When Gibson Met Hagstrom
A see-through cherry factory-finish 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom? You bet your meatballs!
Ted McCarty, the man most responsible for the creation of the Gibson Les Paul and the president of the company during its golden era, never spared his criticism of the competition at Fender. He sniped to guitar writer Tony Bacon that Fender didn’t even own a carving machine, adding, “they joined their neck with a plate in the back of the guitar!” In another interview, he told author Tom Wheeler, “It didn’t take a great deal of skill to build a plank guitar”—an insult that, for some, still carries a barb all these decades later.
So, when McCarty and the Gibson team deigned to make their first solidbody Spanish-style electric, they pulled out all the stops, creating the carved maple top, famous gold finish, expert binding, and trapezoid inlays of 1952’s debut Les Paul. But, lo and behold, the Les Paul Custom model that was unveiled one year later was even fancier. McCarty, with input from Les himself, outfitted the Custom with more intricate binding, gold hardware, a split-diamond headstock inlay, an ebony fretboard, and a tuxedo-like finish that inspired a lasting nickname: the Black Beauty.
In profile, this 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom’s see-through finish seemingly makes its solid mahogany glow.
What, then, is this month’s find from the vault? It’s a bona fide 1960 Les Paul Custom in a factory-sprayed, see-though cherry finish. There’s a story here, and it goes: This all-original Custom is the same as others of its era except for that transparent color. It has the same Grover tuners and extra low “fretless wonder” rails of its genus. It sports the same 3-humbucker setup. (The move away from two pickups began in ’57 and continued through the SG-body Customs of the early ’60s.) The 3-way switch selects between the neck pickup, middle plus bridge, and the bridge pickup alone, and there’s Gibson’s typical two volume and two tone knobs.
In 1960, a regular Black Beauty would have retailed for $395 in the U.S., and this custom-finish import likely had an extra charge.
But what about that clear cherry red finish that lets the mahogany wood grain talk to the eyes? It almost looks like something the Sweden-based guitar company Hagstrom might’ve offered back then. And that’s the tip-off. According to GuitarPoint, the vintage German guitar store that has listed this instrument for sale on Reverb, this is one of six Les Paul Customs specially ordered by Hagstrom for import between ’59 and ’60. Cool, right?
The back of this guitar’s neck shows its age in nicks and scuff, but according to its seller, it plays like a pup.
On this 6-string, there’s a “Made in the USA” imprint above the serial number. All official export models had this back then, for customs purposes. The finish shows the all-mahogany 1-piece body construction. There are some small, repaired cracks on the right wing of the headstock between the 100-percent-stable machine heads. This axe shows some wear, especially on the back of the neck, but in general, it’s nice and clean and stock. The pots have untouched solder joints and read 134.59.47, meaning they’re from the 47th week of 1959. The original PAFs had never had the covers off and measure 7.94k (neck), 8.29k (middle), and 8.34k (bridge). The weight of nearly 10 pounds is typical for a Custom, and this one even comes with its original black Gibson case.
In 1960, a regular Black Beauty would have retailed for $395 in the U.S., and this custom-finish import likely had an extra charge. For reference, a common factory upgrade like a gold-plated Bigsby would have cost another $75.
For all the elite trappings McCarty bestowed on the Custom, history has offered a funny twist. Wealthy players and collectors have decided that the Standard Bursts of 1958 to 1960—those with simply two PAFs, a flamed-maple top, and a sunburst finish—are the pinnacle of Les Paul design and collectability. Because of this, vintage Customs from this period do not command the same stratospheric prices. While an excellent-condition, 3-pickup Black Beauty could hit $80,000, Bursts start at around $160,000 and go up—way up—from there. However, this rarity in its original, spectacular finish is listed at roughly $133,500.
The small cracks between the OEM Grover tuners have been so expertly repaired as to be invisible.
Sources include “Former Gibson Chief Ted McCarty on Tonewoods and the Problems of ‘Top-Heavy’ Management” by Tony Bacon, published on Reverb News; American Guitars: An Illustrated History by Tom Wheeler; The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock ’n’ Roll by Ian S. Port; Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars: An Identification Guide for American Fretted Instruments by George Gruhn and Walter Carter; and Reverb sales data.
- Gibson Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar Review - Premier Guitar ›
- Gibson Releases 1961 Les Paul Tribute - Premier Guitar ›
- Vintage Vault: 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard - Premier Guitar ›
Holiday Gear Finds 2022
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s Faded
SE Standard 24-08
MONO FlyBy Ultra Backpack
JBL 3 Series Studio Monitors
Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set
Xvive U2, U3 and U4 Wireless Systems
Elixir® Strings Acoustic Phosphor Bronze with NANOWEB® Coating
Elephant Foot Risers and Frames
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
Caparison Horus-WB-FX MF
The Woman Tone
Templo Devices Holiday Specials
Taylors Guitars GS Mini
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Sennheiser MD 421
Orangewood Guitars Oliver Jr.
Marshall CODE 50 Digital Combo Amp
Line 6 Catalyst 100
LR Baggs Venue DI
Kali Audio LP-6 V2
Eventide H90 Harmonizer®
Wilkinson R Series Trev Wilkinson Signature Pickups
Hercules Stands Five-Piece Guitar Rack with Two Free Expansion Packs
ISP Hum Extractor Pedal
LAVA ME 3
Gator Cases Transit Guitar Gig Bags
DeLoach Guitars DL-225
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Messiah Guitars Introduces the Flare
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.
MayFly Introduces the Le Canard 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.
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.
Outlaw Effects Launches NOMAD ISO Pedalboards
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.