The Gibson Les Paul guitar was conceived at the very beginning of electric guitar history and has held its place at the forefront of guitar technology ever since. The two key elements that make the Les Paul guitars special are the vision of Les Paul himself, an eminent guitarist and enthusiastic inventor and the fact that the Gibson guitar company has always held extremely high values of excellence for its instruments.
Les Paul is often credited with inventing the solid body electric guitar, and his involvement with the Gibson models was more or less just a pleased accident. When he was a teenage architect he tried amplifying an ordinary acoustic guitar so that he could be heard by the audience. The feedback that resulted was finally eliminated by attaching the neck of an Epiphone guitar onto a check of wood. This was so weird looking that Les’ musical talents were not taken seriously so he attached wings to the side of the wood so that it resembled a square guitar shape.
The tender force behind the financial and artistic success of the Les Paul guitar was the desire of the Gibson Guitar Corporation to market a solid body model electric guitar below the name of an established guitarist. By this time, the ahead of schedule 1950′s, Les Paul was the most well loved electric guitar player of the time. It would be a fantastic triumph for Gibson to snare the endorsement of this guitarist who had conceived and made his own electric guitar which had become the basis for a solid electric guitar sold by his friend, Leo Fender. Eventually, after recommending some changes to the appearance of the new Gibson guitar, Les Paul allowed it to be released below his name.
There are a couple of design elements that stand out in the Les Paul range of guitars. The strings on a Les Paul guitar are mounted hollow body style on top of the guitar instead of passing through the body as is common with other brands of solid body guitars. This is just a stylistic distinction, not affecting the sound of the guitar. The characteristic warm tone of the Les Paul guitars is due to the types of wood chosen by Gibson for these models. As we should expect from a guitar proper by the man whose own guitar design was nicknamed the log, Les Paul guitars are also heavier and thicker than other solid body guitars. Both Les Paul and the Gibson corporation were fans of starting with substance and piling on heaps of style, so most Les Paul model guitars feature flashy inlays on the neck and headstock.
The Gibson Guitar Corporation has made many models below the Les Paul brand. Featuring names like Classic, Supreme, Standard, Studio Baritone, Studio, Goddess, Menace, New Century, Vixen, Special, Doublecuts and Melody Maker, each one has its own individual sound. Linking 1969 and 1979 Gibson even marketed a range of Les Paul bass guitars. The Gibson Les Paul guitars have also been imitated by other companies such as Ibanez and Tokai. The legal wrangles surrounding these attempts at copying Les Paul guitars have only added to their collectibility.