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1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'

1960 Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'
Jimmy Page performing Bring It On Home,
Royal Albert Hall, London, England,
January 9, 1970. Photo: Warner Strategic Marketing
General Specs
Body: Carved mahogany top, sides and back
Finish: Ebony
Neck: One-piece mahogany neck
Fingerboard: Ebony with pearl block inlays
Frets: 22
Bridge: ABR-1 Tunematic Guitar Bridge / Bigsby B7 Tremolo
Headstock: 'Gibson' logo and split diamond pearl inlay, 'Les Paul Custom' on truss rod cover
Tuners: Grover Roto-matic
Hardware: Gold-plated
Pickguard: Multi-Ply Black
Pickups: (3) PAF Humbuckers
Controls: (2) Volume, (2), 3-way selector, (3) toggle switches were added in mid-March 1970
Years in use: 1962-1970
Website: http://www.gibson.com/
The Les Paul Custom was first introduced in 1954 and was the deluxe version of the Les Paul regular. It is also known as the 'Fretless Wonder' and of course as the 'Black Beauty'. The 'Fretless Wonder' name came about because of the advertising which stated that the frets where low and smooth and give the guitar fast playing action. So it didn't mean that it had no frets. This guitar has a bit of history to it which is pretty interesting. In 1961 (4 years after this reissue model) the single cut-away LP body was actually replaced with the SG double cut-away ultra-thin body. In 1963 it appears that Gibson and Les himself had a disagreement which was temporary. It resulted in this double cut-away model being renamed the Gibson SG Custom. So there are some variations in this guitar which would normally go unnoticed because of the two distinctly different body shapes being used.

The '52 version had an LP body shape (single cut-away) and was made of mahogany with carved arched top. There was a 7-ply binding around the top and body edges. The bridge was a Tune-O-Matic with stud tail piece. There were other models that included the Bigsby tremolo (some nickel plated). The LP regular had a carved maple top while this version had an all mahogany body.

The 24.7 5 inch scale length neck was made of a single piece of mahogany with an ebony fretboard. The fretboard had 'block' (rectangular) pearl inlays as position markers and 22 frets. The neck joined the body at the 16 fret. On the headstock was a split diamond inlay that slightly larger than usual. The words '' Les Paul Custom' was inscribed in the bell shaped truss rod cover. The original tuners used where Kluson Super tuners which were replaced with Grover Roto-matics in 1958. The hardware was gold plated with a few excepts where nickel plated were used. One thing about the '52 version is it used two single coil pickups, an Alnico in the neck position and a P-90 at the bridge. Both had black covers with the Alnico pickup having famous rectangular pole pieces while the P90 had the adjustable pole pieces. There were a few guitars made with three P-90 pickups in place of the humbuckers. The wiring on this three pickup model is also different in that it had three volume controls with a single tone control. The tone control was placed where the toggle switch normally was located (this version didn't have a toggle switch). Another thing about the 52 version was that it didn't have a serial number. They weren't added until 1954 and where found on the top edge of the headstock.

The Black Beauty offers a variety of tones not found on other LPs. This was done by adding a third humbuckers. In 1957 one of the main changes was the introduction of the PAF humbucker pickup. Three of these were put on the LP Custom with most pickups be wired differently than other LPs of the time. Instead of having the middle position of the 3-way pickup selector activating the center pickup it actually had both the bridge and middle pickups on with the middle pickup out of phase with the neck pickup. The result is a unique yet vintage sound. There are some that have only two humbuckers while there are also others that have the three humbuckers but with different wiring and control setup. It had three volume controls that were lined up in a straight line with a tone control located where the toggle switch was located.

In 1961 the body of the custom was changed to the ultra-thin SG double cut-away body and was painted white. This marked a significant change so much so that in 1963 they changed the name to the SG/Les Paul Custom. Also there is a non-historic version of the Black Beauty which called the Les Paul Custom.

The 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty' was purchased new in 1962 for £185. It was used for most of Jimmy's sessionwork (1963-1966), and was taken on tour, starting on January 7, 1970 at Birmingham, England's Town Hall through Apr. 1970, when it was stolen at the airport between Apr. 13 or 14, 1970. Jimmy Page placed an ad in Rolling Stone with reward, but it was never recovered.

I put on the Bigsby tremolo. Also, what I did, is, the Black Beauty originally had a single toggle switch. I took out the single switch and put in three on/off switches. You could have any combination of pickups on or off, even all pickups off!" (laugh) Yeah, Jimmy really liked that setup. - Joe Jammer

Then I got a Les Paul Custom which I stayed with until it was nicked in the States during the first 18 months of Zeppelin-the second or third tour. Usually I never took that on the road, because it was so precious. But things were going so well for us that I eventually took it over and it suddenly went.

It had a big tremlo arm and Joe Jammer custom wired it for me. I was starting to use it more than anything else. It got nicked off the truck at the airport-we were on our way to Canada. Somewhere there was a flight change and it disappeared. It just never arrived at the other end. I advertised for it in Rolling Stone. Just a photograph-no name-and a reward. No luck though, even though it was very recognizable for all the custom work that Joe Jammer done on it.
- Jimmy Page, CREEM Magazine, Winter 1980

Photos:

1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'
 
1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'
 
1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'
Jimmy Page, January 9, 1970, Royal Albert Hall, City Of Westminster, London, England
1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'
Jimmy Page, January 9, 1970, Royal Albert Hall, City Of Westminster, London, England
1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty'
Jimmy Page, April 10, 1970, Backstage ant the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach, Florida
 
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December 16, 1968 - Zep plays Bath Pavilion for a mere £75.
December 26, 1968 - First American concert at the Coliseum in Denver, CO
December xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are reported to have sold 5 million dollars worth of albums in the US
December 11, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are presented gold and platinum discs for their first two albums
December xx, 1970 - The band enters Island Studios to begin work on the fourth album
December xx, 1971 - The band plays a few low-key shows back in England
December 23, 1972 - The band break for Christmas holiday after a London gig
December xx, 1973 - John Paul Jones works on studio productions for Madeline Bell
December xx, 1973 - Joe Massot films Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence at Loch Ness
December 19, 1974 - John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page jam with Bad Company at the Rainbow Theater
December 10, 1975 - Led Zeppelin play a 45-minute show with Norman Hale at Behan’s in Jersey
December xx, 1976 - Led Zeppelin rehearses for the 1977 tour
December 25, 1976 - It’s announced that Plant and Bonham will reunite with the Band of Joy for three shows in the new year
December xx, 1977 - The band minus Robert gather to discuss Led Zeppelin’s future plans
December xx, 1978 - The new album is completed quickly at Polar Studios and mixed at Jimmy’s Plumpton Studio
December xx, 1979 - John Bonham considers joining Paul McCartney’s Wings
December 29, 1979 - The band minus Jimmy Page attend the Paul McCartney And Wings Kampuchea befefit show
December 04, 1980 - Led Zeppelin issue the following statement not to carry on as a band: "We wish it to be known, that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the deep sense of harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."
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