint of previous use is just the odd very light graze to the top surface of the finish – It won’t earn the ‘as new’ tag, but it is well worth a 9 out of 10 – Frets show no sign of use, but even so we have allowed the guitar to visit the work bench for a fret polish, a coat of lemon oil on the fingerboard, along with a new set of 10’s plus check-up/set-up – Even the gold hardware is pretty much fine, with only a slight hint of fading where you might rest your hand, by the corner of the bridge – The black ‘Custom’ deluxe case is also in top condition
Quick history lesson :- Back in 1952 Gibson and Les Paul had always intended the gold top model to be the ‘standard’ model with a prestigious model to follow – In 1954 the LP Custom was released and has since acquired the ‘Black Beauty’ nick name – It was loaded with extra trimmings that included gold hardware, mother of pearl split diamond headstock inlay, multi-ply binding to the body and headstock, along with a bound ebony fingerboard – This 54 replica still carries a dark ebony fingerboard, but due to various Eco supply issues, ebony is becoming far more obtainable for Gibson, to the point ‘richlite’ is the norm today on many other similar models – Add a shiny nitro gloss black finish and the LP Custom was ready to go to the ball as guest of honour – Variations of the LP Custom followed over the years, with both two and three humbucking versions always proving popular, but this is the original model that is instantly recognisable thanks to the unique alnico V neck pick-up, that was designed by Seth Lover – The ’54’ Custom was also the first LP to feature the new ABR1 bridge assembly and a separate tailpiece, whilst a solid one piece mahogany body with a carved mahogany top was also a first – A set of Grover machine heads with kidney tuning buttons effectively completed the package – This was the posh boys LP, that matched the velvet tux you wore at a important gigs, balls and concerts – Gibson through their Historic Collection and Custom Shop programme have always offered a large selection of LP Standard 58/59 models, 57 and 56 Gold Top models, but replicas of the original ’54’ LP Custom has always had more of a limited edition character about them – So maybe this delightful 2006 used model could be heading your way
Additional spec and features:-
- All gold plated hardware that includes the ABR1 bridge with wire retainer, along with a light weight aluminium tailpiece
- Cream (off white) + black multiply binding
- Dark and very smooth ebony fingerboard
- Inked serial number – commences with 4 + 4 additional numbers
- Pair of bumble bee capacitors
- Grover machine heads with kidney tuning buttons
- Solid one piece mahogany body and carved top
- One piece mahogany neck – measures .905″ at the top nut end and 1.025″ at the 12th fret – Hence more on the meaty side with a C profile
- Whole guitar weighs 9lbs and 7oz ]
- Seth Lover designed alnico V neck pick-up (measures 8.64K) – P90 bridge pick-up that measures 7.75K
Weight/feel/playing performance :- Some will always question an LP that weighs over 9lbs but light LP Custom’s barely exist, from any era, so effectively a case of live with it, or leave it alone – Providing we don’t go stupid with the weight (and I’ve seen many LP Customs that weigh over 10lbs) then the tone and resonance surely takes priority – The all mahogany body ensures a warm tone that is very focused, smooth and rich – It can be succulent and luxurious on clean chilled out jazz influenced amp settings, or bite and snarl on overdriven amp settings, so a one trick pony it isn’t – The neck has a rounded 50’s profile that possesses a comfortable amount of girth that you can still easily handle – There are certainly some 50’s LP reissues with bigger necks than this ’54’ Custom, so I suppose it sits in medium to large territory with a ‘user friendly’ character – With an ebony fingerboard it feels slick – Frets are as per many 50’s LP reissues, hence a medium/vintage profile – The original Fretless Wonders maybe fine for slick jazz licks, but for bending those rock.blues licks then they are a nightmare – So no worries with this ’54’ Custom as it is effectively spec’d with the same medium/vintage frets you’ll find on many reissues from the Custom Shop team – I’ve re-strung and set it up with a set of 10’s, so already to go with a sensible fluid action
Tonal character :- No shortage of soul, emotion, passion and expression on clean or overdriven amp settings – For now, set-up the amp with a touch of overdrive, then leave it alone and only utilise the volume pots on the guitar, plus the tone pot a touch if required – As such, you can obtain a more chilled out voice if required when you roll back the volume pot towards 6 or 7 – This setting is now an ideal place to set up your base camp – As required, then wind it back towards 10 as you need more ‘boost’ – Again on hi-gain overdriven amp settings, the same approach stills works but now acts more of a gain pot – This way, with the volume pots on 10, it is the full on approach with everything just on the edge of going out of control, like the red line on a rev counter – Therefore roll back the volume pot until you obtain a more controlled and smoother overdriven amp setting that still sings and whaiiilllls – This approach will ensure that there is no shortage of controlled emotion at your fingertips – That neck pick-up is so warm, and smooth with excellent articulation – The P90 can attack and bite if required, or be more tame as required, but always tight, with a full body to it, crisp highs and transparent mids – Originally designed a ‘posh guitar’ for jazz gigs, the likes of Keith Richards has shown it is far more than that – It probably won’t suit the needs of a death metal rock player, but for jazz/fusion, pop, indie, plus classic rock ‘n’ blues it will be more than happy trying to please you
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