Les Paul Custom, ’61
White, Serial # 3690.
Sales for the original single cutaway Les Paul Standards and Customs were dropping by the end of the ‘50s. This led Gibson President Ted McCarty to have the guitars revamped in 1960 for release in 1961. The new Les Paul’s double cutaway, lightweight bodies with contoured edges were influenced by players’ requests for lighter, more comfortable guitars with easy access to the high frets. The popularity of Fender’s Stratocaster and Jazzmaster guitars was also a factor in redesigning the Gibson solid body line.
The Les Paul Standard was the first solid body to receive the new design, with the Les Paul Custom following soon after. The guitars measured 12 and ¾” wide, 16” long, and 1 and 5/16 ” thin (the old single cutaway LPs had measured 12 and ¾” wide, 17 and ¼” long, and 1 and ¾” thin). The new Les Paul kept the 24 and ¾“scale on a 22 fret neck. The Standard’s mahogany body (minus the maple cap of the old version) was stained cherry red, while the Custom was finished in “gleaming white” (rather than black like the original Custom). The Les Paul Custom retained the split diamond headstock inlay and gold hardware of its predecessor. The new Les Pauls were also equipped with the newly designed (and soon abandoned) “sidewinder” vibrato.
The 1961 Les Paul Custom pictured matches the details provided in Gibson’s 1961 catalog:
– Ultra thin, hand contoured, double cutaway body
– New extra slim, fast, low-action neck – with exclusive extra low frets – joins body at 22nd fret
– One-piece mahogany neck with adjustable truss rod
– Ebony fingerboard, deluxe pearl inlays
– Adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge
– Three powerful, humbucking pickups with unique wiring arrangement
– Two sets of tone and volume controls
– Three-way specially wired toggle switch
– New Gibson Vibrato – operates in direction of pick stroke; swings out of way for rhythm playing