How Gibson Becomes a Leading Guitar Brand
During the ’50s, the Gibson Les Paul became a staple amongst professional guitarists, a fact that’s not surprising given the fact that Les Paul was a recording artist and had a successful career in the business. However, the model was not popular with all guitarists, and sales of the guitar actually decreased over the years. This is due to several reasons.
First, Gibson made a few tweaks to the design, including a more robust neck, a larger headstock, and a redesigned bridge. This change benefited both the playing experience and the sound. While the neck set was no doubt a nice improvement, the new tailpiece had some major shortcomings. The bridge was made to wrap around the bar and was not quite as good at intonation adjustments as the original Trapeze tailpiece. It also made it difficult to dampen the strings with the heel of your right hand.
Another major change to the model came when Les Paul collaborated with Ted McCarty on the design. McCarty was working for Gibson at the time, and he presented the design to Les Paul. The model was also the first guitar to have a maple cap. McCarty explained to Les that the maple cap would provide the sustain of a traditional mahogany guitar, while the mahogany body would provide a lighter weight.
Another major change was the addition of the tune-o-Matic bridge. This was the first guitar to have this feature, and it’s a major advancement in Gibson’s product line. Using the tune-o-Matic bridge was an improvement on the old model, as it provided better sustain than the trapeze tailpiece. However, the new bridge was not a perfect solution, as it still required some tweaking to get the best sound.
Another change to the model was the addition of a vibrato tailpiece. Les had a few prototypes built, but this was one of the more impressive features. It was a four-inch square block of pine bolted to the neck. The tailpiece was mounted directly onto the top of the guitar and wrapped around the bar. It was a fairly simple solution, but it was the best one of the several prototypes.
The Gibson Les Paul model of the ’50s had a fairly standard neck-to-body angle, but the ‘big’ difference came with the redesigned bridge. The original design featured a crossbar that sat on height adjustment nuts, while the new one was wrapped around the bar and mounted directly on studs.
During the mid-’50s, the model made its way to the stage, and Les Paul and his wife, Ginger Baker, began a weekly gig in New York City. However, Les and Ginger went into semi-retirement after their divorce in 1964. The model remained popular with musicians such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, and others. The model was also made more affordable for beginners with the introduction of the Junior and Special models.
The most impressive design feature of the ’50s Les Paul was the multi-track tape recording. This was actually a feat of engineering, not just a marketing gimmick. It was a big improvement over the old method of laying down tracks one at a time, and it’s not surprising that it was considered the best invention of the era.
During the Second World War, Gibson made its way into consumer audio. They produced all-gold semi-acoustics. During the 1950s, Gibson introduced the Gibson Les Paul Model. This was the first guitar to feature humbucker pickups. These pickups cancel interference between the pickup and the guitar body, giving the guitar a unique sound.
Gibson changed the design of Les Paul in the early ’60s. They altered the neck pitch, the bridge arrangement, and the pickup. This gave the guitar a much-improved playing experience. However, Les Paul was not pleased with the changes. He wanted to have the strings wrap over the tailpiece, and Gibson made this impossible. Gibson decided to put strings under the tailpiece, which made right-hand dampening techniques impossible.
Gibson also misinterpreted Les Paul’s original submission to the company. He was not involved to the fullest extent in the design of the Les Paul guitar. He preferred a golden color and a distinctive gold finish, but Gibson was not happy with this choice. They decided to change the gold color to Cherry Sunburst. These changes were made to drive sales. They also changed the guitar’s look.
Gibson had plans to release an all-gold ES-295. But they were delayed because of the restrictions on steel. This prevented the installation of truss rods. They also decided to implement the Trapeze tailpiece, which made right-hand dampening impossible. This tailpiece had a stop tailpiece, and it was superior to the Tune-O-Matic bridge.
During the early ’60s, Gibson tried to recoup their lost profits. They decided to make a cheaper guitar for beginners. The Junior and Special models were introduced. These were the first guitars to be made at a price that the average person could afford. This led to many great players getting their first Gibson. The Les Paul model became very popular with players like Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and Peter Green. It also went out of production for a while.
During the mid-’60s, Gibson introduced the Les Paul Custom and Standard. These models were designed with the help of Les Paul and Ted McCarty. McCarty also designed the bridge. This was a single-cutaway guitar with an arched maple top. It featured a retaining wire for the saddles. He also invented the Tune-O-Matic bridge. This bridge allowed the player to adjust the length of each string.
After the introduction of the Les Paul Model, Gibson changed the Gold Top guitar’s design. The second Gold Top version had an odd bridge and tailpiece system. It had two adjustable screws instead of a single screw. The guitar was also painted in ultraviolet dye, but not all sunburst models were the same. These changes were made to increase the guitar’s sales.
The Gold Top became a cult guitar. It was played by John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Freddie King. These guitars were coveted in secondhand stores. It was also played by Eric Clapton, Michael Bloomfield, and Keith Richards. These guitars also reached their heyday in the 1970s. It is difficult to track down one of these guitars today.