Les Paul Custom, ’55
Ebony, Serial # 511553.
The Gibson Les Paul Custom was formally unveiled at the July NAMM show in 1954, along with the Les Paul Junior. The two instruments were meant to increase the range of Gibson’s Les Paul solid body guitars by adding a fancier model and an economy model. The Les Paul Custom’s sumptuous looks and special low smooth frets earned it the nicknames the “Black Beauty” and “the Fretless Wonder”.
The 1955 Gibson catalog describes the Custom’s unique features: “Solid Honduras Mahogany body with carved top, size 17 ¼” long, 12 ¾” wide, 1 ¾” thick with graceful cutaway design; bound with alternating white and black strips on top and bottom of body. Mahogany neck, with exclusive Gibson Truss Rod construction; ebony fingerboard; deluxe pearl inlays.” The luxury treatment continued with the split diamond pearl headstock inlay previously reserved only for the Super 400. Another feature, until that time used only on high end archtops, was the new powerful Alnico V pickup (in the neck position). The Custom was also the first Les Paul to receive the innovative Tune-O-matic Bridge, which allowed for individual string intonation.
While the Les Paul Custom’s looks and darker sounds (due to the all-mahogany construction and deep sounding neck pickup) were aimed at refined jazz players, rock ‘n roll and pop musicians were also attracted to the instrument. Chuck Berry, Franny Beecher (Bill Haley & His Comets), Robby Krieger (The Doors) and of course Les Paul himself, are a few well known players who favored the first version Les Paul Custom at one time.