To Anyone Who Has Played a Vintage Les Paul

netlocal

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I got to play Gary Richrath's burst about 25 years ago. It was very dilapidated. Had little pieces of matchbook cardboard under the strings to fix the action. I mentioned that the thing was pretty beat, and his response was "That was my road and stage guitar for 16 years". It was an impressive guitar to me, because I saw it as this legendary guitar. But the thing was totally hammered.

He gave me a tour of the rest of his collection, mostly 50's Fenders and Gibsons, and had stories to go with some of the guitars he showed me. There was a storied Les Paul Custom Black Beauty. It was the first time I got to play real vintage Fender guitars with V necks and that kind of thing. He was very kind, I thought, to share them with me. I was awestruck.

I have owned a real 1959 Junior since the late 80's. These days I use it sparingly. I have a R7 Historic Junior (2006 model I think) that's prolly my main gigging guitar. I have an R7 and R8 too. I love my Historic guitars. But I don't think you can replicate the feel of a real old guitar, no matter how precise the dimensions and materials. My hands tell me that 60 year old wood vibrates differently than my newer guitars. But its all good, my 10 year old Historics are well on their way to getting their own badass mojo. From being played.:dude:
 
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Mini Forklift Ⓥ

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Never been lucky enough to play one and I don't know if I ever will. Time's running out!
 

jimijam33

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I played an original 1958 LP factory re fin (1961) that weighed over ten pounds. It was/is the most amazing guitar I've ever played.
On the other hand I played an original 1958 gold top Les Paul at the NAMM 2019 in Anaheim (Pics below). A Japanese effects pedal company brought it in. I was very light, maybe under 8lbs. It did not sound amazing but good. NOT all original Les Paul's sound good!! Quite a few of them sound just OK.

The best sounding Les Paul's sound great acoustically. They ring out like a bell (acoustically)..


IMG_7400.JPG
Original 1958 Gibson Les Paul 3.JPG
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I also played a reissue 2015 TH '59 LP at GC San Diego two years ago and it was pretty good sounding. Bright and aggressive.
 
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rockbeare

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If anyone has been lucky enough to play a 1950's or 1960s Les Paul they look to be SO MUCH FUN TO PLAY i know they sound awesome but are they as enjoyable as they look
They are all different.


Nor are looks a good guide - Mark Knopfler is well-known for preferring plainer ‘58’s like mine which is seven serial #’s from (one of) his .


I’ve played quite a few of the ones in the UK, some are incredible, some pretty average. But I’ve never played a more recent one, whether 70’s onwards or recent fancy ‘historic’ that feels and sounds anything like the real deal.


I’ve really tried, but they’re too heavy / the edges feel too sharp / the finish feels like it’s made of cling film. The neck profiles, binding and fretwork are clumsy and the pickups are all over the place, usually too hot and closed. But they can look incredible.


I have played a few ‘fakes’ that come closer than Gibson’s (eg Terry from Telford, Sid Poole etc.) though almost all of these still fall short. I know of only two makers of modern instruments that really cut it. One has withdrawn from making ‘reissues’ (aka fakes) and the other operates on a need-to-know basis only for obvious reasons.


As for pickups, the best PAF’S I’ve heard are from Monty’s but I’m not in US so I haven’t heard many of the legion ones being marketed there.


There will be healthy demand for ‘fakes’ as long as the original manufacturer can’t - or won’t deliver. And as long as people need giggable Les Paul’s, of course.
 

bentfinger

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If anyone has been lucky enough to play a 1950's or 1960s Les Paul they look to be SO MUCH FUN TO PLAY i know they sound awesome but are they as enjoyable as they look
Hi, Yes I have played two '59 Standards. One had a neck repair and sounded just tremendous and was for sale in Leeds UK in 1991/2 and was £12000 ($ 11000?) but I couldn't afford it. The second was when I was in a blues band in the '60s ,we were the support act. My Guitar broke down (wiring) and I borrowed the guitarists Lester for a few numbers, we never sounded better than that night.
They were both very powerful although the first was a bit chunky in the neck for my hands they were icons!!!
 

GearHo

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When we fantasize about these old guitars, we hope for a played in, but not worn out, tone monster, that can be had for cheap.

It's like fantasizing for a woman, neither are cheap. But some are monsters.

I love old guitars, they will always get my attention over anything else. But dwindling numbers and outrageous prices makes them less appealing.

The internet has driven the mythical status of these guitars to an even higher level,as well as their cost.

So, unless your JB, with a boatload of connections, and an arsenal of cash, your getting an historic

That's not a bad thing, as Gibson is making guitars better than ever. Even though I hate the year to year drip of changes, they still keep pushing forward with making the guitar better.

Besides, once you plug that 59 into your pedals, and process that tone, you have left the vintage world behind you. Back in the day when we all fell in love with the Page, Gibbons, Duane sound, they had far less to run their guitars into in the form of pedals, or effects. Maybe an echoplex, and a treble booster playing in MSG is the sound of the Gods, but that isn't realistic anymore for most of us.
 

youdevil

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For me, a huge element of the experience is the pickups. A good set of PAFs/P90s really do sound exquisite and their tone owes to more than just the material and the person winding them back in the day: they cannot be replicated simply because time has worked its way on the bobbins (warpage, shrinkage, all affecting flux) rendering each one uniquely voiced. So there's that. The other thing is what happens to the wood over time. Its mineral content....the way the moisture ultimately dissipates, lacquer's relationship to the grain...compression of the fretboard surface + addition of fingertip oil...all of it contributes to the tonal characteristics of that chunk of lumber that has been converted into a musical instrument. Sometimes magic happens as a result. The best 50s guitars I have played display a quality that I call "lift": you play a note and the instrument acts as a sort of multiplier, taking the vibration and adding something to it. Yes, it's sustain but it's also definition. For the player, it means a lot less work to get a lot more (and very good) sound. On a modern guitar you'd have to crank the gain in order to experience something similar...
 

Robert Parker

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I've played only one, this 1959 LP Special. It was (presumably, still is) in amazing condition. The neck is what really stood out; fat and fast at the same time. The checking was great, and the Bigsby (I believe from the factory) worked great. It sounded pretty good - not amazing. But it felt amazing. So, you know, a mixed bag.

Worth the $10k Gruhns wanted? Probably.
 

GearHo

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That is a killer looking guitar, worth 10k all day.

Specials and Juniors are the way to go for vintage in my view. They are still within reach money wise and satisfy my vintage itch.
 

vintageguitarz

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You tell me, think the very best of modern violins sound like a 1680 Stradivarius?? Then why are millions $$ paid for one and the newest of the best are only in the thousands? Same with acoustic guitars and now the more modern electrics. I worked for Fender at the Fullerton and Corona facilities from the early 70's to 2000. Since then I have my own Luthier shop and a small "store". Yeah I loved Gibson's, Ricks, Guild's, Martin's, all the established "old timers" of the industry too.

What makes the true Vintage guitars (not the late 70's, 80's and 90's you absurdly see listed as "Vintage" on EBay or Reverb) is many things. 1) the wood materials available in the 50's and 60's aren't now (because of availability and legal import), 2) the quality of the mechanical electronic components, 3) the quality of the solid state components (Caps and resistors). 4) the PuP's components and manufacuring process just aren't the same. And lastly 5) the manufacturing process of the wood components - hand made vs machine made.

You bet your a$$ a very good to great Vintage guitar sounds better than anything from early / mid 70's on to now! Even "Custom Shop" models are made with TODAYS materials, bodies - necks - PuP's that came off automated machines. And the wood is certainly not the quality of a stack of 10, 20, 30 year old aged Maple, Walnut, Swamp Ash, Alder, imported Rosewood or Ebony that Fender, Gibson, Guild, Martin, etc, shopped for and bought in the 50's and 60's.

Are all "Vintage" guitars great or incredible? Hell no, stinkers got out of the facotries too! Are there wonderful sounding Customs that come out of Corona CA or Nashville or Santa Ana (Rickenbacker)? You bet there are! Actually I have never heard anything but an awesome sounding and playable Rick.

I personally own a few true vintage Gibson's (and more Fenders and Ricks than I like to admit). I work on a lot of vintage and modern Gibsons, Fenders and Ricks - repairs, restorations and factory warranty work, consequently I get to "compare" 70 years of craftsmanship and sound. Sorry but nothing I run across quite sounds as great as my "benchmarks" - my 1961 Les Paul Custom, a January 1959 made Les Paul Jr. that was a traveling Gibson Acct Rep's personal guitar, a 1964 ES-175DN, a '66 Ricky 360-6 Stereo, my 1963 Jaguar, a 63 P-Bass, a 60 Tele, my 1955 and 56 ES-225N / SB pair and a 1968 GIbson ES-150DW (a thick body 335 w/ ebony Block Neck). Yeah, real vintage sounds and plays better than new ones, even new old ones.

Fergot my fun pair - a "short scale" (7/8th) 1956 Guild M-65 Cherry and a mint 63 Tremolux.

61_Les_Paul_Custom_case_vertical 1000.jpg 82 Les Paul Std Black 58 Les Paul Jr sales demo.jpg Twins_55-56_ES-225N_SB.jpg 1963 Fender Jaguar sml.jpg 1964 Gibson ES-175DN rare nat.jpg 1966 Rickenbacker 360-6 Stereo Natural.jpg 1960Fender Telecaster in case.jpg Fender Precision Bass Olympic White faded.jpg 56 Guild Cherry M-65.jpg
 

swampblues

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I was lucky enough to own a 1960 with a repaired neck. It was by far the most dead wood I ever played. Pickups were way too good to sound so bad in that body. I then was lucky enough to play one of Rick Nielsen's 1960's at Chicago Music Exchange and it was pure butter. I do believe some of the old one's were not that great just like the historics. I've owned 10 and 6 were the best I ever played and the other 4 were just ok, nothing special. I do believe like Billy Gibbons said, it's the wood, the glue, the day and the Guitar Gods that make a perfect guitar
 

PermissionToLand

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I have played a '63 SG Junior and a '69/'70 SG Standard. Both exquisite to play and sounded fantastic. But both also had necks too chunky for my liking. Gibson necks in general run on the chunky side. My SG's "60s Slim Taper" neck (apparently a myth to have actually existed in the '60s) is a little bit bigger than my ideal, but certainly doesn't cause me any trouble. I can adapt to most necks (my Samick SG measures 0.687" and 0.750"!) but anything too far beyond Gibson's Slim Taper would probably be too much for me.
 

PermissionToLand

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You tell me, think the very best of modern violins sound like a 1680 Stradivarius?? Then why are millions $$ paid for one and the newest of the best are only in the thousands? Same with acoustic guitars and now the more modern electrics. I worked for Fender at the Fullerton and Corona facilities from the early 70's to 2000. Since then I have my own Luthier shop and a small "store". Yeah I loved Gibson's, Ricks, Guild's, Martin's, all the established "old timers" of the industry too.

What makes the true Vintage guitars (not the late 70's, 80's and 90's you absurdly see listed as "Vintage" on EBay or Reverb) is many things. 1) the wood materials available in the 50's and 60's aren't now (because of availability and legal import), 2) the quality of the mechanical electronic components, 3) the quality of the solid state components (Caps and resistors). 4) the PuP's components and manufacuring process just aren't the same. And lastly 5) the manufacturing process of the wood components - hand made vs machine made.

You bet your a$$ a very good to great Vintage guitar sounds better than anything from early / mid 70's on to now! Even "Custom Shop" models are made with TODAYS materials, bodies - necks - PuP's that came off automated machines. And the wood is certainly not the quality of a stack of 10, 20, 30 year old aged Maple, Walnut, Swamp Ash, Alder, imported Rosewood or Ebony that Fender, Gibson, Guild, Martin, etc, shopped for and bought in the 50's and 60's.

Are all "Vintage" guitars great or incredible? Hell no, stinkers got out of the facotries too! Are there wonderful sounding Customs that come out of Corona CA or Nashville or Santa Ana (Rickenbacker)? You bet there are! Actually I have never heard anything but an awesome sounding and playable Rick.

I personally own a few true vintage Gibson's (and more Fenders and Ricks than I like to admit). I work on a lot of vintage and modern Gibsons, Fenders and Ricks - repairs, restorations and factory warranty work, consequently I get to "compare" 70 years of craftsmanship and sound. Sorry but nothing I run across quite sounds as great as my "benchmarks" - my 1961 Les Paul Custom, a January 1959 made Les Paul Jr. that was a traveling Gibson Acct Rep's personal guitar, a 1964 ES-175DN, a '66 Ricky 360-6 Stereo, my 1963 Jaguar, a 63 P-Bass, a 60 Tele, my 1955 and 56 ES-225N / SB pair and a 1968 GIbson ES-150DW (a thick body 335 w/ ebony Block Neck). Yeah, real vintage sounds and plays better than new ones, even new old ones.

Fergot my fun pair - a "short scale" (7/8th) 1956 Guild M-65 Cherry and a mint 63 Tremolux.

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I don't think comparing an acoustic instrument like a violin to a solid electric guitar makes any sense.

But what exactly makes aged wood supposedly superior to new wood?
 

vintageguitarz

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I was lucky enough to own a 1960 with a repaired neck. It was by far the most dead wood I ever played. Pickups were way too good to sound so bad in that body.
There is a good possibility that the way that neck was broken and the way it was repaired had a lot to do with the "dead" sound. If a neck head is completely "snapped off" some very careful highly experienced (and consequently VERY expensive) repair can restore the sound quality. A neck on a glued to body
type guitar is highly important to it's sound quality. If it's crap glued on repair, well the glue can and does act like a "wall" to sound via what was once a continuous growth of wood. If this weren't true then a piece of plastic for a Nut wouldn't be any better than Bone. Then again, it could have been just some lousy wood ...... but I doubt it with knowing the craftsmanship at Gibson in the 50's and 60's. I'd blame the repair first and primarily.
 

vintageguitarz

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I don't think comparing an acoustic instrument like a violin to a solid electric guitar makes any sense.

But what exactly makes aged wood supposedly superior to new wood?
It's not just "aged" as it's older laying around. It's THE aging and Kiln drying process, the time, the quality of the woods, most of the guitar wood in the last 20 years is Tree Farms. There are DOZENS of reasons. If you actually built a guitar instead of just wiping out your wallet and VISA card, you won't ask a dumb question like that.

And Gibson went thru "phases" of thick and thin necks. My 59 Jr. and 61 Les Paul Custom have thin necks. A 58 Melody Maker with the "Fat" PuPs I have has a Louisville Slugger for a neck. Know what you're talking about before generalizing.
 

dsmcl77

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:( I have not
Me neither, but I know some great instruments can be inspiring. So yes, i believe some of the late 50's LP can be great and inspiring too.

But, good news! It doesn't have to be oldies.
My 2003 LP Studio coppertop and 2004 MIM Fender Telecaster are two of them.
 

GearHo

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It's not just "aged" as it's older laying around. It's THE aging and Kiln drying process, the time, the quality of the woods, most of the guitar wood in the last 20 years is Tree Farms. There are DOZENS of reasons. If you actually built a guitar instead of just wiping out your wallet and VISA card, you won't ask a dumb question like that.

And Gibson went thru "phases" of thick and thin necks. My 59 Jr. and 61 Les Paul Custom have thin necks. A 58 Melody Maker with the "Fat" PuPs I have has a Louisville Slugger for a neck. Know what you're talking about before generalizing.
So, let's say over your career you have worked on a hundred les Paul's from the fifties, how many would make your go to list?

I can tell you for certain that everyone of them would be priced accordingly, regardless of them being a great sounding guitar or a tone donkey.

I agree with you that if you come across a "very good to great vintage guitar" it will sound better than something from the seventies and most historics. On the other side, a great historic can be comparable to many old guitars.

What happens to me, is when I go to play an older guitar there is this automatic perception that it is going to sound better just by it being an older vintage piece.

Often times it's not better, but different.

If I had to choose new vs vintage, I would always opt for vintage, but I would not always be willing to pay for it. The only vintage gibson I have left in my arsenal is my 57 junior, paid 2800 bucks for it, which leaves me 247,200 left to get a burst:)
 

Robert Parker

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That is a killer looking guitar, worth 10k all day.

Specials and Juniors are the way to go for vintage in my view. They are still within reach money wise and satisfy my vintage itch.
Like I said, it felt awesome. And that Bassman behind it was not a reissue. A pretty great day for me, getting to play those two together.
 




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