Les Paul Gold Top: Setting the Trend for Over 60 Years
Gibson breathe new life into the classic model
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 following the release of the stunning Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s and Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s P-90, as well as a slew of heavenly Custom Shop models.
The Les Paul is a product of Gibson guitars – namely Ted McCarty who was Gibson Guitar president at the time – and inventor/guitarist/musical wizard Les Paul, whose knowledge from his own experiments with solid body guitars and pickups was the brand’s first foray into the solid body world. To say it was a success is something of an understatement. (Game changer, perhaps?)
In the early ’50s the Les Paul started life as an all-mahogany model with a pair of P-90 single-coils, a trapeze-style bridge/tailpiece with strings fitted under rather than over a stopbar and a glued, set-in mahogany neck with short-scale length. Towards the late ’50s, various amendments were made to the Les Pauls’ design such as the addition of a maple top, switching out the trapeze-style tailpiece for a Tune-O-Matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece, and the move to the Seth Lover-designed PAF (U.S. Patent US2896491A) humbucker pickups.
Many aspects of the original Gold Top’s design would filter through to later models such as the coveted 1959 Les Paul (featuring a heritage cherry finish rather than gold) and have remained fairly consistent throughout the years. The mahogany body with maple cap paired with a glued, set-in mahogany neck for increased stability and resonance with short-scale length are still staple features. The original 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 legacy, we’ve taken a look at some recent additions to the Gibson family…
1. Gibson Custom 1956 Les Paul Gold Top Vintage Original Spec
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 wrap tail 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.
2. Gibson Les Paul Studio 60s Tribute Satin Dark Back/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.
3. Gibson 1957 Les Paul Vintage Original Spec
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 joint 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.
4. Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom
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.
5. Epiphone Limited Edition Joe Bonamassa Les Paul
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.
6. Gibson Les Paul Standard
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…
7. Les Paul Standard 50s
Here we go! Doffing their caps to Gibson’s Golden Era is the sublime Les Paul Standard 50s model: solid mahogany body sans weight relief with maple top; rounded 50’s-style mahogany neck provides a substantial feel in the hand; divine rosewood fingerboard with elegant trapezoid inlays to guide your way. What’s not to love so far? If you’re looking for the fit and feel of an old-school Gibson, then your prayers have been answered.
What about the tone? Well my friend, a pair of specially calibrated Burstbuckers occupy the neck and bridge positions, with independent volume and tone controls for each as well as Orange Drop capacitors to ensure that the slightest attenuation can be executed with utmost precision. Dreamy.
In terms of hardware the ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic bridge and accompanying aluminium stopbar tailpiece anchors everything securely for peerless intonation and sustain. Every model comes with a hardshell case to keep you pride and joy in pristine condition.
In short, unless you fancy stumping up for a Custom Shop model (and by all means go for it), the Les Paul Standard 50s is the model that so many have been asking for and Gibson have delivered in style!
8. Les Paul Standard 50s P90
OK, so take everything I’ve said about the Les Paul Standard 50s above and switch out the Burstbuckers for P-90s. Rather than Alnico II magnets, the P-90s pack a pair of Alnico Vs up their sleeves, giving these P-90s a formidable energy that will knock you on your backside. However, thanks to the carefully designed audio taper pots (Amber Top Hats with pointers – fancy), you can dial back the rawk and get a much smoother, less in your face character.
Even if we do say so ourselves, the Gold Top finish is absolutely gorgeous. From headstock to end pin this brings out all the good feels in the best possible way. The included hardshell case is the icing on an already delicious cake.
The Les Paul Gold Top shows no signs of diminishing in popularity. Another 60 years? Quite possibly…
Get in touch
Check out our full range of Gibson models over at the Dawsons website.
For further information don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Customer Service team on 01925 582420 or via email at [email protected].
Alternatively, head to your nearest Dawsons Music store where our in-store specialist will be more than happy to help you out.
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Beef up your knowledge with our handy “Guide to Gibson Pickups“.