The iconic guitar is over 64 years old
Cohan Chew
13:36 5th April 2016

The Gibson Les Paul was first sold in 1952 and was named after the guitarist, Les Paul himself.

Although originally a failure, with guitarists favouring the Gibson SG at the time, the Les Paul created its own legacy for itself, with countless guitarists using the instrument for their work.

Talking about the guitar, Paul McCartney said, “the thing about Les Paul guitars is that they’re beautiful guitars. That’s due to Les’s knowledge of the instrument and due to his technical knowledge. So he, together with Gibson, developed this amazing guitar. For me, it’s just beautiful to play. It’s a classic. One of the ones I have is 50 years old, so it’s a great antique as well as being a classic. It plays great, and I think that’s due to Les’s expertise. When you pick it up you fall in love with it.”

It truly became an iconic guitar in its own right, with its hollow sound providing for screeching solos, grungy chords and chunky riffs. As a result, blues heroes such as Muddy Waters used the guitar for its thick tone, whilst heavier guitarists such as Slash used the guitar his ferocious guitar solos.

  • Keith Richards - Although more of a Fender man, Keef's was the first big name guitarist to tote a Sunburst Les Paul. Richards used the guitar in early Stones days, with black and white footage of the band showcasing his early solos and proficiency.

  • Slash - From the exhilarating riffs in 'Sweet Child O Mine' to fragile and heartfelt solos in 'Patience', Slash proved himself as a legendary guitarist time and time again, presented through his reliable Les Paul. Arguably, the most consistent and iconic of its many players.

  • Jeff Beck - Jeff Beck was a huge fan of Les Paul himself and consequently released an album to honour him. Beck himself played the iconic guitar himself on the record and continued to use the instrument in some of his live gigs.

  • Marc Bolan - Glam rock looks and pop metal hooks were Bolan's signature style, fuelled by his customized Les Paul. 'Get It On's iconic rock and roll riff and '20th Century Boy's grungy sound were both captured on Bolan's Les Paul.

  • Pete Townshend - Townshend may have destroyed many a guitar in his time, but one guitar that survived his battering was the Les Paul. Townshend used the guitar live on classic numbers including 'Won't Get Fooled Again'.

  • Eric Clapton - Clapton's time with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds were both defined by his use of the Les Paul, demonstrating just how versatile the instrument is.

  • Dave Grohl - Although a rare sighting, Grohl has wielded a Les Paul on the odd occasion. Grohl rocked a Budweiser Dale Earnhardt Jr Les Paul at the Rock In Rio Festival in 2004 to perform the intro to 'Sweet Child O Mine' in ironic homage to Guns N' Roses.

  • James Dean Bradfield: The site of JDB noodling through a mind-expanding solo, shredding through post-punk and blaring out an arena-ready anthem as he spins on one leg with his white Gibson held aloft is an iconic vision for all Manic Street Preachers fans. Only the Les Paul could give James that elegiac but larger-than-life sound.

  • Paul Banks: The choppy post-punk brilliance of Interpol is made to sound all the more epochal when Banks tears through his Gibson.

  • Geroge Harrison - The ex-Beatle cherished his Les Paul so much that he named it Lucy. Given to him by Eric Clapton, who used the instrument to perform the solo on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Lucy stayed with Harrison throughout his career.

  • Mick Jones - Defining the sound of the 70s and 80s, Mick Jones' work with The Clash resulted in some of the best punk rock anthems to date. The Clash's iconic sound of anarchic frustration was presented beautifully by Jones' Les Paul.

  • Roy Orbison - Orbison's Les Paul helped him to define his own sound. Orbison can be seen with the guitar on the artwork to Roy Orbison Sings and Roy Orbison: Communication Breakdown.

  • Duane Allman - The Les Paul was responsible for the instantly recognisable Top Gear theme tune, 'Jessica', and proved to be a key ingredient to the Allman Brother's signature sound. Allman also used the guitar on Wilson Picket's cover of 'Hey Jude'.

  • Frank Zappa -the prog rock king used a Les Paul Goldtop, which can be heard on Hot Rats' 'Willie The Pimp'.

  • Muddy Waters - the blues legend used the Les Paul's warm tone to form the bedrock of what would later be known as rock and roll. Without Muddy Waters, there'd be no Rolling Stones, without the Les Paul, there'd be no Muddy Waters.

  • Bob Marley- Reportedly Marley's favourite electric guitar, his Les Paul was used extensively throughout his career. A rumour was even spread that he was buried with the guitar, but in actual fact, the guitar is at home in the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica.

  • Mick Taylor - When Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones, he brought with him a new sound that incorporated more technical guitar solos that augmented the Stones' live performances. Taylor's solos were unleashed through his Les Paul, making the Stones sound even better than before.

  • Billie Joe Armstrong - With his legs soldered shoulder width apart and his guitar hanging just below waist height, his iconic black Les Paul captured Green Day's punk-pop image and sound.

  • Gary Moore - Scorching solos and riffs for Skid Row and Thin Lizzy as well as his incendiary solo work were all created through Moore's Les Paul. He coined his own signature tone with his Les Paul that infused heavy rock and high-octane blues rock.

  • Jimmy Page - Perhaps the best British guitarist of all time, Jimmy Page had an armoury of guitars. His Les Paul was used for Zeppelin's chunkier and heavy numbers such as 'Rock And Roll', 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Black Dog'.

  • Paul McCartney - The ex-Beatle professed his love for the Les Paul on numerous occasions, commenting on its reliability and diversity. He often used his cherryburst Les Paul on stage for guitar solos.

  • Steve Jones - The Sex Pistols galvanised a generation with their profound and anarchic sound, power driven by their lead guitarist Steve Jones and his Les Paul.

  • Mick Ronson - Ronson used the Les Paul for his work on Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and more. His aching notes sent Bowie's vision into the space age.

  • Neil Young - Young has used his 1953 Les Paul Old Black since the late 60s. The axe proved him well throughout the 70s and 80s and the guitar still proves to be his favourite to date.

  • Ronnie Wood - The Rolling Stone has used the Les Paul numerous times on stage for solos and for countering Keith's classic riffs.


Photo: wenn/press