Era-perfect kith and kin: 1960 sunburst Gibson Les Paul 08081, an early ’70s Marshall half-stack, an original Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, a made-in-Italy Jen Fuzz, and a Sound City Wah Face made in Italy for Dallas Arbiter.

By the early 1950s, popular recording artist Les Paul had been working on a solidbody guitar for a number of years while trying to persuade Gibson to manufacture it. Finally, the notable sales of Fender’s solidbody, the Telecaster, convinced Gibson to consider his idea and come up with one of its own. Gibson approached Paul, and with his input the Les Paul model solidbody guitar was introduced in 1952. The guitar evolved through the 1950s as practical improvements were made in its design. By 1958, after receiving a Tune-o-matic bridge (1956) and humbucking pickups (1957), the Les Paul had its finish changed from an opaque metallic gold to a beautiful transparent cherry-red sunburst.

The red in the sunburst was prone to fading with exposure to light, and it wasn’t until well into 1960 that the problem was corrected.

Declining sales of the goldtop prompted Gibson to try a more traditional sunburst finish for the Les Paul, showing off the model’s carved (and sometimes figured) maple top. The 1958 Gibson Gazette company newsletter announced the change: “A beautiful red cherry sunburst finish is the news here! This guitar now has a rich, rubbed appearance that cannot be equaled at any price, and the ‘new look’ that is tops with today’s guitarists.” The red in the sunburst was prone to fading with exposure to light, and it wasn’t until well into 1960 that the problem was corrected.

Gibson began applying a cherry-sunburst finish to Les Pauls in 1960 to spotlight the beauty of their book-matched,
carved maple tops.

Les Paul Standard serial number 08081 has the typical late 1960 features including a slimmer, flatter neck profile than in previous years, a bright un-faded cherry sunburst (seen starting in the 07000s), reflector knobs, and double-ring Kluson tuners. Both of the PAF pickups have “zebra” plastic bobbins. It came with its original Lifton “Cali Girl” case. The original list price was $247.50 plus $42 for the case. The current value in excellent all-original condition is $175,000.

A truly iconic sight: The classic Gibson angled headstock displaying the company’s logo and “Les Paul model.”

The amp of choice for many ’burst wielders of the ’60s and ’70s was a Marshall. The 50-watt Model 1987 head and 4x12 bottom pictured are from the early ’70s. The current value for this half-stack is $4,000.

Sources for this article include: The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy: 1915–1963 by Robb Lawrence, The Gibson ’Burst: 1958–1960 by Jay Scott and Vic DaPra, Burst Believers by Vic DaPra, and The History of Marshall: The First Fifty Years by Michael Doyle and Nick Bowcott.