The Les Paul Gold Top – 60 Years of an Icon

1952 Les Paul Gold Top

The Les Paul Gold top celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, so here are six great examples…

The Les Paul Gold top is about as iconic as a guitar can be. The object of generations of guitarists’ desire for six decades, the Gold top is lusted after now more than ever. The product of Gibson guitars and Les Paul’s knowledge from his own experiments with solid body guitars and pickups, this was the brand’s first ever solid body model. To say it was a success is something of an understatement.

Many aspects of the original Gold top ’s design have remained unchanged throughout the years. The mahogany body, with maple cap, glued, set mahogany neck and short scale length are still staple features. The original was equipped with two P90 single coil pickups, whose wide coils produced a bigger, richer tone than those on other models available at the time. Whilst twin humbucker Les Paul models are now more commonplace, the P90s versions are still favoured for their more ‘forward’ mid-range response.

In recognition of the Les Paul Goldtop, and its 60th anniversary, here are six great, current Gold tops…

Gibson Custom 1956 Les Paul Gold Top VOS

Gibson Custom 1956 Les Paul Gold top VOS

This is a recreation of a Les Paul Gold top from an era of transition, and includes many features of the ’52 Les Paul, but with several features that have now become standard. The wraptail bridge was replaced with the Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. This improved sustain, and provided saddles that could be adjusted, along with height, for finding perfect playing action and intonation.

This 1956 Les Paul Gold top recreation is finished with the softly ‘worn’ looking VOS nitrocellulose finish, but with all period correct detail.

Gibson Les Paul Studio '60s tribute Gold Top

Gibson Les Paul Studio 60s Tribute Satin Darkback Gold Top

If you like the features of the above, but not the price, you could do far worse than this ‘60s tribute Les Paul Gold top. This model features the same P90 pickups and tune-o-matic bridge, but the slightly more pared back aesthetics of a studio model, and a satin finish. The neck is the standard, glued-in set neck type, but with a slimmer, ‘60s Slimtaper profile. Complete with a padded Gibson gigbag, this is an affordable, US made Gold top.

Gibson 1957 Les Paul Gold top VOS

Gibson 1957 Les Paul Goldtop VOS

What a difference a year makes… 1957 was the year that Gibson introduced the PAF (patent applied for) humbucker pickup to the Les Paul Gold top. This was perhaps, the moment that the modern Les Paul, as we know it, was truly born. These pickups provided thicker, more powerful tone, with rich, warm low-end, and higher gain than single coils. Plus, as the name attests, they also reduce much of the hum common to single coil pickups. Remarkably, this would be the last year of the Gold top finish until 1969.

This 1957 Goldtop VOS model features all period correct hardware and construction. The body is solid, and non-weight relieved, the pickups are Burstbucker models, which closely match the tone of the original PAFs, a Tune-o-matic bridge is equipped, and even the neck join is same long tenon used in ‘50s Les Pauls. The guitar’s finish is an antique gold, recreating the slightly shade of early gold tops.

Gibson Classic Custom Les Paul Goldtop

Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom Gold top

This modern Les Paul Gold top is a model that offers the looks of a Custom model (albeit in gold), with many of the features of a Standard model, but at a significantly lower price. The Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom is constructed around a weight relieved mahogany body with maple top, with mahogany set-neck and baked maple fingerboard, and luxurious ‘custom’ appointments, such as 3-ply binding. Two ’57 Classic humbuckers provide plenty of high gain tone, and the guitar comes with a hardshell case.

Gibson Joe Bonamassa Les Paul goldtop

Epiphone Limited Edition Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Gold top

He’s the most talked about blues guitarist in the world, and he’s got more guitars than some guitar stores, but his signature model is a Les Paul Gold top. For those whose budget won’t stretch to the Gibson model, Epiphone produced this excellent equivalent. Remarkably this very affordable model has many of the features of the ‘full-fat’ version, including the same Gibson Burstbucker Pickups. The Epiphone Limited Edition Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Gold top is exceptional value.

Gibson 2012 Les Paul Standard Gold Top

Gibson Les Paul Standard 2012 Electric Guitar Gold Top

The latest incarnation of the guitar that started it all, this Gibson Les Paul Gold Top updates the Standard model for 2012. As previously stated, the core, winning elements of the original Les Paul remain, but with some great new features. The body is the same combination of mahogany back with maple top, providing the thick warm tone with focused mids and highs, with, of course, a mahogany set neck.

The electronics on the 2013 Standard Les Paul Gold top are the major update to this model. Push/ pull switches allow the humbuckers to be switched into single coils, and the phase of the phase of the neck pickup to be flipped. There has never been a Gold top with more tones at its disposal…

The Les Paul Gold top shows no signs of diminishing in popularity. Another 60 years? Quite possibly…

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Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.