Gibson Les Paul Custom 1956

John Shults

Posted on November 01 2021

Gibson Les Paul Custom 1956 in Black finish with gold parts, black case with yellow lining.

This Gibson Les Paul Custom 1956 has survived in amazingly clean and original condition all these years. My friend inherited this guitar from his father, and although he was not a guitar player, my friend owns and cares for the guitar with pride. The Gibson Les Paul Custom model, finished in dark black or "Ebony" finish as Gibson described it, debuted in late 1953 or in the catalog in 1954. The Custom level Les Paul was the most highly appointed of the five available Les Paul models available in the 1950s. 

As a Gibson Les Paul guitar collector, I'm always looking for nice examples of vintage Gibson Les Paul guitars. 1956 is on of my favorite year for all models of the Gibson Les Paul, so if you're considering selling your guitar, I'd like to take a look at it. You can contact me here to sell a Gibson guitar. 

If you're looking for a guitar expert's opinion on dating a Gibson, check out How to date a Gibson Les Paul

One of my favorite books for more information on vintage Gibson Les Paul guitars is The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy by Robb Lawrence. It has great history on Les Paul the guitar player and the line of guitars he inspired. 

Gibson Les Paul Custom Dating

This Gibson Les Paul Custom bears all the features that guitar experts know as coming from the 1954 to 1957 time period. However, Gibson reissued the Les Paul Custom in the 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s with very similar specifications. Here's a great resource for Gibson Les Paul dating: How to date a Gibson Les Paul

One place to start for how to date this Gibson Les Paul Custom is the serial number. Remember that Gibson serial numbers are style specific, not always consecutive, and the schemes changed many times from the 1950s through the 1980s. This Gibson Les Paul Custom has a yellow ink stamped serial number with six digits and no Made In USA stamp. Gibson's serial number scheme for solid body electric guitars begins with a digit prefix indicating the last number of the year of manufacture, followed by four or five additional digits. The digit prefix for this guitar begins with a "6" which indicates 1956. 

The best way to date Gibson guitars is by having a full grasp of how each model's features changed throughout the years. The Gibson Les Paul Custom was introduced with a single cutaway body style with solid body and no Maple cap. It was the first of the Les Paul line to feature the updated double combination bridge and tailpiece (Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop bar tailpiece). More importantly, it had one AlNiCo pickup, often called the "Staple" pickup, in the neck position and one traditional P-90 pickup in the bridge position until the introduction of the humbucking pickup in 1957. Its control cavity featured mostly light brown colored "Grey Tiger" capacitors until about 1956 when the Bumble Bee style capacitors with black casing and colored stripes were phased in. This guitar features the AlNiCo and P-90 pickup combination and black beauty tone capacitors, so the features of this guitar also match the time period indicated by the serial number.

Gibson Les Paul Custom 1956 dating

You can check out other Gibson Les Paul guitars from the 1950s here:

Gibson Les Paul Goldtop 1954

Gibson Les Paul Special 1956

Gibson Les Paul Standard 1958

Gibson Les Paul Standard 1960

Gibson Les Paul Custom 1956 Fretless Wonder

Gibson Les Paul Custom 1956 Fretless Wonder

It's a little known fact that the term "Fretless Wonder" used to describe the style of frets specific to the low and flat frets used on the Gibson Les Paul Custom, was actually the marketing term that Gibson used to describe them. There's a Gibson print advertisement for the model from 1957 with the title "The Fretless Wonder" and a description that reads, "... players rave about its extremely low, smooth frets and easy playing action, call it 'The Fretless Wonder'. That's not exactly what guitar players are looking for today, but professional players in the 1950s may have been looking for optimum playability with low action. The low and flat frets are less likely to pull sharp with a hard grip and the new Tune-O-Matic bridge intonated much better than the previous wrap tail style bridge. 

Gibson Les Paul 1950s toggle switch yellow tag

Gibson Les Paul Collector

As a Gibson Les Paul guitar collector, I'm always on the hunt for all versions of the Gibson Les Paul range from the 1950s. I'm especially looking for a nice example of a mid 1950s Gibson Les Paul Custom like this guitar. If you're curious about how much I would value your Gibson Les Paul at then you can contact me here: Sell a Gibson. You can send pictures of your 1950s Gibson Les Paul to the contact information below for me to check out. I'd be happy to help with dating and identification as well. 


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