The Gibson Les Paul – Axe of Choice

The Gibson Les Paul is one of the most iconic guitars of all-time and was first sold in 1952 having been designed by Ted McCarty in collaboration with guitarist Les Paul, whom Gibson had enlisted to endorse the new model. It followed Fender’s introduction of the Telecaster two years earlier. Les Paul's contributions to his Gibson guitar design remains controversial, according to some his contributions were to advise on the trapeze tailpiece, and a preference for color (stating that Paul preferred gold as "it looks expensive", and a second choice of black because "it makes your fingers appear to move faster on the box", and "looks classy―like a tuxedo"). But his biggest single contribution was to popularize it as he was by far the best known guitarist in America with huge hits on the Billboard charts with his wife, Mary Ford, many of which featured Paul’s multi-tracked guitar playing.

The Les Paul guitar line was originally conceived as the regular model (nicknamed the Goldtop), and the Custom model, which offered upgraded hardware and a more formal black finish. The second issue of the Les Paul guitar was introduced to the public in 1954. Called the Gibson Les Paul Custom, this entirely black guitar was dubbed the ‘Black Beauty’.
Subsequently there have been many versions of this iconic guitar and with the coming of the rock era in the 1960s many guitarists took up the Gibson Les Paul as their guitar of choice. One of the earliest was Peter Green who played a 1959 Gibson Les Paul while in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then Fleetwood Mac; in the early 1970s Gary Moore bought Green’s guitar.
What makes the guitar so special? Many will say that it is heavy, and that’s part of the secret to its unique tone. We guitar greats know something about great guitars… Have we missed anyone?

Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
Slash (Guns ‘N’ Roses)
Peter Frampton
Ace Frehley (Kiss)
Joe Walsh
Duane Allman
Joe Perry (Aerosmith)
Pete Townshend
Paul Kossoff (Free)
Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osborne’s band)
Gary Moore
Peter Green
Bob Marley
Steve Jones (Sex Pistols)
Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
Lindsay Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac)
Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones)
Mark Knopfler
Mick Ronson
Mick Box (Uriah Heep)
Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Check out our playlist that features many of the artists on our list.


  1. Michael Johnson

    Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Montrose, Toy Caldwell, Charlie Daniels, Dickie Betts, Michael Bloomfield, Robert Fripp, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson, John Sykes, Joe Bonamassa, Mick Jones-Foreigner, Neal Schon.

  2. Jonathan Gregg

    What a lazy and ill-informed pice of writing. Pete Townshend has repeatedly observed that Who’s Next was recorded with a Gretsch 6120 given to him by Joe Walsh, so your inclusion of Won’t Get Fooled Again is incorrect. Much worse, Sultans of Swing is a textbook example of the Fender Stratocaster sound, and reveals your total ignorance of your subject. Finally, any list extolling the Les Paul that does not put Eric Clapton at the top is not worth even looking at. Clapton was the first to record using a Les Paul through a Marshall — in other words, the modern rock guitar template — and everyone else who came after, including Peter Green, owes him a debt of gratitude. What a piece of crap.

    1. uDiscover (author)

      Jonathan, you are correct, but the playlist is one about guitar solos not specifically Gibson Les Paul solos. You are correct too on Clapton recording the Bluesbreakers album on a Les Paul, but he became better known for playing a Fender Statocaster.

  3. Andy

    Dave “Clem” Clempson was a fantastically gifted exponent of the Les Paul…as good as ANY of the more well known greats, particularly when he was playing live with Colisseum and then Humble Pie. In those days I believe he rarely went on stage with anything else.
    In later years he seems to have switched to a Stratocaster but that could be because he plays a lot in blues festivals. Personally i prefer the tone of the Les Paul.

  4. John Walton

    He probsbly won’t really feature on anyone’s radar here, but he’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence at the moment; take a bow please, Mr Johnny Winter.

  5. Tim Reardon

    Allen Collins and Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jeff Beck, Bob Welch and Danny Kirwin of Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Young w. his longtime companion Old Black 😉

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