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1972 Gibson showcase brochures
1972 Gibson showcase brochuresIn 1972 Gibson produced a series of 'Guitar of the Month' brochures, each dedicated to one of their high end models, the Les Paul Recording guitar, L5-CES, ES-175D, Super 400-CES, ES-355TD-SV and Byrdland. Each brochure was a single sheet folded into four panels, with details of the instruments themselves, their features, musical purpose, and a little history behind the development of each guitar. Only the Les Paul Recording was a new model; the others were all well established in the Gibson line. Follow the link to see scans and further information on these leaflets and other Gibson guitar catalogues from the CMI and Norlin periods.
1966 Kalamazoo KB-1 bass
Kalamazoo KB-1 bass Gibson assembled these 30 1/2" scale Kalamazoo KB-1 basses in their electronics plant in Kalamazoo, MI - separate from the main Gibson plant. They used the same components and hardware as on the Gibson EB bass series; but with a pre-painted masonite body and a bolt-on maple neck; a very different construction to Gibson's usual output. Initially the KB bass had a Mustang-shaped body (see the 1966 Kalamazoo KB-1, left), which was soon redesigned with the classic SG shape (see the 1967 Kalamazoo KB-1, right). Have a listen to sound clips of this bass here.
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Gibson Les Paul > Les Paul Custom

Les Paul CustomThe Les Paul Custom was launched in 1954 as the black beauty. This was an ebony finished (as the name would suggest) guitar with contrasting gold hardware, a black single-coil P-90 (same as the Les Paul Standard) in the neck position, and a distinctive pickup in the bridge position, referred to as the Alnico V - named after the magnet within. In 1957 this pickup configuration was changed to three humbuckers (check out the LP Custom or 'Fretless Wonder' in the 1958 catalogue), until 1961, when the range was redesigned as todays SGs.

Shipping figures for the first issue Les Paul custom[1]

  1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960
Les paul Custom
first issue
94 355 489 283 256 246 189

Gibson Les Paul brochure, June 1968In 1968 Gibson decided to reissue two Les Paul models, and the Custom was made available in its original ebony finish, and again dubbed the fretless wonder. It was available from mid 1968 at a price of $545 [2], with the Les Paul Standard at $395. The brochure (right) describes the two models (click for a closer look at this brochure)

Les PaulGibson is proud to announce its newly reborn affiliation with the man who has come to be known to millions of music lovers the world over as "Mr. Guitar"...

The Custom was not an exact replica, as it had two humbuckers, (originally it had two single coils OR three humbuckers). The 1968 LP bodies and necks Les Pauls were one-piece mahogany (with maple top). Some time in 1969, the bodies were changed to three-piece mahogany/maple/mahogany, with a three-piece mahogany neck.

1970 Les Paul Custom ebony finish 1973 Les Paul Custom cherry sunburst finish 1977 Les Paul Custom ebony finish 1977 Les Paul Custom natural finish 1977 Les Paul Custom. Nickel plated parts, wine red finish 1977 Les Paul Custom. Nickel plated parts, ebony finish 1977 Les Paul Custom. Natural finish with maple fingerboard 1980 Les Paul Custom. Tobacco Sunburst finish
1970 Les Paul Custom ebony finish 1973 Les Paul Custom cherry sunburst finish 1977 Les Paul Custom ebony finish 1977 Les Paul Custom natural finish 1977 Les Paul Custom. Nickel plated parts, wine red finish 1977 Les Paul Custom. Nickel plated parts, ebony finish 1977 Les Paul Custom. Natural finish with maple fingerboard 1980 Les Paul Custom. Tobacco Sunburst finish
Gibson Les Paul Custom - Daddy of
Gibson Les Paul Custom - Daddy of 'em All
1969 advert for the two re-released Les Paul models, the Custom and the Standard

Les Paul may not have invented amplified music, but he perfected it almost single-handed. He started a revolution in fretted instruments and pickup design which is still going on. And the guitars he designed with Gibson have yet to be surpassed. The demand for them just won't quit. And the pressure to make more has never let up. Okay, you win. We are pleased to announce that more of the original Les Paul Gibsons are available. Line forms at your Gibson dealer's.


Keith Richards on the cover of the 1975 Gibson Les Paul catalogue with his ebony-finished Les Paul Custom
Keith Richards on the cover of the 1975 Gibson Les Paul catalogue with his ebony-finished Les Paul Custom.

Cherry Sunburst was first listed in price lists as an option in mid 1971[3] - have a look (and listen to sound clips) to a 1973 Cherry Sunburst LP Custom. According to shipping figures, Cherry was also available at this time (though never mentioned in any gibson price lists or catalogues). Tobacco was available from 1972 (Again never listed). In this period, two humbuckers was the norm, but three pickup models were available as a special order option (along with a short scale model).

Sales were strong throughout the early 1970s, despite the deep US recession of 1973, and 1975 saw a further two finish options; white and wine red, with tobacco sunburst and natural being added in 1976. Sales did dip somewhat in 1976 and 1977, but remained in the thousands.

Shipping figures for the second issue les Paul custom[1]

  1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Les paul Custom
second issue
433 2353 2612 3201 4062 8322 7563 7451 4323 3134 10850 1699

From 1976, three humbuckers were no longer a special order option; but the standard configuration. Two pickup customs were available with nickel plated hardware, which obviously made them a cheaper guitar than the gold plated models. This model was also available in silverburst finish

Early 1980s Gibson Les Paul Custom
Early 1980s promo picture of the three-pickup Les Paul Custom, in ebony, and natural finish. Note the gold hardware throughout.

1978 was a fantastic year for the Les Paul Custom. Sales exceeded 10000 units (the previous highest year was 1973 with 8300). As well as the two and three pickup customs, the 1978 Gibson catalogue also shows a 2 pickup version with a maple fingerboard. Still with gold hardware, it was available in ebony and natural finishes.

1) Gibson Shipment Totals 1937-79 by Larry Meiners
2) Gibson price list 01/06/68
3) Gibson price list 26/06/71

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There are 4 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Blues McIlroy Comment left 2nd August 2012 06:06:14
I got my Les Paul Custom brand new in 1976. Present from the folks. I've now had it 36 years and it's still going strong. It had a refret about 5 years ago, but not surprising considering how much play it got. Such a sweet tone for those heavier blues rock numbers. I don't play so much now, but this is one guitar that is going nowhere!
Alex Gaal Comment left 12th November 2012 20:08:09
Hi, I've owned a Les Paul what I assume is a custom for the gold parts for over 30 years. The serial no. have been removed since before I got it. Its nat. wood finish and the only way I think I can ID its year is pot no. 1376850, TX1158, 500k. Another problem is those pots may have been replaced before I owned it. Any advice? thanks
Salt 'n Pepper Comment left 12th December 2012 08:08:24
Should a '76 LP Custom have two or three pickups? Looking at one with three, but not sure if the middle pickup is a later addition. Did Gibson produce both simultaneously? Thanks if you can help.
jim smith Comment left 24th March 2013 20:08:11
very helpful. recently had a house fire and guitars were smoke damaged from miniscule to severe and now dealing with insurance co. my les paul custom was purchased new when I was a teenager and I know i had it for at least three yearsbefore i graduated high school in 1976, suggesting it is a 1970-1973 model(has USA stamped on headstock with serial #132718)pots are hard to read but one is:70 028, another is only partially readable and clearly ends in 7325 and another end in 7325 as well and has the number 7(I think) before the 7325. these pot codes woud suggest the pots were made in 1973 on the 25th week. the pots were never changed( Iam the origional owner). It is cherry red sunburst which suggests it is no older than mid 1971.What year do you think the guitar was made? thxs, jim s

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