Objects of distinction are seldom recognized immediately, and this was certainly the case when Gibson introduced the newly renamed Les Paul Standard in July of 1958. Having already made several modifications to the base Les Paul Model guitar over the previous two years – the Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece being the most notable changes – the new Les Paul Standard introduced in 1958 hoped to correct Gibson’s waning sales of solid body electric guitars, which had been on the decline ever since 1953 when the company shipped 2,245 instruments.
For the 1958 Standard Plaintop, Gibson decided to arrange the maple top in two “bookmatched” pieces glued together at the center seam, giving each guitar its very own distinct look and marking the beginning of the guitar world’s fascination with figured maple tops, even though the majority of the tops used in 1958 were considered “plain” when compared to the tops used one year later and beyond.
Legendary Gibson president Ted McCarty and his staff partly blamed the guitar’s Goldtop finish as the main culprit for the sales slump and decided to forego the finish in favor of new, brighter finish dubbed Cherry Sunburst, which allowed the natural beauty of the maple top to be showcased – something that had previously been concealed by the Goldtop finish.
Additionally, Cherry Sunburst was the only color other than Gold that was used to finish the new Les Paul Standards in 1958, even though clear differences in the color of vintage examples would suggest otherwise. These variations were due mainly to the inconsistency of the red pigment used by Gibson to paint the sunburst finish, a problem that wasn’t corrected until the early 1960s and which caused many of the guitars to fade to some degree of amber, honey or yellow hue. This “problem” inadvertently led to the creation of many of the finishes used today on numerous Gibson guitars, including Honey Burst, Tobacco Burst, Light Burst, Iced Tea Burst, Lemon Burst, Vintage Sun Burst and, of course, the original Heritage Cherry Sun Burst.
The 1958 Les Paul Standard reissue produced today by Gibson Custom is true to all of the original instrument’s features and characteristics, including Gibson’s traditional hand-carved “plain” maple top and solid, non-weight relieved mahogany body. The headstock is made from Holly head veneer, as opposed to fiber, just like it was in 1958, and the vintage-style tulip tuners are mounted in a straight line, also as they were on the original. The 24 ¾-inch scale length neck is made from one solid piece of mahogany, and attached to the body using a long neck tenon — one of the Les Paul’s more distinguishing characteristics of the 1950s. The neck is topped by a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard outfitted with acrylic trapezoid inlays matching the size and color of the originals. Of course, two of Gibson’s legendary Burstbucker pickups deliver all the subtle variations of true, classic humbucker tone by using historically “unmatched” bobbin windings and Alnico II magnets. Other historical appointments include CTS potentiometers, bumble bee capacitors, rolled crème-colored fingerboard binding, single-ply thin binding around the body, and period-correct switchwasher and jackplate. The 1958 Les Paul Standard comes in either a V.O.S. or Gloss finish, and with the standard Gibson Custom case and certificate of authenticity. They are available in Faded Tobacco Burst, Washed Cherry Burst, Iced Tea Burst, Bourbon Burst, Lemon Burst and Sunrise Tea Burst finishes.
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