When it comes to guitars, no one does it better than Gibson. The company, currently based out of Nashville, has a rich history that is unmatched by any other musical enterprises out there. Gibson Guitar Corporation builds one of the world’s most iconic guitars: The Gibson Les Paul. Designed in collaboration with musician Les Paul himself, the solid-body electric guitar was a hit as soon as it hit the market.
But before we delve a bit further into the unique properties of the Les Paul, let’s take a quick look at Gibson’s earlier history.
1898: Gibson’s founder, Orville Gibson, patents a single-piece mandolin design that is much more durable than other models on the market. It can also be manufactured in high volume, making it a nice addition to a fast-growing business portfolio. Back then, Gibson’s instruments were sold out of a one-room workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
1918: Orville Gibson dies.
1919: The company hires sound engineer Lloyd Loar to create new instruments. Among his most famous creations are the Gibson F5 mandolin in 1922. Loar leaves the company in 1924.
1936: Gibson introduces its first “Electronic Spanish” model (ES-150). This is followed by other electric stringed instruments, including banjos, mandolins and steel guitars.
1952: Gibson sells its very first Les Paul, which boasts the following advantages:
- Solid-body design, resulting in less amplifier feedback and the ability to sustain notes for longer durations than hollow-body electric guitars
- Trapeze-style bridge and tailpiece
- Steels fitted under a steel-top bar, instead of over it
Gibson continued on this path until the late 1950s when interest in the Les Paul started to wither. By then, the once-beloved guitar was suddenly considered too heavy and old-fashioned. Fender’s Stratocaster had put up some fierce competition and was outselling Gibson’s prized model. By 1961, the company stopped producing the original Les Paul and decided to push forward with a redesign. This revamped model was called the SG.
Oddly enough, the mid-1960s saw a revival period for the Les Paul. And that resurgence was all due to one man, Eric Clapton. When recording ‘Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton’, the singer had plugged a Les Paul into a Marshall 1961 guitar amplifier. The sound that originated from the merging of these two pieces is what set the sound and standard for ‘British blues-rock’. Other musicians began experimenting with this new discovery, sending sales of Les Pauls to new heights over the next several years. The company eventually introduced a new version of the famed guitar model. A series of other instruments were also launched in the same blueprint as the Les Gibson — contributing to the continued success of this iconic company!