A super rare maple-fretboard Gibson Les Paul Custom has gone up for sale – and it was once owned by Les Paul himself

Les Paul's 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom
Les Paul on the left with his Gibson Les Paul Recording. On the right, the 1981 Les Paul Custom that is up for sale. (Image credit: Reverb / New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium)

It’s a rare sight to see a Gibson Les Paul Custom to be all dressed up in maple, with maple top, maple neck, and a maple fingerboard instead of the usual ebony – but one has just been listed on Reverb.com, and the kicker? It was once owned by Les Paul himself.

This hen’s tooth electric guitar is being sold by London’s New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium, is priced £11,000, and officially entered the vintage market in 2012 when some of the late Les Paul’s estate was being auctioned by Julien’s. As such, it comes with all the certificates of provenance you would expect, and there’s a CD, too.

It also comes with a lot of mojo. It’s not everyday you get a chance to own a Les Paul owned by the man who designed it and give its name to the storied Gibson singlecut. And it’s not everyday that you come across a Les Paul Custom like this.

If the original Les Paul Custom’s were the Les Paul in a tuxedo, the ‘Black Beauty’ aesthetic that classed up and already upscale instrument, then this model, built in 1981, is very much a love letter to maple.

It has a solid mahogany body, a three-piece maple top. The glued-in neck is a three-piece affair, too – also maple – with that ebony ‘board the pièce de résistance. It calls to mind Zakk Wydle’s OOP Camo Bullseye Les Paul Custom signature guitar from the mid-00s. 

This Custom is marked as a second, but only for the finish. The guitar otherwise is in excellent condition, and doesn’t look as though it had out-fought the likes of the Gibson Les Paul Recording for Les Paul’s affections – the pickguard, which may have been added after the fact, still has its cellophane and sticker. Or if it did, it was one he took great care of. 

Other specs of note on this Norlin-era Les Paul Custom include a pair of gold-covered humbuckers designed by Tim Shaw, and those pics show there is a volute in the neck. All that maple makes for a great talking point but perhaps it comes at a certain price – at least weight wise.

This is one heavyweight singlecut, weighing in at 11.3 lbs. That’s heavy, all right, but then that’s why they make thick, padded guitar straps. Head over to Reverb to check out the listing, or if you are in the neighbourhood you can drop in on the New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium and try it on for size.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.