Gibson Custom Shop 1956 Reissue Les Paul Goldtop VOS Antique Gold

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The original Les Paul guitar was essentially a collaboration between Gibson president, Ted McCarty and Les Paul, who was arguably one of the most popular and widely respected guitar player and recording star of his time. According to Paul, the basic idea was his, but the concept of the carved top came from Maurice Berlin, who was then the head of Gibson’s parent company, CMI. In several published accounts, Paul tells of how Berlin took him into his personal violin vault to show him the carved tops. He explained that Gibson was the only company at the time with the capabilities to build a solidbody guitar with what we now know as the “arched” or “carved” top. The year was 1951 and the first Les Pauls eventually rolled off the Gibson assembly line – complete with carved tops – in 1952 at a list price of just $210. Back then, the color gold was considered to mean “expensive, the best, superb,” so from 1952 to 1957, all Les Paul guitars had gold painted tops. The combination of two P-90 single-coil pickups and four controls (two volume and two tone) had been a feature of earlier guitars such as the L5CES and Super 400CES. This was cutting edge at the time and it wasn’t until 1957 that the Les Paul had a pair of humbucking pickups, which is the configuration we think of now as standard on all Les Pauls. While P-90s were somehow considered inferior, many players still prefer the slightly brighter, edgier sound. Now Gibson has gone back to basics and reintroduced a stunningly realized, historically accurate reissue of the 1956 Les Paul, complete with Gold finish and two P-90 pickups, which were a cream color at the time, leading to the nickname “soapbars.” It also has the McCarty designed Tune-o-matic bridge, which Gibson started using on most of its guitars in 1955. Naturally, those early Les Pauls got gobbled up during the vintage guitar boom of the late 1980s and 1990s, so there’s no way you or I could possibly afford one (that’s assuming you could even locate one for sale). So for us, Gibson created the Vintage Original Spec Series, which just happens to include a beautiful reproduction of the 1956 Les Paul “Gold Top.” Folks, this is as close as Gibson has ever come to producing a guitar that might just have popped out of a time machine set to go back to 1956! Owning this guitar is truly like owning a piece of music history

Historically accurate single cutaway maple and mahogany body in Antique Gold

There have been a lot of recreations of the original Les Paul guitars over the decades. However, not all of them were dead-on accurate – indeed, few were. The reason is simple: Gibson had stopped building these guitars for quite a while and the original specs were lost. It has taken the Custom, Art & Historic Division a long time to locate really great examples of those early instruments. Now armed with the most accurate measurements, right down to the smallest detail, Gibson has released what it’s calling the Vintage Original Spec (VOS) Series, which includes this gorgeous replica of the ’56 Les Paul “Gold Top.” Under the gold paint beats the heart of any Les Paul, which is the classic combination of a mahogany body (which tends to produce a slightly darker, warmer sound) and a maple top (which adds a bit of extra “zing” to the top end). While the 1954 Les Paul Custom (known as the “Black Beauty”) had an all mahogany body, eventually all Les Pauls ended up with mahogany and maple, a time-tested formula that’s popular with musicians around the world. The single-ply cream body binding on the guitar’s top adds that final touch of class.

Two P-90 pickups two volume, two tone controls with three-way toggle switch

The 1956 Les Paul Gold Top’s two P-90 single coil pickups combined with two volume and two tone controls were as good as it got at the time. In 1957 the Les Paul Gold Top got an “upgrade” to two humbucking pickups, which were designed by Gibson’s Seth Lover and are widely called “PAFs” because early examples had “Patent Applied For” stickers on the underside. While most players today favor the slightly darker sound of humbuckers, others have found that P-90s offer a distinctive sound, particularly when used on a maple and mahogany guitar. There’s a bit of extra bite to the sound, though they warm up nicely when the tone controls are rolled slightly back. The Vintage Original Spec 1956 Les Paul Gold Top has a pair of those P-90 “soapbar” pickups, which are wound to the exact specifications of the originals. Even the CTS pots and “bumble-bee” capacitors have been faithfully recreated here. A three-way toggle switch is used to choose front, rear or both pickups. Most players today will opt for one of the later Les Pauls, like the ’58 “Plain Top” or the 1959 version with its figured maple top. The ’56 Gold Top is crafted for those guitarists who know truly appreciate both the look and the sound of those early Les Pauls!
Mahogany neck with early 1950s profile and rosewood fingerboard
When early Les Pauls are discussed – and they are at great length – a big issue is always the neck profile. The earliest Les Pauls had big, fat necks made of mahogany. The neck was slimmed down a bit in 1959 and it finally evolved into what’s known today as the “slim taper” neck in 1960. Some players love those huge old necks while others prefer the slim taper design. This ’56 Vintage Original Spec Les Paul Gold Top has a bound mahogany neck with long neck tenon and the original chunky ’50s rounded neck profile, which is historically accurate. It lets you really lean into the neck and dig in for the best tone. The rosewood fingerboard has acrylic trapezoid inlays that are both accurate in shape and color. Nickel-plated hardware and vintage “tulip” tuners complete the package.

Authentic ABR-1 tune-o-matic bridge with stop tailpiece

One of Gibson’s many accomplishments during the 1950s was the development of the tune-o-matic bridge, which allowed for precise intonation of each and every string. The patent for the design, which Gibson designated as the ABR-1, was granted to Gibson president Ted McCarty, a fact that’s never been in dispute, though it wasn’t until more recently that McCarty’s many innovations have truly been recognized. Since then, millions of guitars have been built with variations on that theme. Though for a while, it seemed that the design for those original bridges might be gone, Gibson has brilliantly recreated it for the ’56 Vintage Original Spec Les Paul Gold Top. While a small number of ’50s Les Pauls shipped with Bigsby vibratos, the majority of players will prefer this version which has the standard stud-mounted stop tailpiece, which helps produce the incredible sustain Les Pauls have always been famous for.

This guitar weighs in at 8.3 lbs. Neck measurements read .91 of an inch at the 1st fret, and 1.0 at the 12th

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Custom Shop 1956 Reissue Les Paul Goldtop VOS


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