Gibson Les Paul Custom

The Gibson Les Paul Custom is a higher-end variation of the Gibson Les Paul guitar. It was developed in 1953 after Gibson had introduced the Les Paul model in 1952.

Les Paul Custom
Les Paul 57 Custom.jpg
A Les Paul 57 Custom
Period1954–1960; 1968–present
Body typeSolid
Neck jointSet
Scale24.75 in (629 mm)
BodyMahogany or Mahogany/Maple
NeckMahogany or Maple
FretboardEbony, Maple, Richlite
BridgeFixed, Tune O Matic, Tremolo
Pickup(s)2 or 3 Humbuckers, originally 2 P-90s
Colors available
Ebony, Alpine White, Tobacco Sunburst, Wine Red, Cherry Sunburst, Silver Burst, Gold/Bronze Sunburst, Natural "the Natural" (maple top w/maple fingerboard) Natural with Ebony Fingerboard (maple top w/ebony fingerboard Sam Ash Special 1975)


The 1952 Gibson Les Paul was originally made with a mahogany body with a one-inch-thick maple cap, a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard, two P-90 single coil pickups, and a one-piece, 'trapeze'-style bridge/tailpiece with strings fitted under (instead of over) a steel stop-bar.[note 1], available only with a gold-finished top, giving rise to the moniker "Gold-Top". In late 1953, a more luxurious version was introduced, most probably on specific request by Les Paul himself, as he wanted a more luxurious and classy looking guitar. He requested a black guitar as he wanted it to "look like a tuxedo". Nicknamed the Black Beauty, the guitar had a mahogany body and neck, ebony fret board, and mother of pearl block markers inlays in the fret board. The "Split Diamond" inlay on the headstock was taken from the carved archtop Super 400,[1] which was the top of the Gibson line. The pickups were a P-90 in the bridge position and an Alnico V pickup, newly designed by Seth Lover, in the neck position.[1][2] The frets are low and flat, as opposed to the usual medium jumbo frets found on other Les Paul customs, and the guitar soon was given the nickname "The Fretless Wonder". The 1954 Les Paul Custom also saw the introduction of Gibson's new bridge, the ABR-1. The new Custom also shipped with a different case from the Standard, using a black and gold case instead of the brown and pink case that was the top-of-the-line case for the Les Paul Standard models. However, in a 2009 telephone interview, JP Moats stated that, "On occasion, supply issues with the black and gold cases, would necessitate the use of Gibson's top-of-the-line case, so as to be able to fill orders; though it was rare". This was to be the case until the Custom was replaced and discontinued (though a similar black case was used with the LP/SG Custom models).

In mid-1957, Gibson began to equip the Les Paul Custom with the new PAF (Patent Applied For) pickup designed by Seth Lover. Most Customs have three PAFs, though there are a small number that have the traditional two-pickup configuration. By 1958, Gibson had replaced the Kluson tuners with Grover Rotomatics. It is this configuration that remained until the guitar was discontinued in 1960, replaced by the new double cutaway body Les Paul model. There are a small number of 1961 Les Paul Customs that were made with the single cutaway body before the transition to the new, SG-style body was complete.

The Les Paul Custom remained a double cutaway model until 1963, when Les Paul's endorsement with Gibson ended, and the guitar was subsequently renamed the SG Custom.

In 1968, Gibson re-introduced the Les Paul Custom as a two-pickup model. The headstock angle was changed from 17 to 14 degrees, a wider headstock and a maple top (in lieu of the original 1953–1961 solid-mahogany construction). In 1969, Norlin acquired Gibson, and the Les Paul Custom saw many changes between 1969 and 2004. The mahogany neck was replaced with a three-piece maple neck in 1975 (though some mahogany ones were still made, continuing till around 1982, and the solid-mahogany body was replaced in late 1969 with a "pancake" body, with a thin layer of maple between two thicker pieces of mahogany. which continued until 1977. In 1970, a "Made in USA" stamp was added to the back of the headstock, and a volute was added to the back of the neck to strengthen the thinnest part of the neck, just below the headstock.

In 1974, Gibson released the 20th anniversary Les Paul Custom in white, black, cherry sunburst and honey sunburst finishes (at least those four colors were made) with "20th Anniversary" engraved on the 15th-fret block inlay. By 1976, the new Nashville bridge began to replace the ABR-1. In 1977, the "pancake" maple layer was subtracted from the body, though the top was still maple, as was the neck. It was around this time that the current serial number system appears as well. In 1975, Gibson began making a number of Customs with maple fingerboards, instead of the typical ebony, which was discontinued by the early 1980s. From 1979 to 1982 or 1983, Gibson made a limited edition of 75 Les Paul Customs worldwide in the Silverburst colour with 2 "Tim Shaw Burstbuckers". In 1981, the volute was phased out.

In 1984, Gibson closed the Kalamazoo plant, and all production was moved to Nashville. In 1986, Norlin sold Gibson to a group of investors led by Henry Juszkiewicz.

The Les Paul Custom specs by the end of the 1980s:

  • Smaller headstock
  • Mahogany neck
  • Mahogany body
  • Maple top
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Gold hardware
  • 2 humbucking pickups
  • Nashville bridge
  • Standard Gibson frets, as opposed to wide, flatter frets

Gibson has been installing its 490R/498T pickups as standard equipment on the Custom since the 1990s.

Specific production years

Les Paul Custom guitars from 2000–2003 were specially made to the requirements of the client, as regards fretboard, neck and body woods, and type of hardware, with some models allowing for requests for specific numbers of turns in the pickups' coils, as well. Individual logo designs and hard cases were also manufactured at the request of the customer. Specific Custom Shop serial numbers were assigned, encoded with Les Paul Custom's smaller, more compact serial number in the format "CS XXXXX".

The first two numbers represent on which number this specific model was built, next two represent the year they were made in and the last numeric value represents the month of formation

Current modelsEdit

In 2004, Gibson moved construction of the Les Paul Custom to its Nashville Custom Shop. The specs remained similar, with the only immediate changes being a TKL-made Custom Shop case (black with a crushed red interior) and a Certificate of Authenticity, as well as a Gibson Custom decal on the back of the headstock. The serial number system for the Custom also changed from the 8 digit USA numbering system to the Custom Shop numbering system, which reads as CS YNNNN (Y = last number of the year of manufacture, N = guitar's place in sequential production for the year).

In 2011, Gibson replaced the ebony fingerboard on the production Custom with a solid paper-phenolic resin composite material. After the change in leadership following Gibson's near bankruptcy in 2018, Gibson returned to the use of ebony fret boards.

While the Custom is currently available only in Ebony and Alpine White, it is often offered in Wine Red, Cherry Sunburst and Silverburst, as well. The Custom model differs from the Les Paul Standard in many ways. The cosmetic differences include gold hardware (though silverburst Customs have chrome hardware); inlaid rectangular-block pearloid position markers on the fretboard rather than the modified trapezoidal "crown" inlays of the Standard (adding a marker at the first fret, whereas the Standard has none); a "split-diamond" five-section pearl inlay on the headstock; and multi-ply binding around the body and headstock, with standard single-ply binding along the fretboard edges. The construction differences are: a physically larger headstock; an ebony, maple or Richlite fretboard, all of which tend to produce a "snappier" tone than the rosewood fingerboard found on the Les Paul Standard; lower frets with more squared off tops (though lower than the frets on a Standard, today's production Custom does not have "Fretless Wonder" frets) and larger round "speed"-style knobs (though other knob types can be seen depending on the year and model). Gibson also does limited color runs, such as Pelham Blue, Frost Blue, Kerry Green, transparent colors, metallic colors and sunbursts that are not typically offered on a normal Custom. The hardware for those models can be either gold or chrome, depending on the color and/or specs. Starting in 2011, Gibson began to re-introduce maple fingerboards on the Custom, offering limited runs in the traditional colors, as well as transparent colors with figured tops.

In 2013, Gibson did a limited run of 1957 re-issue Customs (both 2 and 3 pickup models)[3] with ebony fretboards. They were the first Customs since 2011 to feature ebony fretboards, and came with white handling gloves, a 20th anniversary toggle switch control cover, a special COA and a Gibson Custom case. In 2012, Gibson re-introduced the original brown vinyl, pink-plush lined "California girl" case for its Custom Shop models, largely replacing the black and red case that had been in use for almost a decade.

The current Les Paul Custom specs are:

  • Weight relieved mahogany body
  • Maple top
  • Mahogany neck
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Ebony finish
  • Gold hardware
  • 490R/498T humbucking pickups
  • Nashville bridge
  • Stop tailpiece
  • Speed knobs
  • Grover tuners

Additionally, Gibson makes a number of signature Les Paul Custom models that are distinctly separate models from the standard production Custom, including:

  • Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom
  • Peter Frampton Les Paul Custom
  • Tak Matsumoto Doublecut Custom
  • Vivian Campbell Les Paul Custom[4]

Previous modelsEdit

Gibson has also made a number of other Custom models, including:

1954 Les Paul Custom Reissue
  • Solid mahogany body
  • "Fretless Wonder" frets
  • Alnico "staple" neck pickup
  • P90 bridge pickup
  • Kluson tuners
  • ABR-1 bridge
  • Non-weight relieved body
1957 Les Paul Custom Reissue (2 and 3 pickup models)
  • Solid mahogany body
  • "Fretless Wonder" frets
  • 2 or 3 '57 Classic pickups
  • Kluson tuners (some released with Grover tuners)
  • ABR-1 bridge
  • Optional Bigsby
  • Non-weight relieved body
1961 Les Paul/SG Custom
  • SG body shape and contours
  • Original neck/body joint
1968 Les Paul Custom Reissue
  • Maple cap
  • Larger neck
  • '57 Classic pickups
  • ABR-1 bridge
  • Non-weight relieved body
  • There was also a small run of Guitar Center-exclusive models available in sunburst with a figured maple top and a slim neck profile
60th Anniversary Les Paul Custom (2010)
  • Specs similar to the 1957 Reissue, with minor changes to reflect the 1960 Les Paul Custom
Les Paul Custom Rosewood Maduro (2012 model)
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Pickup specs varied based on color
Les Paul Classic Custom (2012 Limited Edition)
  • No back binding
  • Baked maple fingerboard
  • Acrylic inlays
  • USA production model (non-Custom Shop)
Les Paul Custom (2013 Limited Edition)
  • Custom Shop 20th Anniversary 1957 Les Paul "Black Beauty" with 3-Pickup
  • One piece ebony fingerboard
  • Deep-set neck tenon
  • Gloss finish
  • Limited to 100 pieces
  • Each comes with a handmade, one of a kind Custom Shop 20th Anniversary COA which is framed, a set of white gloves, a custom fitted dust cover (that fits the guitar) with "retro" 1993 Custom Shop logo and with a stamped brass"20th Anniversary" cover over the pickup toggle switch cavity.

Custom Lite modelsEdit

Les Paul Custom Lite (approx. 1986-1990)
  • Slim body
  • No back binding
  • Belly contour
  • 2 volume, 1 tone, coil tap
  • Ebony fingerboard
Les Paul Custom Lite (2013 Limited Edition)
  • Slim body
  • No back binding
  • Belly contour
  • 2 volume, 1 tone, coil tap
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • USA production model (non-Custom Shop)

Past Signature Model customsEdit

Randy Rhoads Les Paul Custom (Limited Edition)
  • Reproduction of Rhoads' 1974 20th Anniversary Custom
  • Available in both VOS (Vintage Original Spec) and Aged
Mick Jones Les Paul Custom (Limited Edition)
Jimmy Page Les Paul Custom (Limited Edition)
  • Based on the Les Paul Custom stolen from Page
  • 3 pickup model
  • Bigsby tailpiece
  • Custom wiring with a six-way toggle switch
  • VOS finish

Gibson discontinued many models with ebony fingerboards as factory spec after the August 2011 federal raid due to concerns regarding the legality of ebony that the company had purchased. The 2013 Les Paul Custom that commemorates the Custom Shop's 20th anniversary is the first and only Custom to feature an ebony fingerboard since late 2011.

Notable Les Paul Custom playersEdit

Other modelsEdit

  • Gibson's subsidiary, Epiphone, also makes the Les Paul Custom guitar.[9] As of 2009, it comes in various finishes and variations. It comes in Ebony (with gold hardware, chrome hardware and chrome-plated pickguard on a limited edition, and with aged white binding, gold hardware, and uncovered pickups another limited edition), Alpine White (with gold hardware), Silverburst (with chrome hardware), Prophecy EX (with EMG pickups, transparent black finish with a quilted maple top, and black hardware), Prophecy GX (Gibson Dirty Finger pickups, transparent red finish with a quilted maple top, and gold hardware), and the Zakk Wylde signature (antique ivory with bulls eye graphic and gold hardware, Camo finish with a bulls eye graphic, maple fingerboard and gold hardware, and orange with a buzzsaw graphic and chrome hardware, EMG pickups).[9]
  • Gibson Les Paul Classic Custom


  1. ^ In the summer of 1952, Gibson Les Paul Goldtop was priced at US$209.


  1. ^ a b Duchossoir, A. R. (1998-07-01) [1994]. "Chapter Six: The Expansion of the Electric Line, 1953-1955". Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years: An Illustrated History from the Mid-'30s to the Mid-'60s. Milwaukee, WI USA: Hal Leonard. p. 52. ISBN 0-7935-9210-0. Retrieved 2012-12-23. Equally, the electronics combined Seth Lover's Alnico pickup in the neck position with a regular P-90 in the bridge for tonal versatility.
  2. ^ Bishop, Ian Courtney (1990) [1977]. "Chapter 1: The Les Paul Series". The Gibson Guitar: From 1950, Volume 1. Bold Strummer Guitar Series. The Bold Strummer. p. 5. ISBN 0-933224-46-X. Retrieved 2012-12-22. The Les Paul Custom... was equipped with a single coil black covered Les Paul Special pickup in the treble position and a very distinctive Alnico pickup with six oblong pole pieces in the bass position.
  3. ^, 1957 Les Paul Custom Reissue The Original Black Beauty
  4. ^ Gibson Guitar channel, Youtube, "Vivian Campbell on his Signature Gibson Custom Les Paul and his long time love for Les Pauls"
  5. ^ Guitar World presents one hundred greatest guitarists of all time from the pages of Guitar World magazine
  6. ^ Di Perna, Alan (April 1994). "Machine Head". Guitar World: 21.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Guitar Talk with Judas Priest's Richie Faulkner".
  9. ^ a b "Epiphone Les Paul Custom". Retrieved 23 February 2012.

External linksEdit