Here is a Holy Grail instrument – a 1957 Les Paul Standard with PAF humbuckers.
1957 was the first year for humbuckers, and this Les Paul Goldtop, serial number 7 XX08, features two “Patent Applied For” pickups, measuring 7.6 ohms at the neck position and a punchy 8.2 ohms at the bridge. Replacing the P-90s of previous years, the dual-coil, hum-canceling humbucker proved to be quieter and produced a tone that has become highly desirable, creating a continuing high demand for original PAFs.
1957 was also the last year Les Paul Standard Models would receive the Goldtop finish, before the very first “reissue” of 1968.
Duane Allman played a gorgeous 1957 Les Paul goldtop for the first 18 months of his two and a half years in the Allman Brothers Band. He played the goldtop on the band’s first two albums, which featured the original versions of “Whipping Post,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Midnight Rider,” “Revival” and other classics. He also played it on his numerous sessions with other artists, including Derek and the Dominos’ 1970 masterpiece, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, before swapping it for a ’59 Burst.
This is an absolutely fabulous instrument in every way. It was bought by its current owner in 1996. Its provenance doubly checks out, as it was previously owned by a current client of PREMIER GUITARS, who recognised it when he saw it in our showroom. He had bought it privately direct from its original owner and later sold it to the current owner through a high profile Sydney vintage dealer. That earlier owner advises that the original tuners were replaced with some original double ring Kluson units from 1960-62. This was done many years prior to his ownership.
It has been a working guitar, having been played onstage and on recordings by the current owner for the past 20 years. During that time it was set up & maintained by noted Sydney luthier Piers Crocker, who had also known this guitar for many years prior to that. We contacted Piers who confirmed he gave this one an excellent refret back in the 1980s. Piers also confirmed that although he also refinished the back of the neck at the request of a previous owner, this guitar has not had a neck break or any repairs required.
This guitar is medium weight at 9.2 lbs (4.17 kg) and feels mighty comfortable. The body is a fabulously grainy single piece of solid mahogany. Some flamey looking maple is apparent on the top where the original gold finish has worn away.
Acoustically, this Goldtop probably has more natural resonance than any humbucker-equipped Les Paul we’ve played. Beneath the chimey, crisp treble, there’s a hollow woodiness that could fool you into thinking it’s a chambered body – if it weren’t for the astonishing solid body sustain. It holds its tuning superbly. All electronics appear to be original and are working perfectly.
At full throttle, the bridge pickup is aggressive, with a noticeable midrange quack and a jangly chime. The neck sounds wide open and clear, lending a jazzy texture to chords and a vocal quality to single notes. It will also clean up in a wonderful way by playing lightly or turning down, without losing clarity or treble response.
This one has amazing touch sensitivity and harmonic complexity. Add a touch of overdrive then play a chord and you can hear different harmonics overtones drifting in and out as the volume gently fades.
There is something about the necks Gibsons was carving during the mid 50s that is supremely player-friendly. This one feels like a full C neck, certainly not like the bigger chunky necks of ’58 and ’59. The shape has a subtle refinement that fades from a soft C to a fully rounded profile by the fifth fret to maintain its roundness all the way to the heel. It is probably best described as a wide C rather than a U or a D profile.
This ’57 reveals its charms gradually and never stops delivering sonic surprises. This Les Paul is from an era when Gibson had the most skilled craftsmen working with the best materials available, and the company was at the top of its game. This beauty is incredibly well made and has certainly improved with age, as it will keep doing.
A big bonus is that this collector grade Les Paul comes with its original 5 latch Lifton case, which is in remarkably good condition.