Gibson all models

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The Gibson USA factory is the latest, greatest evolution of the iconic Gibson name. The talented team in Nashville, Tennessee is the lifeblood of this legendary brand, and they push the boundaries of what is possible while paying tribute to Gibson’s storied past. These individuals pour their hearts and souls into crafting some of the finest instruments on the planet, and as a result of their tender love and care, each instrument has a story as unique as the musicians that embrace them. From modern classics like the Les Paul and SG Standard to avant-garde models like the Flying V, the Gibson USA line has it all. We invite you to browse our selection of sterling Gibson USA instruments, and experience for yourself the joy only a Gibson can bring.

Wildwood Guitars is proud to be recognized as one of a small group of authorized online Gibson dealers. We invite you to browse our extensive inventory of Gibson USA guitars and discover the magic of one of the greatest American brands of all time. It is with great pride that we present to you our Gibson USA inventory.

The Gibson USA Original Collection

Though they receive the full benefit of modern engineering and precision manufacturing, these guitars hearken back to the Golden Era of Gibson. There are no coil-taps, no active midboost switches, and no locking tremolos to be found here. Instead, you’ll find American-made guitars built out of high-quality, resonant tonewoods with sweet-looking nitrocellulose lacquer finishes and killer pickups. They are simple, elegant, and timeless; in other words, they’re just like the guitars that made me (and probably you) fall in love with the magic of rock and roll in the first place.


Select Your Weapon – Wildwood Select Les Paul Standard

Wildwood and Gibson have a long and storied history of collaboration and friendship. Over the last 35 years, we have partnered with them to produce all kinds of Wildwood-exclusive guitars, and we believe that those instruments are some of the finest in the world thanks to the incredible creativity, passion, and skill of the good people at Gibson. One project on our wish list always eluded us, though: we’ve never done a Wildwood-exclusive run of Gibson USA guitars. That is, until now! Wildwoodians, please meet the newest member of the Wildwood Family: the Wildwood Select Original Collection Les Paul Standard ‘50s.


The Modern Collection – Timeless Designs. Limitless Tone.

Ever since they put their first electric pickup on an archtop, Gibson has continually refined and redefined what an electric guitar can be. The Gibson Modern Collection carries on their proud tradition of innovation and excellence by marrying exciting new player-friendly features with their classic designs, resulting in guitars with plenty of mojo and all the appointments that discerning modern guitarists demand. We invite you to browse our selection of Modern Collection guitars and discover their magical combination of timeless vibe and cutting-edge ideas.



The Top 10 Greatest Gibson Guitars of All-Time

If you’ve ever listened to any music after the early 1900’s, you’ll have probably heard a Gibson. It’s actually pretty close to a guarantee. The most popular guitar Gibson has designed thus far is the Les Paul. You will probably recognize the shape of it in the photos down below.

Thousands of famous musicians spanning across the genres of Rock, Blues, Jazz, Metal and R&B have played gibson guitars. For some of these musicians, their guitar has even become part of their identity. Imagine Angus Young without his cherry red Gibson SG… you can’t!

Take a read through and see what the top 10 Gibson guitars have been thus far.

Gibson Guitar Corporation was founded on October 11, 1902, and has been making quality instruments ever since. However, most of you may agree with me and say they really started making good stuff in 1952 with the production of the first Les Paul. Ever since then, they have made millions of some of the world’s best instruments.

You may agree, you may disagree, you may not have an opinion about this, but this is the best Gibson electric guitars of all time in my eyes. Enjoy! And please feel free to leave what you think are the best ones in the comments section!

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Orville H. Gibson was born in 1856 on a farm near the small town of in Chateaugay, New York. Orville’s father, was an immigrant of England and his mother Amy was from Peru, New York. He arrived in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the 1870’s. It is unclear why Orville travelled from upstate New York to Michigan, but concerns about his health and well being is possible, he may have been drawn initially to Battle Creek to seek therapy at a world-famous health spa run by Dr. John Harvey Kellog.

Orville Gibson with one of his early guitars

Orville Gibson with one of his early guitars

Orville spent his spare time handcrafting mandolins as a hobby while employed as a clerk at the A.P. Sprague’s shoe store at 118 East Main Street, and by 1893 he was working as a clerk at Butters Restaurant on 216 East Main. His day jobs were supporting his hobby building instruments.

Orville Gibson's workbench in his one room workshop with some of his instruments

Orville Gibson’s workbench in his one room workshop with some of his instruments

Soon Orville began producing instruments full-time working at his one-room wood shop. With no formal training, Orville created an entirely new style of mandolin and guitar, with tops carved rather than bent, and arched like the top of a violin. Orville was a very gifted craftsman.

Some Orville Gibson instruments

Orville’s 37-string Harp Zither, early harp-guitar, A-style mandolin, 18-inch guitar and F-style mandolin

On May 11, 1896, Orville filed for his first and only patent. That document, U.S. Patent No. 598,245, was issued on February 1, 1898 for the construction of a mandolin with a carved top and back, and with sides that were cut from a solid piece of wood rather than being bent from thin strips. Orville’s design was more durable than other mandolins at the time, and could be more easily manufactured in volume.

Early Gibson Instruments

Early Gibson Instruments

In the 1890s, he creates carved top hollow body guitars with an oval sound hole that not only increased volume, it also set the standards for the future of the archtop guitar. Orville’s instruments were louder and more durable than other contemporary fretted instruments, and musicians soon demanded more than he was able to build in his one-man shop.

As demand for his instruments grew and on the strength of Orville Gibson’s ideas, The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., Ltd was founded in 1902 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after entering into an agreement with five Kalamazoo businessmen that financed the company.

Early Gibson Mandolin

1902 Gibson Style A Mandolin

On the afternoon of October 11, 1902, Sylvo Reams, Lewis A. Williams, LeRoy Hornbeck, John W. Adams, Samuel K. VanHorn, and Orville H. Gibson met at the County Clerk’s office to form a “Partnership Limited Association” for the “Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Limited.” Adams, VanHorn, and Hornbeck were lawyers practicing in Kalamazoo. Reams and Williams were both in the retail music business, and all saw the opportunity to capitalize on Orville’s creative talents.

1908 Gibson Mandolin

1908 Gibson Mandolin

Strangely, Orville’s name was not listed as a member of the Partnership — he was at the meeting to sell his patent rights and to formally agree to the terms and conditions of the new organization. In 1904, another agreement followed which documented the payment of $2,500 from the Partnership to Orville Gibson for the exclusive rights to his patent

Gibson Harp Guitar

Early Gibson Harp Guitar

Considered eccentric, a short period after the company was started, the board passed a motion that “Orville H. Gibson be paid only for the actual time he works for the Company.” After that time, there is no clear indication whether he was a full-time employee, a consultant, or just an occasional visitor to the factory.

1907 Gibson Harp Guitar

1907 Gibson Harp Guitar

Orville continued his arms-length association with the Company through 1907 earning most of his income from royalties. He worked on various projects as an inventor and for a period of time, was even listed in the town directory as a music teacher. Initially, the company produced only Orville Gibson’s original designs. In 1908, the Board agreed to pay Orville an annual fee of $500. The payment of $2,500 for exclusive rights to Orville’s patent, was made in installments of $41.99 per month.

Orville’s health was deteriorating during the time the Gibson Company was getting underway. Various medical records suggest that he was suffering from a chronic disease, loss of weight, and possibly a mental illness.

Orville moved back to New York State and settled in the town of Saranac Lake, where he lived at 24 Ampersand Avenue. Orville had claimed that by moving to Saranac Lake, his health improved and that his “weight from 105 pounds [when he left Kalamazoo] to 150 pounds,” much of which he attributed to healthier living and the reduction of stress caused by people and problems that plagued him when he was in Kalamazoo.

In 1911, Orville moved further north to Ogdensburg, N.Y. There he was in the care of a Dr. Madill in Franklin County. He was treated at the St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg (about 80 miles west of Chateaugay), and discharged after eight days on August 26, 1911. He returned to the hospital in 1916 and was discharged after another six days of care. It is not known whether Orville ever returned to Kalamazoo, his instrument work, or the company that bore his name during the period of 1911 to 1918.

Orville Gibson died of endocarditis (inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and valves) on August 19, 1918, at 62 years of age, in St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York. Gibson is buried at Morningside Cemetery in Malone, New York.

There is no question that Orville’s contributions was the seed that allowed for over a hundred years of great instruments that grew from his creativity. Orville’s ideas were further cultivated by numerous loyal Gibson employees who followed after Orville Gibson’s departure.

1918 Gibson Style O Acoustic Archtop

1918 Gibson Style O Acoustic Archtop

An interesting model available between 1902 and 1923 was the Gibson Style O Acoustic Archtop. Some early Gibson instruments had this “Scroll” shape incorporated into the design like an old style mandolin. The Gibson Style O guitar did play an important roll in Gibson’s history.

"The Gibson" 1923 Style 0 guitar

“The Gibson” 1923 Style 0 guitar

These Gibson guitars were considered the most prestigious guitars of their time and are known to be the base model design from which other future Gibson archtop guitars derived from. These were based on original archtop designs from Orville Gibson himself, and were actually introduced in the late 1800s.

Gibson Style 0 in their 1921 catalog

Gibson Style 0 in their 1921 catalog

In some ways, reminiscent to an “F” style mandolin in its appearance. The Style O was another archtop design with scroll look on the top, cutaway with an Oval sound hole with 2 inlaid wood rings, fixed bridge with pyramids at ends, single bound top & fingerboard & peghead, dot fingerboard inlays, solid peghead with large rounded top, peghead veneer with pearl inlay, friction tuning pegs, black top finish, dark mahogany back & side.

Carson Robison featured in the 1924 Gibson catalog with a Style 0

Carson Robison featured in the 1924 Gibson catalog with a Style 0

Carson J. Robison (August 4, 1890 – March 24, 1957) born in Oswego, Kansas was an American country music singer and songwriter. He played a major role in promoting country music in being one the earliest singing cowboys on the radio. In 1924 he moved to New York City and was signed to his first recording contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company. So this picture in the Gibson catalog is from quite early in his career. In the fall of 1936, Montgomery Ward catalog sold the Carson J. Robison flattop Cowboy Guitar in Sunburst. Gibson was commissioned to make these guitars for Montgomery Ward.

In 1906 slotted pegheads were added with “The Gibson” slanted logo and fingerboards were made with a round pointed end that went pass the sound hole. In 1908, the body shape changed a bit, it now had a trapeze tailpiece, a carved artistic twirl with a single pointed cutaway which likely set the stage for future legendary cutaway guitars.

1917 Gibson Mandolin

1917 Gibson Mandolin

The cutaway resembles the ones later used on the ES-175, L-4C and SG models for example. The Gibson Style O had a few more variations until it was discontinued in 1923. The Style O guitars resembled Gibson’s early line of “F” style mandolins which were very popular instruments during the early 20s.

Gibson L-1 guitar

1907 Gibson L-1 guitar

The Gibson L-1 was one of the first acoustic guitars sold by the Gibson. It was an archtop with round soundhole with 2 rope pattern wood rings, single bound top, ebony fingerboard, dot fingerboard inlays, orange top finish, dark mahogany back and sides when it was introduced in 1902. In 1908, the L-1 specs had changed to a 13.5″ wide, narrower waist, trapeze tailpiece with pins anchored in tortoise celluloid plate, elavated pickguard, 13 frets clear of the body, bound fingerboard, slated “The Gibson” logo.

1924 Gibson 1924 L-3 Guitar

1924 Gibson 1924 L-3 Guitar

The L-4 was first introduced in 1911 as an acoustic “rhythm” guitar with an “oval” sound hole. Jazz guitarist Eddie Lang played a Gibson L-4 and L-5 guitar, providing great influence for many guitarists including Django Reinhardt. Perhaps, Django was attracted to those Selmer Maccaferri guitars designed by Italian guitarist and luthier Mario Maccaferri with the oval sound holes, due to this Gibson L-4 model?

Eddie Lang with Gibson L-4

Eddie Lang with Gibson L-4

Electric versions of the L-4 (known as L-4 CES) with a carved top and a florentine cutaway, were released in limited runs throughout the 1950s.

In 1912, there was no longer a pickguard, but the pickguard returned two years later in 1914. The 1918 L-1 had Sheraton brown finish. The 1920 L-1 had double 5 ply soundhole rings. The archtop L-1 was discontinued in 1925.

Robert Johnson with a Gibson L1 flat-top

Robert Johnson with a Gibson L-1 flat-top

The L-1 was reintroduced as a flat-top guitar in 1926. The L-1 flat-top model is most famous due to the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson playing one in the only know picture of him.

In the late 90s or early 2000s, Gibson introduced the L-1 Robert Johnson acoustic guitar model, the guitar features the historic small L-series body design (25″ scale length), ebony bridge with carved pyramid wings, 3 3/4-inch soundhole diameter, and a Robert Johnson signature inlay at the end of the fingerboard.

Gibson Mastertone Banjos

Orville Gibson had little to do with the development of the Gibson banjo line. With the new popularity in banjos that was occurring at the time, Gibson wanted their fair share of that new market.

In 1917, Gibson began to work on a simple open-back banjo. Gibson’s first announcement of a banjo appeared in October 1918. It was a plain tenor model, simply promoted as a “tenor banjo.” The Golden Years for Gibson Banjos were from 1918 to 1938. The Gibson Mastertone banjo has been copied by private luthiers and commercial makers for since. Certain models bring the highest prices from collectors and for some professional bluegrass banjo players, a Mastertone is the only banjo they will play.

Gibson Banjos

Gibson Banjos

Many evolutionary design changes were made, but the Gibson banjo has remained basically the same from about 1938 until 1985. In that year, Gibson and Earl Scruggs brought back the design from the early years — a project which was the foundation of the Earl Scruggs model banjos now produced by Gibson.

Lloyd Loar Hired by Gibson

Lloyd Loar

Lloyd Loar

Lloyd Allayre Loar was born on January 9, 1886 in Cropsey, Illinois, a tiny farming town about 120 miles southwest of Chicago.

In 1911, Lloyd Loar began an official relationship with The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan as a performing artist, a participant in many Gibson traveling “Gibsonians” bands, an advisor, and a music composer. By 1913, Gibson was publishing some musical arrangements that Loar had prepared for the company. Loar had ideas to improve Gibson’s mandolin construction, and it wasn’t long before Loar presented himself as a candidate for employment to Lewis Williams, one of Gibson’s original investors and stockholders.

Gibson hired designer Lloyd Loar to create newer instruments in 1919. Loar’s contributions to Gibson were considerable, including building and greatly improving the Orville Gibson instrument’s tops with F-shaped holes (instead of the round sound holes) like a violin; introducing a longer neck, thus moving the bridge closer to the center of the body; and floating the fingerboard over the top. Earlier Gibson instruments that had fingerboards glued directly to the top of the instrument.

Creating a steel-string guitar with a body constructed similar to a violin, viola or cello, where the bridge exerts no torque on the top, only pressure straight down. This allows the top to vibrate more freely, and thus produce a bit more volume. In the early 1920’s Gibson designer Lloyd Loar refined the archtop “jazz” guitar with f-holes, floating bridge and cello-type tailpiece.

In 1921, Gibson employee Ted McHugh, a woodworker who had previously sung in a group with Orville Gibson, invents two of the most important innovations in guitar history – the adjustable truss rod and the height-adjustable bridge. All Gibson instruments are still equipped with McHugh’s truss rod, and traditional jazz guitars still utilize the bridge he designed.

Gibson F-5 Mandolin and Bill Monroe

Lloyd Loar pioneered the use of the Virzi Tone Producer, a spruce wooden disc suspended from the instrument top that acts as a supplemental soundboard. The spruce disc is in the center and can vibrate freely adding a new dimension to the sound dynamics inside the instrument’s sound chamber. The sound response tends to be complex and mellow. It was principally used on violins until Lloyd Loar brought the idea and the rights to use it to use on some Gibson instruments.

Giuseppe Virzi, a Sicilian violin maker, was awarded U.S. Patent No.1,412,584 on April 11, 1922 for the Tone Producer. The patent, which was applied for in 1920, was very simple in nature and describes only the fact that one or more soundboards could be supported inside such instruments as guitars and violins. It further describes that the plates could be attached to each other with dowels, and that the plates could be arch shaped. Giuseppe Virzi’s two sons, Joseph and John had a sales office at 503 Fifth Avenue in New York City selling their violins from Italy.

Loar spent time at Gibson working on a ‘quasi-solid body’ electric double bass, and that according to several patents filed by Loar between the mid-1920s and the mid-1930s, used electromagnetic pickups. Loar designed the flagship L-5 archtop guitar and the Gibson F-5 mandolin that was introduced in 1922, before leaving the company in 1924.

The F-5 model was made famous by the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Monroe played a Gibson F-5 model (serial number 73987 signed by Loyd Loar on July 9, 1923) for most all of his career. This mandolin can be viewed in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, where it now resides in their collection. It is considered priceless.

Bill Monroe's F-5 at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Bill Monroe’s F-5 at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass music

Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass music

Loar also “signed” a rare subset of F-5 mandolins called Ferns, of which approximately twenty are known to exist. The name refers to the distinctive fern inlay design of the peghead. The earliest documented Fern bears the serial number 73755, dated July 9, 1923, the same signing date as Bill Monroe’s famous Loar. This is the only known Fern built without the “Virzi” Tone Producer inside the sound chamber. This particular instrument is the only known Fern dated on 9 July.

Left Frizzell's F-Style Gibson Mandolin

Left Frizzell’s F-Style Gibson Mandolin


“Virzi” Tone Producer

In 2007, mandolinist Chris Thile acquired 1924 Loar-signed F-5 serial # 75316 that was an exceedingly rare find, as it was in virtually new condition. It reportedly cost him around $200,000. Other well-known musicians who have owned Loar-signed F-5’s include John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin fame) serial # 75317, Mike Marshall, David McLaughlin, Tony Williamson, David Grisman, John Reischman, Tom Rozum, Frank Wakefield, and the late Joe Val serial #72207.

Gibson F-5, signed by Lloyd Loar on Feb. 8, 1923

Gibson F-5, signed by Lloyd Loar on Feb. 8, 1923

Only one A-style mandolin, a Gibson A-5, is known to have been signed by Loar. It has been widely copied, originally by mandolin maker Bob Givens. The Loar A5 was found by Tut Taylor and sold to a Southern California bluegrass musician in 1974.

Gibson’s general manager Lewis Williams was replaced, and a lack of amicable relations with the new manager, an accountant named Guy Hart—led to the termination of Loar’s contract with the company that expired in 1924. Loar left in order to continue his R&D in amplification.

After leaving Gibson, Loar created and patented an electric instrument with a coil pickup, and co-founded the Acousti-Lectric company with Lewis Williams and Walter Moon in 1934. The company was renamed the Vivi-Tone company in 1936. Loar died in 1943.

Lloyd Loar 1923 Gibson Harp guitar that had an electronic mod was done in the early 1930's. A service which ViVi-Tone offered at the time was to modify your existing instrument with one of their pickup units.

Lloyd Loar 1923 Gibson Harp guitar that had an electronic mod was done in the early 1930’s. A service which ViVi-Tone offered at the time was to modify your existing instrument with one of their pickup units

* Thanks to Lynn Wheelwright, Gibson historian for corrections.

Six of Lloyd Loar's Vivitone Instruments

Six of Lloyd Loar’s Vivitone Instruments

Vivi-Tone produced guitars, mandolins, an electric keyboard, and at least one amplifier. One acoustic guitar design featured a secondary soundboard (the back of the guitar) as well as a primary soundboard (the top of the guitar). This secondary soundboard had f-holes, and was recessed from the rim of the guitar to keep this soundboard away from the player’s body. Another acoustic-electric guitar design from the mid-1930s had essentially a plank body, making it one of the very early examples of a solid body guitar. All pretty innovative for the time.


Gibson produced several models of Mandolins, Mandalas, Mandocellos, Mandobasses, Banjos, Violins, Violas,Cellos, and Double basses in their long history. Even some acoustic-electric versions.

Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5

In 1927, The Carter Family made their first recordings, the “Bristol Sessions” recorded in Bristol, TN. One year later in 1928, their 19 year old singer and guitarist Maybelle Carter used a little of those earnings to buy herself a brand new Gibson L-5 archtop acoustic guitar (the first year of production for this model). Maybelle Carter’s 1928 L-5 was built just four years after Lloyd Loar left Gibson, proving that the Gibson archtop was not just for Jazz. Simple dot inlays on the fingerboard, unbound f-holes, and a basic three-ply binding around its carved solid-spruce top, but very resonant, with an innovative adjustable bridge and an adjustable truss rod (brought to the L-5 late in 1922).


Maybelle’s style, dubbed the “Carter scratch”, was a form of fingerstyle playing that involved thumbing the bass note while her fingers picked a sort of hybrid lead and rhythm on the higher strings. Carter’s playing has a lot of nuance and driving rhythmic subtlety, and is a clear precursor to many other great country playing styles to come, from Merle Travis’s “Travis picking” to Chet Atkins’s own finger style. Maybelle was one of the first guitar heroes.

Mother Maybelle with her Gibson L5 with the Carter Sisters

Mother Maybelle with the Carter Sisters

Carter’s L-5 would be used throughout The Carter Family’s recorded catalogue of more than 300 songs, as well as her tenure as “Mother” Maybelle Carter with her three daughters Anita, Helen, and June, and would serve to lay the foundations of country, bluegrass, and American folk music—earning Carter the title of “Queen Mother of Country Music” in the process. Maybelle Carter died in 1978, was the mother of the late June Carter Cash as her daughter had married Johnny Cash.

Mother Maybelle Carter and Johnny Cash

Mother Maybelle Carter and Johnny Cash

Maybelle’s original Gibson L-5 was purchased in August of 2004 from Gruhn Guitars of Nashville, TN for $575,000, on behalf of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Her Gibson L-5 is historically significance as it was the guitar she used for virtually all of her recordings from 1928 until she died. Virtually every classic Carter Family tune ever recorded, with the exception of the first Bristol Sessions, was all done on this guitar.

1928 Gibson L5 that belonged to Maybelle Carter

1928 Gibson L-5 that belonged to Maybelle Carter

Maybelle Carter's Gibson  L5 at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L5 at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Maybelle Carter was inducted as part of The Carter Family in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970. In 1993, her image appeared on a U.S. postage stamp honoring the Carter Family. In 2001 she was initiated into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. She would rank No. 8 in CMT’s 40 Greatest Women of Country Music in 2002.

1939 & 1940 Gibson L-5's. The Premier cutaway and non-cutaway models

1939 & 1940 Gibson L-5’s. The Premier cutaway and non-cutaway models

Around 1935, the L-5’s body was “advanced” to a larger 17″ wide, and its look was enhanced by five-ply fingerboard and peghead binding and other elements. Later that same year, Gibson introduced the 18″-wide Super 400, a guitar that would become “king of the archtops”, although the L-5 endured until 1958 in its non-cutaway form, and until 1982 as the L-5C with cutaway.

Gibson “Super 400”

The Gibson “Super 400” is a high-end carved solid wood archtop guitar. Gibson’s largest, fanciest and highest-priced factory built archtop hollow body guitar. It inspired many other master guitar builders including Elmer Stromberg and John D’Angelico. First sold in 1934 and named for its $400 price as many Gibson guitars were named for the sticker price during that era of the company.

All original first model 1936 Super 400. Production of under 100 of these first pieces ran from the introduction in 1934-1936

All original first model 1936 Super 400

Les Paul was featured in the Gibson catalog in 1939 playing a Gibson Super 400.

Les Paul  playing Super 400 in 1939

Les Paul playing Super 400 in 1939

In 1939, the Super 400’s upper bout was enlarged, and the hand-engraved tailpiece was replaced. The f-holes were slightly enlarged and a cutaway option also became available. This was called the Super 400P (for Premiere), later changed to C for Cutaway.

1949 Gibson Super 400

1949 Gibson Super 400

During the 1950s, Gibson released the Super 400 CES (Cutaway+Electric+Spanish). This had a slightly thicker top to reduce feedback, two P-90 pickups, and individual tone and volume controls, along with a three-way toggle switch. Later the P-90 pickups were replaced with Alnico V pickups, then in 1957, humbucking pickups.

1950 Gibson Super 400 cutaway model

1950 Gibson Super 400 cutaway model

Gibson has offered several variations on the limited edition Super 400 custom models. In 2000, Gibson offered the Super 400 with a Charlie Christian pickup. The Super 400 is still in production today, with two humbucker pickups. The full acoustic version is no-longer available.

Merle Travis Super 400 displayed at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Merle Travis Gibson Super 400 displayed at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Merle Travis Gibson Super 400 neck

Merle Travis Gibson Super 400 neck

Gibson L-7 Advanced Guitars

Along with the L-5, L-10 and L-12, the L-7 was re-launched with Gibson’s new 17-inch ‘Advanced’ body size in 1935. Gibson introduced the ‘Advanced’ L7 with the body size was increased to 17″, had beautiful fingerboard inlays and a rather plain tailpiece. The L-7 has an elevated fingerboard while the L-5 does not.

1937 Gibson L-7 Advanced guitar

1937 Gibson L-7 Advanced guitar

Gibson Hand Carved Tops Ad from 1942

Gibson Hand Carved Tops Ad from 1942

Above is an ad touting Gibson’s hand carved guitars, a labor intensive that required a skilled luthier. The guitars that are hand carved using this method tend to be very resonant. The tops are “tuned” by hand to achieve the best tone. This is before laminate plywood was used in guitar making. The laminate method is faster and cheaper and results in a stiffer top that has the advantage on electric hollow body guitars to reduce feedback when amplified. The Gibson ES-175 was constructed with laminates for this reason.

Gibson Goes Electric

The popularity of Hawaiian-style music created a demand for instruments specially made to accommodate Hawaiian guitar techniques. Gibson’s earliest Hawaiian style guitars were introduced around 1929, followed by the Roy Smeck 12-fret models in 1934. Hawaiian musicians had began to play an electrified lap steel guitars made by Rickenbacker which featured a magnetic “horseshoe” pickup to amplify the strings’ vibrations. Making the guitar louder, and notes and chords could be sustained longer.

Rickenbacker’s “Frying Pans” went almost unnoticed by Gibson until 1935, when sales shot high enough for Gibson to think they needed to build an electric Hawaiian of their own.

Rickenbacker "Frying Pan"

Rickenbacker “Frying Pan”

After Rickenbacker had success with the “frying pan” in 1931/1932 which likely was the first electric lap steel guitar ever produced, Gibson jumped into electrifying their instruments. The Rickenbacker Electro A-22 had a circular body, made metal and long neck make it resemble a frying pan.

Gibson's very early electrics the 1935 E-150 & 1935/37 E-150

Gibson’s very early electrics the 1935 E-150 & 1935/37 E-150

Gibson’s first attempt at an electric Hawaiian was a similar look and design to some of National and Rickenbacker’s Hawaiian guitars with a metal body. But the metal body didn’t fit into Gibson’s traditional manufacturing style, so by 1936 the EH-150 had a maple body and neck and was finished in Gibson’s traditional dark sunburst.

1937 Gibson EH150 with the matching amp

1937 Gibson EH-150 with the matching amp

Gibson hired musician Alvino Rey to consult and outsourced the pickup design to Chicago’s Lyon & Healy. Gibson’s final design for their now famous bar pickup was done by Gibson employee, Walter Fuller. Lyon & Healy did make the matching amplifiers sold with the EH-150 (Electric Hawaiian) guitars. The original list price of the EH-150 guitar and amp set was $150.

Gibson EH-150 had same pickup as the later ES-150

Gibson EH-150 had same pickup as the later ES-150

The same single coil pickup was later used in the ES-150. It is not uncommon to find vintage EH-150 lap steel’s with the original pickup removed to be retrofitted into a guitar by some player.

In the spring of 1935, Gibson hired musician Alvino Rey to help develop a prototype pickup with engineers at the Lyon & Healy company in Chicago. Later that year, research was moved in-house, where Gibson employee Walter Fuller came up with the final design. Gibson introduced the distinctive hexagonal pickup on a lap steel model in late 1935. The pickup was installed on an F-hole archtop guitar, dubbed the ES-150 ES for Electric Spanish), and the first one shipped from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on May 20, 1936.

Gibson ES-150 Electric Hollow Body

Gibson ES-150 Electric Hollow Body

The legendary Gibson ES-150 (Electric Spanish) quickly followed in 1936. The ES-150 was a standard fully hollow body archtop guitar that had been routed out to add a magnetic pickup that could feed a tube driven amplifier. Very groundbreaking in 1936!

Some early Gibson electric instruments

1938 ES-150, 1937 H-1E Mandola, 1940 ETG-150, 1935 E-150, 1937 ETB-150, 1936 EH-150

Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian was born in Bonham, Texas in 1916. His parents were both musicians and moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma when Charlie was just a small child. Charlie and his two brothers were taught music by their father. To support themselves, the family would work as buskers (street performers). Charlie would dance in the early days when his family performed. Later he learned guitar, inheriting his father’s instruments upon his death when Charles was only 12.

Charlie Christian with Gibson ES-150

Charlie Christian with Gibson ES-150

Charlie attended Douglass School in Oklahoma City, and was further encouraged in music by instructor Zelia N. Breaux. Charles played tenor saxophone in the school band. In 1939, Christian auditioned for John Hammond, who recommended him to bandleader Benny Goodman. Goodman was one of the few white bandleaders to feature black musicians in his live band.

When Christian was on the bandstand at the Victor Hugo restaurant in Los Angeles. Goodman called Rose Room, a tune he assumed Christian would be unfamiliar with. Unknown to Goodman, Charles had been reared on the tune, and he came in with his first chorus of about twenty, all of them different, all unlike anything Goodman had heard before. That version of Rose Room lasted forty minutes. By its end, Christian was in the band.

John Hammond at a recording session with Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman and Count Basie.

John Hammond at a recording session with Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman and Count Basie.

Made famous by Jazz great Charlie Christian who adopted the ES-150 as his primary instrument while playing in Benny Goodman’s band. Electrified guitar changed everything. No longer was the guitar just a background rhythm instrument that could hardly be heard. In the hands of such a huge talent as Charlie Christian, it was now a lead instrument competing with the horn players. Charlie Christian put the Gibson ES-150 electric guitar into the consciousness and the guitar would never be considered the same instrument again.

Charlie Christian in 1941

Charlie Christian in 1941

Forever enshrined the Gibson ES-150 unofficially known as the iconic “Charlie Christian” model. To this day, many jazz players regard the ES-150’s “Charlie Christian” pickups as the finest jazz pickup ever produced. The ES-150 was followed by other electric guitar models and variations.

Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman

Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman

Charlie Christian had contracted tuberculosis in the late 1930s. In early 1940 was hospitalized for a short period in which the Goodman group was on hiatus. In June 1941 he was admitted to Seaview, a sanitarium on Staten Island in New York City. He was reported to be making progress, and Down Beat magazine reported in February 1942 that he and Cootie Williams were starting a band. But Christian’s health declined and died March 2, 1942. He was only 25 years old.

Charlie Christian was buried in an unmarked grave in Bonham, Texas, and a Texas State Historical Commission Marker and headstone were placed in Gates Hill Cemetery in 1994. The impact Charlie Christian made as a guitarist and musician in his short life is nothing less that remarkable. Although credited for very few, Christian composed many of the original tunes recorded by the Benny Goodman Sextet.

Gibson Amplifiers

Gibson was one of the first manufacturers of electric guitar amplifiers, with the first model hitting their catalog in 1935. The first Gibson amplifiers were built in Chicago by Lyon & Healy Company and were sold as companions to the earlyelectric Hawaiian guitars. Later Gibson amplifiers were constructed in their Kalamazoo plant in Michigan, featuring all tube (valve) construction, as was the technology of the day. Gibson amps never became as popular as Fender, Marshall or Vox.

vintage gibson amp 4

Many of the Gibson amplifiers were well made and are considered bargains in the vintage market, mostly due to their original lack of popularity. I have noticed over the years, that many of these amps had circuit and component changes on the same model in the middle of production. Most times not even noted in the schematic. So some of the Gibson amplifiers were inconsistent. Many however, are nice sounding and well built.

1935 Gibson EH-150 -1st Version

1935 Gibson EH-150 -1st Version

Pre-WWII – The EH-100 and EH-150 were Gibson’s amplifier models from 1935 to 1942, featuring 8 and 15 watts, respectively, with 10-inch speakers and no volume or tone controls. Volume controls were added to both models around 1937, with a single tone control added to the EH-150, as well as a larger 12-inch speaker, for the model year. In 1941, the 15-watt, 12-inch speaker EH-185 and EH-125 were added, with an additional control for bass on the EH-185. Although all amps featured similar power amp circuitry through the model years, preamp tube configuration changed almost from year to year.


These amps were meant to be companions for the early Gibson electric Hawaiian lap steel guitars like the EH-150. Early Gibson amplifiers used Utah speakers, with Rola used on some later models in the ’40s and early ’50s.

Gibson EH-150

Gibson EH-150

Post WWII – War-time restrictions of components and hardware forced Gibson to halt manufacturing of electric guitars and amplifiers during World War II. Gibson began production again in 1946, employing Chicago-based electronic design company Barnes & Reinecke to design a new amplifier line. The new amps included the Ultratone BR-1, BR-3, BR-4, BR-6 and BR-9 models, with 10 to 18 watts of power. Volume and tone controls were featured on all models, except the smaller BR-6 and BR-9 amplifiers. The BR amplifiers were produced until 1954 and then were discontinued.

1952 Gibson BR-6 amp

1952 Gibson BR-6 amp

The 1950s – Shortly after development of the BR amplifiers, Gibson marketed its new GA series, starting in 1948, and continued with variations on this line until 1967. The GA series amplifiers made use of new features, and many early units began to feature volume, tone and bass controls, as well as tremolo and reverb effects. With the introduction of the Gibson Les Paul guitar in 1952 came Les Paul amplifiers as a special edition GA series, produced until 1961. Gibson used mostly Jensen speakers in the 1950s.

1960s Gibson amps

1960s Gibson amps

Names were also added to early ’60s GA amps, including the Raider, Invader, Gibsonette, Skylark, Discoverer, Lancer, Rhythm King, several variations of Maestro and the Les Paul Junior. The mid-to late ’60s saw Vanguard, Hawk, Scout, Titan, Mercury, Atlas, Apollo, Ranger, Saturn, Explorer and Minuteman model names. Gibson switched to CTS speakers in the 1960s, particularly in its budget amplifiers. Gibson did offer JBL speakers as an option for certain models.

Gibson ES-300

Was introduced in 1940 ES-300 (non-cutaway) with 17″ wide body, an unusual large 6.25″ long slate-mounted oblong single coil pickup with adjustable poles, jack on side, L-5 style plate tailpiece with center insert missing, triple bound top and back, maple neck, double parallelagram fingerboard inlays, crown peghead inlay, pearl logo, sunburst or natural finish.

1940 Gibson ES-300

1940 Gibson ES-300

Gibson ES-300 guitar and 1940 EH-185 Amplifier

Gibson ES-300 guitar and 1940 EH-185 Amplifier

In 1941, the ES-300 received a smaller slat-mounted pickup, trapeze tailpiece with pointed ends and raised arrows. Production halted in 1942.

1942 Gibson ES-300 with smaller pickup

1942 Gibson ES-300 with smaller pickup

In 1946, the ES-300 returned with one P-90 pickup in neck position, laminated beveled-edge pickguard, bound peghead and fingerboard. The 1948 model ES-300 was updated with two P-90 pickups, 2 volume knobs on lower treble bout, master tone knob on upper treble bout. ES-300 discontinued 1952.

The P-90 pickup, introduced in 1946, gave Gibson guitars new power and versatility. It is considered a classic single coil pickup that has more of a growl when pushed and sounds quite bit different than other single coils, like what Fender makes. Gibson leads the industry in the development of new electric archtops during this time with such classic models as the ES-5 (the first triple-pickup guitar) and ES-175 in 1949, followed by the L-5CES and Super 400CES (“CES” for Cutaway Electric Spanish) in 1951.

Barney Kessel

Barney Kessel (October 17, 1923 – May 6, 2004) was noted in particular for his knowledge of chords and inversions and chord-based melodies as he practiced up to 16 hours a day sometimes. Starting his career as a 16 year old teenager touring with local dance bands. He was a member of many prominent jazz groups as well as a “first call” guitarist for studio, film, and television recording sessions. Barney was thought to have been the heir to the throne that Charlie Christian had occupied in the ‘40s. In the ‘50s, no one was as famous on jazz guitar or as prolific as Barney.

Barney Kessel

Barney Kessel

Most all of Barney Kessel’s serious concert and recording work was done with a 1940s Gibson ES-350, sporting a Charlie Christian pickup. The 1947 ES-350 was originally called the ES-350P (Premier). It was a rounded cutaway version of Gibson ES-300, 17″ wide, one P-90 pickup, trapeze tailpieceLater. 1948 ES-350 had two P-90 pickups, 2 volume knobs on lower treble bout, master tone knob on cutaway bout (like a Gretsch in later years). The 1952 ES-350 changed the controls to 2 volume and two tone knobs and a 3-way switch. In 1956, the ES-350 received a Tune-o-matic bridge, but then was replaced by the ES-350T thinline version.

Gibson Barney Kessel model

Gibson Barney Kessel model

Gibson first approached Barney in 1960, at the height of his popularity. Barney’s name had already appeared on several Kay guitars, but he was eager to attach his name to an instrument he saw as both more worthy and playable. “I don’t play that Kay – it’s a terrible guitar!” he was quoted as saying. In 1961 The Gibson Guitar Corporation introduced The Barney Kessel model guitar onto the market and continued to make them until 1973. It is unclear if Barney was much happier with the new Gibson-made Barney Kessel models. But the model was quite popular with players.

Tony Rizzi, Bobby Gibbons, Milt Norman, Bob Bains, Tiny Timbrell and Barney Kessell check out the Gibson Barney Kessel model - Feb 1961

Tony Rizzi, Bobby Gibbons, Milt Norman, Bob Bains, Tiny Timbrell and Barney Kessell check out the Gibson Barney Kessel model – Feb 1961

The Barney Kessel artist model introduced in 1961, and actually stayed in production for a 13 years. The model had a long but unsteady tenure with Gibson, with shipping numbers during its best year – 1968 – totaling only 371 units for both the Regular and Custom models. The model was phased out in 1974 as was Barney’s relationship with Gibson.

Barney Kessel on Wrecking Crew session

Barney Kessel on Wrecking Crew session

Barney Kessel once gave a few guitar lessons to a very young Phil Spector who was hoping to become a Jazz musician. Later Kessel was a popular member of the “Wrecking Crew” of session musicians playing on an amazing amount of pop and rock records as well as being a premier Jazz musician. Barney’s sons also played on some Phil Spector sessions.

Gibson reached several successful deals with other Jazz artists for signature models over the years, including Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Howard Roberts and Herb Ellis.

Gibson Tal Farlow model

Gibson Tal Farlow model

1966 Gibson Johnny Smith model

1966 Gibson Johnny Smith model

Howard Roberts Prototype guitar

Howard Roberts Prototype guitar

Another Howard Roberts Prototype Gibson guitar

Another Howard Roberts Prototype Gibson guitar

1997 Gibson ES-165 Herb Ellis guitar

1997 Gibson ES-165 Herb Ellis guitar

Ray Whitley and Gibson Jumbo Flattop Guitars

Ray Whitley

Ray Whitley

Cowboy film star Ray Whitley ordered a super-large acoustic guitar from Gibson, thus paving the way for the J-200, or Super Jumbo around 1937. Looking for a louder guitar, this was basically a large Gibson L-5 body with a flattop.

The Gibson SJ-200 (Super Jumbo) became an iconic guitar in later played by Bob Dyan, Emmylou Harris, Everly Brothers and many others.

Emmylou Harris with her Gibson J-200 on stage at the Newport Folk Festival

Emmylou Harris with her Gibson J-200 on stage at the Newport Folk Festival

Bob Dylan with Gibson SJ-200

Bob Dylan with Gibson SJ-200

Johnny Cash J-200

Johnny Cash J-200

Eddy Arnold's J-200

Eddy Arnold’s J-200

Elvis with 1960 Gibson J-200 - NBC TV Special

Elvis with 1960 Gibson J-200 – NBC TV Special

Arlo Guthrie and his beautiful J-200 Vine guitar

Arlo Guthrie and his beautiful J-200 Vine guitar

In 1939, Gibson introduced the first cutaway models, the Super 400 Premier and L-5 Premier. The “cutaway” body gives players easier access to the upper range, and it becomes the preferred style.

Donavan with Gibson J-45

Donavan with Gibson J-45

The legendary J-45 and Southern Jumbo come out around 1942 as part of Gibson’s round-shoulder, acoustic “jumbo” line, which was to compete with C.F. Martin & Company’s “dreadnought” guitars.

1968 Gibson Hummingbird

1968 Gibson Hummingbird

The Gibson Hummingbird introduced in 1960, was Gibson’s second-most expensive acoustic guitar, behind the Gibson J-200, until the introduction of the Gibson Dove in 1962 two years later in 1962.

Gibson Dove was introduced in 1962

Gibson Dove was introduced in 1962

Connie Smith's 1968 Gibson Dove

Connie Smith’s 1968 Gibson Dove

Unlike the other flat-top Gibson acoustics, the Hummingbird was Gibson’s first square-shoulder dreadnought, similar to the dreadnoughts produced by C.F. Martin & Company.

Gene Autry

In May 1938, Gibson did a custom order for cowboy singer, Gene Autry making him a small flat-top with with Gene’s name inlaid in the fingerboard. Quite a very fancy L-00 flat-top body.

Gene Autry with dis custom orders small body Gibson flattop guitar

Gene Autry with dis custom orders small body Gibson flattop guitar

Gene also had a custom made “jumbo” Gibson J-200.

Gibson ES-125 Archtop Electric

The ES-125 evolved out of the ES-100 in 1941 and was produced until 1943. Upon its reintroduction in 1946, the ES-125 changed in a number of ways including a wider body, a new P-90 pickup, and trapezoid inlays. The ES-125 was updated again in 1950 with an adjustable P-90 pickup and dot inlays. Through the ’60s, a number of variations on the original ES-125 were produced including a version with cutaway (ES-125 C), thinbody versions (ES-125T or ES-125 TC), as well as versions with two instead of one pickup (ES-125 TDC or ES-125 CD).

• ES-125 Full body archtop with single P-90 pickup
• ES-125T (T = Thinline)
• ES-125TC (C = Cutaway)
• ES-125TCD (D = Double P-90 pickups) versions available starting in 1956 and 1960, respectively
• ES-125C Full width body with cutaway
• ES-125CD Full width body, double pickup (P-90) with cutaway. Looks like the ES-175D without neck binding

1966 Gibson ES-125CD

1966 Gibson ES-125CD from my collection

Between 1942-1945, Gibson employed women to manufacture guitars. “Women produced nearly 25,000 guitars during World War II yet Gibson denied ever building instruments over this period,” according to a 2013 history of the company. Gibson folklore has also claimed its guitars were made by “seasoned craftsmen” who were “too old for war. Interesting.

During World War II, Gibson slowed instrument making due to shortages of wood and metal, and Gibson like many other companies began manufacturing wood and metal parts for the U.S. Military. In 1944, as World War II nears conclusion, the Chicago Musical Instrument Company purchases Gibson and prepares to meet the pent-up postwar demand for guitars.

“T-Bone” Walker

“T-Bone” Walker born May 28, 1910, was one of the most influential guitar players inspiring players like Chuck Berry, B.B. King and even Jimi Hendrix that followed him. “T-Bone” Walker played Gibson hollow body electric guitars all of his long career, like the Gibson ES-250 (1930s-1950s), ES-5 Switchmaster (1950s-1970s) and ES-335 (early 1970s). T-Bone occasionally used a Gibson Barney Kessell model in the 1960s-1970s as well. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at number 67 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Early Gibson ES-5

Early Gibson ES-5

Gibson Les Paul Standard vs Studio vs Traditional and More: 5 LPs Explained - Reverb

Gibson Les Paul buyer’s guide 2021: The best Les Pauls for every budget

The Gibson Les Paul - the guitar, the myth, the legend. This genuinely iconic electric guitar has had a rather large hand in shaping rock 'n' roll ever since it was released way back in 1952. Many of the biggest axe-wielding stars from Slash and Gary Moore to Billy Gibbons and Jimmy Page have opted to make this single-cut beauty their number one guitar and, as a result, have firmly cemented Les Paul's place in music history. 

With the Les Paul being so popular for so long, it would stand to reason that there's a myriad of different options available. We know this can get a little confusing. That’s why we've put together this handy guide to the best Les Pauls you can buy right now, at various price points. We have also listed them in order of series, from the budget-friendly Epiphone to the high-end Murphy Labs custom shop model, to make it a little easier to navigate. 

We know that the guitar marketplace is awash with incredibly well-built single-cut guitars, from the likes of PRS, Heritage, and ESP, to name a few. Still, we’re solely focussing on Gibson/Epiphone for this article. So, with that being said, let’s dive into our Gibson Les Paul buyer’s guide right now.  

Best Gibson Les Pauls: Our top picks

It's hard not to recommend every Les Paul, but it would undoubtedly be the Gibson Les Paul Standard '60s if we have to pick just one. This is the flagship offering from Gibson, and it's hard to beat. It looks stunning, plays like a dream, and most importantly, sounds killer. 

For the financially savvy, we recommend checking out the Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute Humbucker. This stripped-back, no-nonsense guitar may not have all the bells and whistles of the Standard but has bags of attitude and a sound to match. 

Best Gibson Les Pauls: Product Guide

1. Epiphone Les Paul 50s Standard

The ideal option for beginners or the budget-conscious

Price: $599/£529 | Body: Mahogany/ Maple Veneer | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: Epiphone ProBucker 1/2 Humbuckers | Controls: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, 3-way toggle pickup switch | Hardware: LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece | Finish: Metallic Gold, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Vintage Sunburst

Looks just like the real deal 

Nice feeling neck

Pickups are surprisingly good  

The thick finish can put some players off 

If you’ve been paying attention, you'll know that Epiphone has gone through a somewhat extensive revamp over the last couple of years, following in the footsteps of Gibson - literally. The new "inspired by Gibson" range takes the much-loved models from their American brethren and makes them more affordable.

This guitar may be the budget option, but it's still a Les Paul through and through. This Epiphone Les Paul features a mahogany body and mahogany neck with a long neck tenon. However, it does sport a maple veneer rather than the solid maple top found on the Nashville counterpart. A significant change for the new model is the Kalamazoo headstock - something Epiphone fans have been crying out for. Gone is the modified Gibson design, in favor of the original headstock that harkens back to Epiphone's past. 

So if you're looking for the best Les Paul, but you don't want to remortgage the house, this is an ideal option for you! 

Read our Epiphone Les Paul 50s Standard review 

2. Epiphone Les Paul Custom

The budget option with a touch of class

Price: $679/£599 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: Epiphone ProBucker 2/3 Humbuckers | Controls: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, 3-way toggle pickup switch | Hardware: LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece | Finish: Alpine White, Ebony

Ebony fretboard

Slim neck  

Who doesn't like the look of a Custom? 

Some may consider it expensive for an Epiphone 

The Les Paul Custom has been a mainstay among rock royalty since it was introduced in 1954. It has been seen draped over the shoulder of Randy Rhoades, James Hetfield, Mick Mars, and of course, Les Paul himself. 

The Epiphone Les Paul Custom does a great job at re-creating this stunning guitar at a much more wallet-friendly price. The ever-popular 60s slim taper neck is adorned with a genuine ebony fingerboard and large block inlays, resulting in a guitar that plays as good as it looks. It also comes loaded with the Epiphone ProBucker 2/3 humbuckers, with era-appropriate wiring and CTS pots. 

So if you’re looking for an axe that is dripping with vintage mojo but at an accessible price, then look no further than the Epiphone Les Paul Custom. 

3. Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute Humbucker

The back to basics, no-nonsense Gibson

Price: $999/£799 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: 490R/490T Humbucker | Controls: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, 3-way toggle pickup switch | Hardware: Compensated Wraparound Bridge | Finish: Vintage Cherry Satin, Worn White Satin, Ebony Satin, Natural Walnut Satin

Simple design

Comfortable neck 

490T/R pickups  

Compensated wraparound bridge not for everyone 

The Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute is a stripped-down rock 'n' roll machine at its heart. This guitar boils down the Les Paul to its most essential elements, making it the perfect option for the player who isn't looking for all the bells and whistles. 

This modern take on a vintage style Les Paul special comes loaded with the 490R and 490T open-coil humbuckers, which deliver a warm, punchy sound. This simple guitar strays even further from its vintage roots with the inclusion of a maple neck, which offers superb comfort and playability with its rounded edges, as well as added strength.  

We must say, the Les Paul Special Tribute offers tremendous value for money, giving you the ability to purchase an American-made Gibson guitar for under $/£1,000. If you're the type of player who likes a no-nonsense instrument built to melt faces, do yourself a favor and check this one out. 

4. Gibson Les Paul Studio

A reliable studio companion

Price: $1,499/£1,349 | Body: Mahogany/Maple Top | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: 490R/498T Humbucker | Controls: 2 x Push/Pull Volumes (Coil-Tap), 2 x Tone, 3-way toggle pickup switch | Hardware: Aluminum Nashville Tune-O-Matic/ Stopbar | Finish: Tangerine Burst, Wine Red, Smokehouse Burst, Ebony

Classic Les Paul tone

Nice finish options    

Would rather a case instead of a gig bag 

Originally conceived as a more affordable, basic version of the Standard, the Les Paul Studio has developed a reputation all of its own since its debut in 1983. The term "studio" comes from the idea that no one cares what your guitar looks like in the recording studio, it's what it sounds like that matters - and this bare-bones guitar sounds like a Les Paul!  

This simple guitar isn't just for the recording studio. Many notable players have used them on tour. You can often see Jade Puget of AFI or Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance putting these guitars through their paces on stages worldwide.  

The current iteration of the Studio features a rosewood fingerboard and slim taper mahogany neck and a mahogany body with the Ultra-Modern weight relief. The 490R and 498T humbucking pickups provide the high-output you want from a modern Les Paul, and the two push-pull pots offer a coil-tapping option, meaning this guitar is the perfect companion in the studio.

5. Gibson Les Paul Junior

The student model turned punk icon

Price: $1,499/£1,349 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: Dog Ear P-90 | Controls: Volume, 1 Tone (Hand-wired with Orange Drop Capacitors) | Hardware: Nickel Wraparound Bridge | Finish: Vintage Tobacco Burst, Ebony

Classic P-90 tone

Pure simplicity 

Comes with a hard-shell case 

Fat 50’s neck not for everyone 

When Gibson released their new student model way back in 1954, they could never have imagined that not only would it still be around today, but that it would be a firm favorite of many punk and rock guitar players. This beautifully simple instrument has long been associated with hard-hitting players such as Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day to Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke, and many others. 

Sometimes simple is better, and this guitar really is as simple as it gets. The single-cut mahogany body houses a solitary dogear P-90 pickup, single volume, and tone control, as well as a vintage-style nickel wraparound bridge. Don't let the lack of features fool you. This guitar certainly packs a punch, and backing off your tone or volume can get a wide range of sounds out of its limited set-up. 

6. Gibson Les Paul Standard '60s

The Standard by which all others are measured

Price: $2,499/£2,199 | Body: Mahogany/ AA Figured Maple Top | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: Burstbucker 61R/61T | Controls: 2 Volumes, 2 Tones & Toggle Switch (Hand-wired with Orange Drop Capacitors) | Hardware: Nickel ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic | Finish: Iced Tea, Bourbon Burst, Unburst

A joy to play 

Stunning looks

Great sounding pickups  

More finish options would be nice 

The Standard is Gibson's flagship Les Paul and arguably the most iconic. From its beautiful flame maple top, bound body, and mother of pearl Gibson logo to the throaty mid-range bite of its humbucking pickups, this guitar sounds just as good as it looks. 

The introduction of the original series saw Gibson go back to what made their guitars so legendary in the first place. No more robot tuners, PCB quick connect pots, or extra wide necks, just simple, elegant guitars. The Les Paul Standard 60's features a solid mahogany body with a stunning AA figured maple top and an incredibly playable slim taper 60's-style mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard and trapezoid inlays. 

The Gibson Les Paul Standard 60's is easily one of the best options if you’re looking for a new Les Paul. This guitar certainly impresses with its beautiful looks and killer tones. So, if you're unsure which is the best Les Paul to go for, you can't go wrong with a Les Paul Standard. 

7. Gibson Les Paul Standard '50s P-90 Gold Top

Gibson is going for gold

Price: $2,499/£2,199 | Body: Mahogany/Maple Top | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: 2x P-90 | Controls: 2 Volumes, 2 Tones & Toggle Switch (Hand-wired with Orange Drop Capacitors) | Hardware: Nickel ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic | Finish: Gold Top

Who doesn’t love a gold top?

Tone for days 

Avoid if you don’t like large necks 

First of all, how stunning is this Les Paul? This beautiful guitar pays homage to the LPs of the early '50s, without the insane price tag of an original vintage example.  

Like the 60's Standard, this guitar features a solid mahogany body with a maple top, but this time it comes with a larger 50's-style mahogany neck and a dual set of P-90 pickups. The sweet sound of these pickups is the result of the Alnico V magnets, audio taper potentiometers, and orange drop capacitors.

You may not have the budget for an authentic vintage gold top, but you can still get the look and sound with the Gibson Les Paul Standard '50s P-90. 

8. Gibson Les Paul Modern

A modern take on a classic

Price: $2,799/£2,299 | Body: Mahogany/Maple Top | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo | Pickups: Burstbucker Pro Rhythm/Lead | Controls: 2 Push/Pull Volumes (Coil-Tap), 2 Push/Pull Tones (Pure Bypass/Phase) & Toggle Switch | Hardware: Aluminum Nashville Tune-O-Matic | Finish: Faded Pelham Blue Top, Sparkling Burgundy Top, Graphite Top

Modern contoured heel

Cool finish options   

Traditionalists should avoid 

Gibson has always been cutting-edge, and the Les Paul Modern proves they are still innovating. This contemporary instrument is loaded with features that take the Les Paul into a new sonic place. 

This guitar is built for comfort and speed, and the ultra-modern weight relief means this instrument is no longer a back-breaker. The contoured heel joint gives unprecedented access to the higher frets, and the asymmetrical neck profile and compound radius ebony fingerboard give this guitar an incredibly slinky feel, which is a joy to play - especially for fast playing or metal

So if you find yourself longing for a Les Paul with modern playability, then this is definitely the Gibson for you. 

Read our Gibson Les Paul Modern review  

9. Gibson Custom Shop 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue

Bag yourself a burst… for a fraction of the price

Price: $6,499/£5,199 | Body: 1-Piece Lightweight Mahogany/ 2-Piece Figured Maple, Hide Glue Fit | Neck: Solid Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood, Hide Glue Fit | Frets: 22 Historic Medium-Jumbo | Pickups: Custombucker Alnico III (Unpotted) | Controls: 2 Volume/2 Tone CTS 500K Audio Taper Potentiometers, Paper-in-Oil Capacitors | Hardware: Nickel ABR-1 | Finish: Washed Cherry Sunburst, Iced Tea Burst, Dirty Lemon

A fantastic replica of a vintage '59

Most comfortable LP neck 

The price may put a lot of players off 

Often referred to as the "holy grail" of electric guitar, the '59 Les Paul is one of the most coveted instruments of all time, with originals easily going for $/£100,000. These guitars were created during Gibson's golden era and have been the weapon of choice for so many rock gods, such as Slash, Jimmy Page, Joe Bonamassa, and Bernie Marsden

If you're anything like us, then you don't exactly have a spare 100k sitting around - and even if you did, there's no way you'd blow it on a single guitar - well, the next best thing would have to be the Gibson Custom Shop 1959 Les Paul Standard Reissue. 

The clever people over at the Gibson Custom Shop have meticulously recreated every detail of this priceless vintage guitar. From using lasers to scan the original dimensions, to the use of period correct hide glue, and even going as far as to recreate the plastics down to a molecular level, they really have tried to capture every detail of this rare guitar.

10. Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop Murphy Lab Aged

A gold nugget from the golden era of guitars

Price: $6,199/£5,399 | Body: 1-Piece Lightweight Mahogany/ 2-Piece Plain Maple, Hide Glue Fit | Neck: Solid Mahogany | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Indian Rosewood, Hide Glue Fit | Frets: 22 Historic Medium-Jumbo | Pickups: Custombucker Alnico III (Unpotted) | Controls: 2 Volume/2 Tone CTS 500K Audio Taper Potentiometers, Paper-in-Oil Capacitors | Hardware: Nickel ABR-1 | Finish: Double Gold with Dark Back

Absolutely beautiful guitar

As close as you can get to a vintage '57 LP 

Aged guitars aren’t for everyone 

If you thought the '59 was accurate to its vintage counterpart, then the Murphy Lab takes it to a whole new level. The brainchild of master builder and guitar aging pioneer Tom Murphy, the Murphy Lab has one goal - to make highly precise aged guitars indistinguishable from the originals. 

If you have ever been lucky enough to play an original gold top, you'll probably have noticed that the finish has cracked. This is referred to as "checking." This is a reasonably common phenomenon found on nitrocellulose finish guitars. The Murphy Lab has managed to expertly recreate the look and feel of this, bringing an air of authenticity to this Les Paul. Even the light aging around the headstock, and yellowing lacquer over the Gibson logo, make this guitar feel like a true vintage example. 

We’re well aware that this process isn't for everyone. Still, if you're looking for a custom shop guitar with an added level of detail, then it's worth looking at a Custom Shop Murphy Lab Les Paul. 


All models gibson


15 Vintage Gibson Les Paul Guitars Comparison! Years 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 68, 69, 74, 76 etc


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