Gibson Les Paul Standard 1952 – 1957

The Gibson Les Paul Standard, originating in 1952, has undergone substantial transformations throughout its existence, influencing both its playability and appeal to collectors. Here’s an in-depth exploration of its evolution:

Early Models (1952-1953):

The initial goldtop models from 1952 and early 1953 faced criticism for their shallow neckset and a problematic trapeze tailpiece. This design flaw made them less practical for players, as the strings wrapped under the bar, hindering palm muting. Additionally, a knock to the trapeze could throw the entire guitar out of tune. The neck angle further limited customization options. These early Les Paul Standards are often looked down upon by players.

Transition to Wrap-Around Bar (Early 1953):

Recognizing the issues, Gibson adopted the “wrap around bar” tailpiece/bridge combo by early 1953. This improved playability, allowing strings to wrap on top of the tailpiece for effective palm muting. However, accurate intonation became a challenge for many players.

Tune-o-matic Bridge and Stop Tailpiece (Fall 1955):

In fall 1955, the Les Paul Goldtop saw a major upgrade with the adoption of the Tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece, resolving intonation concerns. This configuration, paired with P-90 pickups, became highly praised, making the late 1955 to early 1957 Goldtop a versatile and coveted guitar.

Humbucking Pickups (Early 1957):

A pivotal moment in the Les Paul’s history occurred in early 1957 when Gibson switched from P-90 to humbucking pickups. This change solidified the Les Paul Standard as one of the most popular electric guitars globally. The humbucker goldtop, in particular, became highly sought after.

Visual Changes (1958):

The final significant change in 1958 brought a visual transformation, replacing the “goldtop” finish with a sunburst and changing the back color to cherry red. Despite being identical to the mid-1957 goldtop model, the sunburst Les Paul Standards from mid-1958 to 1960 are considered among the most attractive electric guitars ever produced.

Transition to SG Body Style (Late 1960):

In late 1960, the Les Paul underwent a major design shift with the introduction of the double cutaway SG body style, featuring a sideways vibrato and a thin neck backshape. However, these guitars were criticized for being less playable and are less collectible. The 1963 to 1964 SG Les Pauls saw improvements in vibrato and neck size.

Notable Model Features:

1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop:

  • Carved maple top (two or three pieces)
  • Single cutaway
  • Mahogany back and neck
  • Soapbar P-90 pickups with cream covers
  • Trapeze tailpiece/bridge combo
  • Cream binding on neck and top
  • Pearl logo
  • Goldtop finish
  • Nickel-plated parts

1953 to Early 1955 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop:

  • Stud wrap-around tailpiece/bridge
  • Serial number on back of peghead
  • Increased neck set for better adjustment
  • Curved top case introduced in 1954

Fall 1955 to Early 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop:

  • Tune-o-matic bridge
  • Stud tailpiece moved back to anchor strings
  • Change in knob shape to top-hat (“bonnet”)
  • Transition to Bumblebee tone capacitors

1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop:

  • Introduction of humbucking PAF pickups
  • Some goldtops with dark brown backs
  • Transition from black to cream plastic parts
  • Variation in peghead logo position
  • Rare mahogany-topped goldtops

The Gibson Les Paul Standard, with its rich history and various iterations, remains a timeless and iconic instrument in the world of electric guitars.