The Student News Site of Farmingdale High School

Gibson Les Paul

Welcome back! For the second guitar of the week composed and established by yours truly, I am going to be writing about one of the most well known guitars of all time. The Gibson Les Paul. Though, for the guitar itself to be elucidated, you should know some history on the man who created this incredibly iconic and recognizable instrument. 

Lester William Polsfuss was born on June 9th, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. By 1938, he changed his name to a much shorter and show-business-targeted tag, the familiarized name of Les Paul. He led a trio on a prime time radio show, and started off playing numerous acoustic guitars. He later moved to various Gibson hollow body electric guitars, but was never genuinely satisfied. Les had something in mind that would sustain the needs and wants of a guitar reproducing the sounds of the strings with nothing added. He started working alone at a Epiphone factory on the weekends, constructing his famous log model in 1940. At the time of constructing this model, Gibson was the biggest guitar company in the world, and Les pointed his sites at Gibson for the production of his solid body guitar. Around 1946 is when Les arranged a meeting with Chicago Musical Instruments (CMI’s) president Berlin to pitch his solid body guitar idea. From there, Les Paul became and eventually grew into the guitar legend we know today, and started the journey with many models and guitars to be made in the future.

Although Les Paul was the first to create a model of a solid body guitar, his model was not the first to be mass produced. His signature Gibson would later become one of, if not the most iconic, guitars to be manufactured, with quite a few models later brought into existence. The first Les Paul was released in 1952, and due to its versatility, the guitar has been used for genres including Rock, Country, Pop, Soul, Rhythm, Blues, Jazz, Metal and a variety of other genres. The guitar’s significance to the music industry is substantial in that legends such as Jimmy Page, Slash, Randy Rhoads, Eric Clapton, of course Les Paul and many other famed musicians have been known to use it consistently. 

The guitar itself has a beautiful build, and the solid body instrument is known to be very comfortable and efficient when played. The guitar has two pickups, a neck and a bridge pickup. Earlier models contained two P-90 pickups, but in 1957 humbucking pickups were introduced and became the new staple for the guitar. Each pickup has its own volume and tone knobs, making four in total. The Les Paul is known for its thick sound; tones and sound styles can vary when each is played separately or together. It is also established that earlier models had a sort of gold finish, but as of 1958, sunburst finish was added and became one of the more normalized and recognizable looks we know of today. The two most common types of fretboards on the Les Pauls are Rosewood and Ebony Maple Richlite, used because Les admired both of these variations dearly. These aspects may vary with the Les Paul model in discussion, models such as the Les Paul Standard, Les Paul Junior, Les Paul Traditional, and the Les Paul Custom. All variations play a prominent role in both the music and guitar industry. The guitar and all of its models have become a exceptional piece of music history, and we have the legend Les Paul to thank for that!

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