The new Les Paul’s double-cutaway and lightweight body with contoured edges were influenced by players’ requests for lighter, more comfortable guitars with easy access to the high frets.
By the end of the 1950s, sales for the original single-cutaway Les Paul Standard and Custom models were dropping. This led Gibson president Ted McCarty to have the guitars revamped in 1960 for release in 1961. The new Les Paul’s double-cutaway and lightweight body with contoured edges were influenced by players’ requests for lighter, more comfortable guitars with easy access to the high frets. Also a factor in redesigning the Gibson solidbody line was the popularity of Fender’s Stratocaster and Jazzmaster.
The Les Paul Standard was the first to receive the new design, and the Les Paul Custom followed soon after. The guitars’ new body measured 12 3/4" wide, 16" long, and 1 5/16" deep. (Compare that to the original single-cutaway Les Paul body, which measured 12 3/4" wide, 17 1/4" long, and 1 3/4" deep).
But a few things stayed the same: The new Les Paul kept the 24 3/4" scale on a 22-fret neck and also retained the split-diamond headstock inlay and gold hardware of its predecessor. The ’61 Standard’s mahogany body (which lacked the maple cap of the prior version) was stained cherry red, while the ’61 Custom was finished in “gleaming white,” rather than the black of the original Custom. These reimagined Les Pauls were also equipped with the newly designed (and soon abandoned) “sidewinder” vibrato.
The ’61 Les Paul Custom featured here matches the details provided in Gibson’s 1961 catalog, which reads:
- Ultra thin, hand contoured, double-cutaway body.
- New extra slim, fast, low-action neck—with exclusive extra low frets—joins body at 22nd fret.
- One-piece mahogany neck with adjustable truss rod.
- Ebony fingerboard, deluxe pearl inlays.
- Adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge.
- Three powerful humbucking pickups with unique wiring arrangement.
- Two sets of tone and volume controls.
- Three-way specially wired toggle switch.
- New Gibson Vibrato—operates in direction of pick stroke, swings out of way for rhythm playing.
This 1961 Gibson catalog also shows the Les Paul Custom priced at $425 plus $47.50 for a 0537 Faultless gold plush-lined case. The current retail value for a 1961 Gibson Les Paul Custom is about $10,000.
Gibson’s “sidewinder” vibrato tailpiece was not a hit with most guitarists and the company ultimately abandoned the design.
In case you didn’t know what you were playing, the pickguard would inform you.
The ’61 Custom retained the split-diamond headstock inlay and gold hardware of the ’50s original.
Sources for this article include Gibson Electrics—The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir, The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy 1915-1963 by Robb Lawrence, Gibson Guitars—Ted McCarty’s Golden Era: 1948-1966 by Gil Hembree, and the 1961 Gibson catalog.
Dave’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text by Braithwaite.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.