Maple Street Guitars - Acoustic, Classical & Electric Guitars
Maple Street Guitars - Acoustic, Classical & Electric Guitars
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Maple Street Guitars - Acoustic, Classical & Electric Guitars
Maple Street Guitars - Acoustic, Classical & Electric Guitars

Used Electric Guitars




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1957 Gibson Les Paul Special in TV Yellow

The Les Paul Special and its single-pickup counterpart, the Les Paul Junior, are perhaps two of the most under-rated electric guitars in history. Introduced in 1955 as a student model, the Les Paul Special was a less expensive alternative to the Les Paul Standard, which also featured two P-90 pickups at the time but had a more costly carved top. Indeed, at less than half the cost of the Standard, the Les Paul Special became a popular guitar, despite Gibson’s overall mixed success with all the various Les Paul iterations in the early years. Known for a unique mixture of warmth, body, and single-coil bite, the P-90 pickups of the Les Paul Special have an appealing and distinctive response that can remain clean or can readily push an amp past the break-up threshold. For rockers in particular, this thicker and aggressive tone definitely conjures some real primal urges, but the Les Paul Special truly has enough of a varied response that it has found its way into the hands of a wide array of players (e.g., Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend, Bob Marley, and Warren Zevon, to name a few). Though Gibson has produced guitars with P-90 pickups for over 80 years, it could certainly be argued that both Gibson and the public turned their attention to humbucker-equipped models following the development of the humbucking pickup in ’57. As a result, the P-90 pickup became increasingly obscure, particularly for new generations of Gibson devotees that began playing in the mid-‘80s, during the renaissance of the Les Paul Standard (thank you Slash!). Yet, perhaps beginning with the rise of indie music in the ‘90s and the concomitant interest in funky, affordable vintage guitars, guitars such as the Les Paul Special began to enjoy a new-found relevance and popularity that continues to this day.

This particular TV Yellow Les Paul Special, however, has lived its life entirely unaware of all these developments. Instead, it remained the faithful companion of its original owner, who purchased it new upon graduating from high school. We can only hope that a young man and his new electric guitar had some riveting adventures in the early days; but, we do know that in the later years the guitar was used religiously every Sunday (sorry, the pun was irresistible), when its former owner would perform at his church. Sadly, the gentleman who so loved this guitar has passed on in recent years, but some of his spirit and love is undoubtedly harbored by this Les Paul. This mojo is reflected by the readily-apparent and quite “honest” play wear, all of which reflects the ownership of a player who respected his instrument, but wasn’t afraid to use it either! In short, this guitar was well-used, not abused; and, subsequently, there are numerous minor dents and dings, some belt rash, and various areas where the light finish has been worn down to the wood (this is especially true of the neck). In our opinion, this is what a great old guitar should look like!

The most obvious cosmetic wear on this guitar is linked to the most curious part of its past, that being the addition of an after-market “Short Horseshoe” vibrola. According to the original owner’s widow, this vibrola was on the guitar as long as her late husband owned it. This is a curious claim as single cutaway Les Paul Specials (’55-58) were not offered with a vibrola; and, more importantly, this form of the vibrola didn’t appear until the early ‘60s, as far as we know. However, given that this guitar originated during the dawn of the vibrola, one can easily envision a scenario where a starry-eyed young man, fresh out of high school, might have been convinced by his local guitar shop to add this new-fangled device to get that hip “wiggle stick” sound…. Whether this vibrola is an early Bigsby-made prototype or whether it was added a few years after the guitar was purchased is difficult to determine, but it definitely bears the proper hallmarks of the period, both in terms of its design and patina. What was easy to determine is that this guitar performs much better without the vibrola! Upon our initial evaluation of the guitar, we noted that the vibrola was functional as it sat, where the original wraparound tailpiece was essentially functioning as a bridge. Yet, this unfortuantely translated to a scenario where one had to contend with fairly high action; or, if the tailpiece was lowered, there was a significant amount of string buzz, due to the fact that the strings didn’t have enough break angle over the bridge/tailpiece. Despite our reservations about a footprint in the finish, we elected to remove the vibrola and restore the guitar to its original hardware format. Fortunately, there is only a faint footprint in the finish with virtually no discoloration, but some gouging clearly remains in addition to the mounting screw holes.

“Wiggle stick” provenance and cosmetic notes aside, this is Les Paul Special has what a lot of competing guitars do not—it has a great neck, that is not only straight and has play in the truss rod but also feels great to boot! The frets are original and do not have a great deal of material remaining, but they have been dressed and re-crowned in our shop such that the guitar plays properly. In light of the crumbling tuner button syndrome, we elected to set aside the original tuners and replace them with relic’d Golden Age replicas (better-functioning tuners in every respect!). We have also replaced the black “poker chip” rhythm/treble indicator surrounding the pickup switch as the original was missing. Prior to replacing this part, we did note that there is a slight body crack stemming from the pickup switch washer. We suspect that this crack (which is obscured when the poker chip is in place) possibly originated from over-tightening, but it doesn’t pose any structural threat to the guitar. In light of this guitar’s age and the extent of its use, this sort of wear in addition to the failure/absence of some minor parts is not too surprising; and, fortunately, this guitar is totally original where it truly counts! That said, this Les Paul Special is an absolute head-turning classic that is strikingly expressive while it readily melds to the player’s hands, making them feel right at home in almost any musical setting—it is everything a great Gibson should be.

This guitar includes its original Lifton case. (used)

Our Price: $9500.00

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