Let’s look back at the genesis of Les Paul “replicas,” from the first attempts in 1968 to the announcement of the Historic Collection that in 1993 enshrined Gibson’s will to make an instrument equal to the iconic original “Flametop”.
These are the early 1960s, the “boom” years in the West, which also bring to the world of musical instruments an increasingly aggressive marketing, with the race for revenue growth forcing the continuous marketing of novelties and drastic cost cuts. The demand to push sales is pressing, but to stay within budgets, designers must accept strategies that are less and less compatible with the tradition of quality and attention to detail that had made the fortune of American instruments in the first half of the century (not coincidentally called the Golden Era).
Gibson, too, fell victim to this commercial novelle vague, especially in the solid body sector. In 1960 the expensive Les Paul Standard is abandoned in favor of a smaller, lighter, thinner, thus totally different guitar that nonetheless bears the same name. Les Paul, the man who gives it does not like the new guitar and discontinues the endorsement, so much so that Gibson is forced to remove its name from the guitar, which becomes simply SG (Solid Guitar). The SG will gain an important place of its own in the music world, but it cannot replace the Les Paul, which musicians keep asking for.
In 1967 Kalamazoo management eventually realizes that removing the Les Paul from the catalog was a big mistake, not least because beloved musicians, including Michael Bloomfield and Eric Clapton, continue to prefer the 1959 Les Pauls to the new models. The Les Paul is back in the 1968 catalog, with features similar to the 1955 Les Paul, with a gold top and P90 pickups.