We Remember Les Paul

In a simple statement, Gibson MIC broke the news last night.

”Les Paul, acclaimed guitar player, entertainer and inventor, passed away today from complications of severe pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York, surrounded by family and loved ones

He had been receiving the best available treatment through this final battle and in keeping with his persona, he showed incredible strength, tenacity and courage. The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks for the thoughts and prayers from his dear friends and fans. Les Paul was 94."

Although the passing of a man of Les´s age isn´t necessarily a surprise, such is his legacy that it´s certainly a shock to know what he´s no longer around, doing his laid back thing at New York´s Iridium or Fat Tuesdays Jazz Clubs.

ZZ Top´s Billy Gibbons has pretty much summed up what most of us are thinking:

“Les Paul brought six strings to electricity and electricity to six strings. Les Paul was an innovator, a groundbreaker, a risk taker, a mentor and a friend. Try to imagine what we'd be doing if hadn't come along and changed the world. There will always be more Les to come. That's certified.”

It goes without saying that we´ll be running a full feature and obit in the October issue of Guitarist that'll be on-sale 29th September, but in the meantime we´ve chosen six contemporary Gibson guitars that all bear both the man´s name and stamp of genius, a sextet that we absolutely adore.

1. The Billy Gibbons ‘Pearly Gates´ Les Paul Standard

This isn´t even out yet, but the three incarnations, of which the signed and aged VOS version must be the most desirable, are sheer class. Based on the ZZ man's 1959 Les Paul Standard, the whopping five-figure retail price is insignificant compared to the money we'd need to get hold of a genuine ´59. Just sit back with us and...wish.

2. 1957 Les Paul Custom VOS

Les Paul Customs are the coolest guitars of all time - no, we´re not listening; they are. This reissue from Gibson Custom mixes the dark vibe and sheer tone of the original fretless wonder with VOS styling. Is this version that boasts a pair of PAFs even more frosty than the three-pickup Nigel Tufnel model...?

3. Dark Fire

OK, so this auto-tuning, futuristic ‘Paul from last year isn´t everyone´s cup of tea, but there´s little doubt that its very existence proves how versatile the good old single-cut design Les came up with can be. Pickup modelling and other tone sculpting features do gild the lily to a certain extent, but the Dark Fire pushes the envelope to bursting point...

4. 1961 Les Paul Custom

No, this isn´t an SG - it was so renamed in 1963 - but the first significant Gibson Les Paul to radically depart from the classic-cutaway design. Incredibly the new model sold less efficiently than would a freshly dropped turd, but the three-pickup version in vintage white is just awesome. And what does SG stand for? Solid guitar, that´s what...!

5. Steve Jones Les Paul Custom

We include this not just to tip our hats at the influence of the Pistols guitarist but to also acknowledge the beauty of a mid-seventies Les Paul Custom in white. Jones´s original came from 1974, but players such as Randy Rhoads and, later, The Edge and James Dean Bradfield also made their mark with a white Custom. If you´ve yet to play such a thing - black versions are also pretty special - then go and find one now.

6. 1958 Les Paul Junior

Amazingly, this double-cut beauty cost under $100 in 1958; find an original and you can expect to pay a great deal more. This VOS version from the Custom Shop comes loaded with a recreation of the classic dog-ear P-90 and although there are a number of finishes to choose from, we´ll call the police if anyone wants anything other than the TV Yellow option...

And why should you care? This is why:

Les Paul 1915 - 2009 RIP

Lots more from Gibson.com

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.