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SurfGuitar101 Forums » The Shallow End »

Permalink I Played Les Paul's Les Paul Today!

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Absolutely zero surf content here, but today I was privileged to have the chance to play Les Paul's #1 Les Paul! It's being auctioned by Christie's in NY, and through the same connections that got me in for Gilmour's guitars 2 years ago I was afforded this opportunity.
This is the second production prototype that Gibson gave to Les Paul in 1953. The first prototype, a 1952 model, wasn't satisfactory to Les because of a bad neck angle and ill designed bridge. Although this guitar was deemed acceptable, he still heavily modified it. I guess he couldn't help himself.
The mods include an extra low impedence output jack used for plugging in direct into the mixer, a home made steel bridge, and a huge coil inside the guitar to act as a humbucker. This is covered by a big plastic cover on the front of the guitar. There's some modification to the neck pick up resulting in very crudely drilled out pick up cover though I'm not sure what the purpose of the mod is. The guitar has a Kaufman vibrato that operates sideways, and pulls the pitch up rather than down. It also has the added bonus of knocking the guitar completely out of tune the moment you touch the bar! The guitar goes out of tune pretty easily, especially (and of course) the G string in particular. It plays and sounds great though. It's pretty lightweight for a Les Paul and the neck is actually pretty slim and comfortable. Very easy to play. The finish is in good shape, with some checking and light discoloration and a few scratches here and there. Overall in excellent condition.


Here's a close-up of the vibrato and bridge.


They're also auctioning off Les Paul's Ampex tape machine that he modified to be able to do sound on sound recording (overdubbing) - this guy was so ahead of his time it's scary.
According to his son, Les' head was always buried inside the machine tinkering around. He would never let anyone look inside though.

Also up for auction is BB King's Lucille (one of them anyway) but I didn't play it. It would have been too much MOJO for one day!


Here's a short video of me noodling on a guitar I should have no right to touch! (Sorry for the crummy cell phone sound and questionable playing!)

Here's a pic of Les Paul with the guitar and tape machine.


Last edited: Oct 10, 2021 05:32:35

Very cool that you got the chance to play it!

So cool!!! Thanks for the post, pic’s and video, Victor!

I rarely read the guitar magazines & associated websites but for whatever cosmic, serendipitous, or just pure random dumb luck reason happened to see this article just yesterday with more photos and detail about the perpetual tinkering Les did (or had his tech and for now/until auctioned and current custodian of the guitar):

It could be yours!!! Fun to spitball… my bet is on Joe Bonamassa to become the next steward. Hopefully we’ll know in a few days (appreciating it could just as easily go to a private collector who chooses to keep it that way too).

More from Christies:


El Mirage @ ReverbNation

Nice Victor! You are a lucky and deserving man.

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cool ..I saw a feature on CBS sunday morning news about the guitar and tape machine and sale ...pretty cool bit of history . I DID wonder about the odd neck pickup bobbin and the plastic plate between pickups .

Amazing, so very cool Victor!

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Thanks guys, it was quite a buzz and honor being allowed to play that guitar, It ended up selling for $930,000, which is very surprising. I thought it would fetch at least 2 million, especially after the Gilmour and Cobain guitars selling for as much as they did. No idea yet who bought it. I thought it might be Bonamassa (at least he'd play it) or someone like that. It's also kind of odd that they lumped this in with a bunch of random unrelated lots and didn't really hype it much. Bit of a head scratcher... oh well back down to earth now...

They had Lucille for sale, too! I can't believe that one only went for $625,000.

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