1959 Gibson Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty”: Where Jimmy Page’s trademark tone was born

Very few guitars have become as iconic as those made by The Gibson guitar company in 1959. Among those models, the Les Paul “Custom” was the weapon of choice of some of the most influential musicians ever, think about people like Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, or Peter Frampton just to name a few. But the 1957/1960 incarnation of the model featured 3 humbucking pickups and offered a never before experimented tonal combination, often underrated, that is, on the contrary, very interesting.

First thing worth to be mentioned is that the Les Paul Custom model made between 1957 and 1960 had some unique features, such as a full mahogany body (and no maple top), ebony fingerboard, and 3 humbucking pickups, with the middle one with reversed polarity magnet, wired to the same volume and tone controls used for the bridge pickup.

When we select the “middle” position in the toggle switch we hear the tone of the middle and bridge pickups combined, with a unique “Fender-like” tone, in between a middle position of a Telecaster or the second and fourth positions on a Strat.

Many guitarists modified this option, reversing the magnet polarity of the middle pickup and independently wiring it to the middle toggle switch position, but people like Jimmy Page instead worked around that feature to achieve incredible guitar tones, frequently used by him when playing rhythm or solo guitar parts in the studio or on stage.

Infact, A typical three-pickup Custom comes with a single three-way toggle switch that allows players to activate their pickups in this fashion – neck pickup only; neck and middle pickup; bridge pickup only. Jimmy used it like this, in the standard configuration for a good decade, after purchasing it brand new in 1960. In 1970 he added two additional toggle switches so he could activate any combination of pickups, change their phase relation or turn them off completely .


Jimmy and his Les Paul Custom can be heard on a countless number of tracks from that era, including Shirley Bassey’s dramatic “Goldfinger” and Them’s intense garage rock version of the blues classic, “Baby, Please Don’t Go”. Jimmy was working so much in the studio that It’s estimated that his guitar work, specifically done with his beloved Les Paul Custom, can be heard on 60 percent of the tracks recorded in The entire United Kingdom in the early Sixties!!

With its three humbucking pickups, the Bigbsy vibrato tailpiece and unique circuitry, the black Les Paul provided Page with a wide tonal palette and a lot of flexibility, making the instrument the ideal choice for just about anything he was called on to play in the studio sessions.

It was with this special guitar that Page earned his reputation as one of the most respected, professional and creative musicians in England. He bonded with the instrument in a professional and emotional way, it was an essential part of his musician’s life, and his trademark sound too.

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