Here’s a little something we stumbled upon at the Tacoma Guitar Festival. We posted a picture on our Instagram (#GibSunday) that generated a bit of interest and got the old cogitative wheels a-turnin’ – “Hey, there’s a 1952 Gibson Les Paul at a shop a little more than a mile from our office. Perhaps we should give our readers a closer look…”
Behold! A closer look!
This isn’t the first ’52 I’ve seen, but it is the first that I’ve had my hands on, and… it’s not what I expected. First of all, this thing is light – 7 pounds, 14 ounces-ish. Second of all, the neck is tiny – apparently those chunky ’50s necks on Gibbies came about a bit later (my ’55 ES-125 has a much more significant heft to it). Third of all, it’s considerably easier to play than I’d been led to believe… and that’s where we get into this guitar’s grey area, where issues for a collector become selling points for a player.
To wit: that bridge. Nobody has good things to say about the original bridge on a ’52 LP. It adversely affects tone and intonation, rendering the thing nigh unplayable, according to most reports. This has led to more than a few folks replacing the original bridge with something else, which is what happened to this guitar. Twice. First, it seems there was a stoptail installed at one point. That was removed, the holes incurred were filled and there was some overspray, and the tailpiece was restored with an after-market compensated bridge. This restores the look and does a great job of addressing the intonation issues. It cannot, however, do much about the neck angle. But, while the neck angle is less than ideal, from a playability standpoint, it’s not like the guitar is unplayable – it’s perfectly fine, without being butter – kinda like one of those sweet cream-infused spreads. So, you lose the draw of “all original” on that point, but gain a significant amount of practical benefit.
Speaking of losing the draw of “all original,” that ain’t the original headstock, neither. Like so many Gibsons have before it (or probably after it, actually), this one lost its head. Somebody did a mighty fine job of grafting a new one onto the head, though, and it appears that the headstock veneer was salvaged from the original.
And then there’s the electronics. The pickups appear to be original, but I was told they’ve been rewound. What with the aforementioned neck angle, the balance between the pickups is more than a bit askew, but, man, that neck pickup sounds so damn good I’m not sure why you’d give a crap what the bridge sounds like at all (and the bridge pickup’s volume pot was a little hinky, so…). The harness is a bona fide ’52.
Cosmetically, the finish checking is almost over-the-top, but if finish checking is your bag, this one’s got it! The gold top is rich, for sure, albeit with some (sweat-induced?) discoloration on the lower bout that nobody will see behind your forearm when you’re playing, except while you’re doing windmills or reaching across the neck for some two-hand tapping. There are the dings you’d expect from a guitar that’s eligible for a Social Security check, but even the nastiest didn’t make me wince.
And speaking of not making me wince, this thing’s being offered at $8,299, which isn’t chump change, but when you’re used to seeing these guitars well into five figures… Contact our friends at Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar for more information.