1956 Gibson Les Paul Special
Posted on January 09 2021
My 2020 vintage guitar recap would not be complete without reminiscing on this amazing find: a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Special from the widow of its original owner! Her husband received the guitar as a birthday gift from his parents in the late 1950s. There's even a picture of him sitting at the kitchen table playing this guitar, and his mom is holding the birthday cake! This is the kind of provenance that essentially doesn't exist.
I received a call from a gentleman about this guitar around 9pm on a Sunday night. He explained that his father-in-law passed away earlier this year and his mother-in-law was cleaning out her basement. She made a pile of items to give to Goodwill and asked the son-in-law to take them for her. He noticed the brown alligator cardboard guitar case in the pile and opened the lid to see what was inside. He wasn't a guitar player, but he easily recognized the Gibson logo and the Les Paul signature at the top of the headstock.
The widow said that he owned the guitar before they were married in the late 1960s and that she never saw her husband play it. He was a DJ and a music enthusiast but not a musician himself. He reached out to me for help dating the guitar and expressed interest in selling. I delivered an offer that he was very pleased to receive! But wanted to shop around to see if it was indeed the best offer. I was pleased to get a call back from him a week later to accept my offer. My offer was the highest by far!
I received the 1956 Gibson Les Paul Special a few days later and was thrilled at its condition. It was completely original down to the shrunken tuner buttons, amber switch tip, and black output jack plate. These parts are fragile and often the first to be discarded. The neck was straight and the finish was dirty but undisturbed. I completed the thorough cleaning and set up and was finally able to play and hear it! It's such a rush to bring an amazing vintage guitar out of obscurity and hear it make music again.
Gibson's Les Paul Special model was tier 3 of 5 in the mid 1950s Les Paul line up. It featured a slab, one piece Mahogany body finished in a translucent yellow color that Gibson called Limed Oak but is now commonly referred to as TV Yellow. Players have the choice between either or both of two P-90 pickups, with volume and tone adjustments for each. The Special's trim level includes and attractive pearl "Gibson" logo inlay on the headstock and a silkscreened "Les Paul Special" signature underneath. It also utilizes a simple wrap tail style bridge that efficiently translates the string vibration to the body for maximum resonance.