1952/53 Les Paul Goldtop

This was my first ever 1950s Les Paul. I bought this one circa 20 years ago in Florida, at the “Guitar Broker“. I was there because at that time I was engaged to a young Floridian (Miami) model (yes, I had good times ). So every now and then, I visited guitar shops in the area.

The price was ridiculous (I forget really, but it was cheap: there wasn’t a hunger for older ’50s bodies at the time, or less so than today anyway) and I’d already found out that ’50s wood was something special.

This is what basically started my quest for ’50s tone – for Les Pauls anyway – and this guitar was my main instrument for several years to follow. For the most part I played it live, though not in the shape you see it here. This one had already been (poorly) converted into a “burst”, with humbucker pickups and a sunburst finish. The finish had been very poorly applied, as had also most of the features of the guitar.

I’d sold this guitar at some point through the years, but it popped back to me through a friend and I repurchased it last year for 2k euro! (he’s a good friend, thanks Gian ).

I think I’ve had this one refinished a number of times, into a richer sunburst color at one time and then, back to its original – more or less – goldtop finish, as you see it in its present form.

Soon, next October in fact, this one is going to be properly converted into a burst form. German Luthier Jaeger Guitars (now highly in demand for his incredible work and professionalism) has agreed to do it for me. The pickups are likely to be a couple of real PAFs that I still have around. The harness (i.e. circuitry) is still original, although the capacitors have been replaced at some time with replica BumbleBees (in lieu of the previous older capacitors that were not “burst like”). The guitar now has replica P90’s (I think these are Lollars) and it sounds pretty amazing.

It’s a rather heavy guitar, which is one of the reasons that I was never too much ‘into it’ (I like lighter Les Pauls). I just like PAFs guitars, I was never into P90s models (though I have had quite a few of all eras), which is partly the reason why it will be converted. Also, I’ve never really liked GoldTop as a finish, even if I’ve had a certain number of them, (probably 5) I am just into Bursts

The finish for this one will be a heavily weathered sunburst, meaning that the guitar will look very old and used. As some of you may know, I basically can’t stand the look and feel of new guitars.

There is no “flame” on this guitar: it is a plain top (meaning that there is no figured maple on the top). I remember too that it is a “two piece” top, center seam. The top will remain as it is – meaning I won’t have figured veneer laminated over it (the figured veneer is an extremely light layer of figured wood that some add to the top of their bursts to make the flamed, figured bursts, though seemingly not changing the sound of it), also no top replacement (like several guys are doing: word has it that it’s not so much the maple top defining the tone but more so the mahogany body and neck!). I was told this by Joe Ganzler – burst expert – in person, while holding this guitar (he dated it to 1953 by the way). While I do trust Joe naturally, I still will keep its original 1950s top, just to make sure

Usually, on early 1950s Les Pauls, the neck is chunky (big, fat) however this one is extremely thin. It was probably shaved back in the day of its first conversion, to resemble a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard (1960 Gibson Les Paul Standards had the thinnest necks of the whole range of real bursts produced from 1958 to 1960).

Playability is like butter with this one, very low action, no fret buzz, very good sustain. I’m curious to hear what it will sound like with real, proper Patent Applied For pickups. The pair that I have, as a spare, is a 1961 dated couple, the second to last year that these were produced before Gibson switched to Patent Numbers.

All of the parts on this guitar have been replaced. Basically nothing is original, except the wood. The knobs are 1960s, the pickups are replicas, the bridge and the stopbar are probably 1960s and the pickguard is not even made for a P90’s Les Paul. I’ve just added it to complete the look.