UPDATE: Click here to see a video interview with Jeff Beck in which he discusses all things Les Paul.
MusicRadar first previewed the Beck Les Paul at the NAMM 2009 show.
Beck played his original 'oxblood' Les Paul for much of his '70s solo career. While recording in Memphis, Beck paid a visit to a popular music store called Strings and Things to check out the stock. The guitar that caught his attention was a '54 Gibson Les Paul that a customer had dropped in for some very specific modifications.
Modified finish and pickups
One request was that its original Goldtop finish be stripped off in favour of a deep chocolate-brown finish, a colour that turned out to exhibit some oxblood tints in certain light. Other modifications included the installation of full-size humbucking pickups in place of the P-90s, altering the full and rounded early '50s neck shape to a slightly thinner profile and changing the original tuners for modern replacements.
Legend has it that the customer didn't like the results, but Jeff Beck did. He purchased the modified Les Paul and ended up playing it extensively on tour and in the studio. It appeared on the cover of his milestone 1975 album, Blow By Blow.
The 1954 Jeff Beck Les Paul Oxblood is the most detail-precise reissue of this instrument ever produced by Gibson Custom. All of the intensively accurate Custom Shop craftsmanship is there. From the one-piece light mahogany back to the accurately-arched carved maple top to the light aluminum wrapover bridge to the one-piece Beck-profile mahogany neck with long-tenon neck joint. Beyond even these, however, the instrument exudes the vibe of the original, with a feel, sound and finish match that pay homage to Beck's own modified Les Paul.
Even the pickups, Gibson's Burstbucker 2 and Burstbucker 3 (neck and bridge respectively) are among the most accurate vintage PAF reproductions that Gibson has ever conceived, right down to the irregular windings from coil to coil and their lack of potting, two ingredients that contribute to an authentic late-'50s and early '60s humbucker tone.
Signed, played and numbered
Limited to only 150 pieces, the Jeff Beck 1954 Les Paul Oxblood from Gibson Custom comes in two different series.
The first 50 guitars will be aged by the master luthiers at Gibson Custom to look exactly like Beck's original, then personally hand-signed, numbered and played by Beck. The next 100 guitars will be prepared with Gibson Custom's pioneering VOS finish. Each comes with a specially produced Gibson Custom case with Beck's signature silkscreened on the top, a custom care kit and a certificate of authenticity.
New Jeff Beck album also due
Jeff Beck is also near-completing his first album since 2003's Jeff, for a release in 2009. Guests include Imogen Heap. Beck says: "It's got glorious, simple melodies and a sound that's beyond metal. It's adult metal."
The as-yet-untitled album will be issued after the 30 March release of the DVD and Blu-ray set from Beck, Performing This Week - Live At Ronnie Scott's.
Beck was recently an unlikely guest guitarist on Morrissey's new album, Years Of Refusal, and plays duet shows with Eric Clapton in Japan in February. On 4 April, Beck will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.