Drew Jacques, a guitar hobbyist and
newly minted guitar tech—by way of
the Summit School of Guitar on Vancouver
Island—naively offered his services for a
local Chamber of Commerce radio auction.
Months went by and he heard nothing
about who had won the free setups or when
the winner had planned to cash them in.
“It was a dark and stormy Christmas Eve
when a stranger showed up at my front door
with this old guitar case,” recalls Jacques, a
Team Lead for the Canadian Mental Health
Association as well a certified Laughter Yoga
Leader Trainer by day and guitarist/tech by
night. “He just wanted a simple string change
and a fresh setup. The first thing I thought
about the guitar was who was the idiot that
filed down and rounded the frets [laughs]
… at this point—being a bit of a rookie—I
had no idea about the Fretless Wonder or its
peculiarly low frets.” But that soon changed
as Jacques dove deep into the history of this
particular Gibson Les Paul Custom Reissue.
“I initially thought the guitar was an
original-run Custom—the owner really
didn’t have a year nailed to the guitar, but he
thought it was from the early ’70s—because
it was so dusty,” remembers Jacques. “But
after cleaning it up a bit and doing a little
homework on the instrument, I soon realized
it was much more than an ordinary
vintage Les Paul.” Through his research,
Jacques used the serial number on the back
of the headstock, which didn’t have the
“Made in the U.S.A.” imprint—and the
fact that it had no neck volute—to narrow
down the guitar’s origin to the late
’60s. The “U.S.A.” stamp and volute were
changes introduced in 1970 models. Other
anomalies on this guitar were its one-piece
mahogany body capped with a multi-bound
maple top and a one-piece mahogany neck.
The 1969 Custom models switched to a
three-piece mahogany body with a maple
cap and a three-piece mahogany neck.
The rest of the features on this seminal
reissue are a direct nod to the 1957
Custom—except the reissue had gold Grovers
while the original ’57 had Deluxe Kluson
tuners, the headstock pitch is 14 degrees
instead of 17, and it has amp-style volume
and tone knobs. According to 1968 Gibson
shipping ledgers from Kalamazoo, this model
was one of the first ’68 Les Paul Customs
made available to the public following their
introduction at the June 1968 NAMM Show
in Chicago. Gibson only built 433 of these
The original Gibson Les Paul Customs
were made from 1954 to 1961 when they
were replaced by a svelte, lighter, double-cutaway
growler simply called the SG. When it
was originally introduced in ’54, the Custom
had several appointments that differed from
its founding-father Les Paul model. The first
LP Customs featured a Honduran mahogany
body with a mahogany top, the new Tuneo-
matic bridge design and a new alnico-V
magnet, P-480, in the neck position (which
was matched with a lower-output P-90 in
the bridge). By 1957, most Customs were
built with two Seth Lover-designed PAF
humbuckers, but some models did feature
three PAF pickups, although the guitar
still only incorporated the standard Gibson
3-way pickup selector switch, not enabling
all the guitar’s tonal possibilities.
The Black Beauty and Fretless Wonder
were nicknames given to this instrument
because of its rich, contrasting body color
and low, nearly undetectable frets. Its original
price tag was $325—a whopping $100
more than the Les Paul.
So what did Drew Jacques say when the
guitarist came back for his axe? Did he lie?
Did he offer to buy it? Or did he simply stay
quiet? Actually, he did none of the above.
When the owner came back for the guitar he
sat him down and showed him a PowerPoint
on his findings. Jacques recalls the resulting
conversation went something like this:
Customer: You’re kidding me?
Customer: You’re [expletive] kidding
Customer: What in the hell are we
going to do?
Jacques: We’re going to play the
thing, of course!
Jacques puts the vintage axe through its
paces, sampling tones from all pickup
Watch Jacques show off the LP Custom’s
visual highlights as he tells how he learned
about the Fretless Wonder during his first
A special thanks to Drew Jacques of New
Liskeard, Ontario, for the opportunity to feature
this fine instrument and its story.
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