Hugo Salvado

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Les Paul 120th

With a long history of musical instruments’ construction, since Orville Gibson founded the company in 1896, Gibson is one of the most recognisable brands in the market today, along with fellow “giants” such as Fender, Ibanez or Yamaha.

When you look at a Gibson Les Paul model, you are witnessing a 1952 idea and conception, a product of then-President Ted McCarty’s vision, along with factory manager John Huis’ and obviously the man who carries his name in each and every model, guitarist/inventor/pioneer Les Paul, the man himself.

My inspiration for a Gibson Les Paul model has always been the blackburst Joe Perry model, the first guitar I went after (on eBay) when I started working… mine is a 1997 model, beautiful 3D flamed maple top – almost looks like a quilted one – weighting a ton with its ’59 specs, but all worth in tone and sustain.
Oh yeah, I do use the mid-boost for that “fixed wah” sound.

Hugo, and his Gibson Les Paul Joe Perry model

Hugo, and his Gibson Les Paul Joe Perry model

Almost 20 years after I got it, it looks and feels like new with virtually no maintenance other that batteries replacement and slight neck adjustments after restringing.
What could you want more?
I’m not even mentioning how “she sings” when I plug it into the 4100 30th Anniversary you see in the back. That would be unfair… the sound is “thick as a brick”, extremely moody and subject to the amp settings, yet very easy to dial in.

Gibson has struggled in the early 2010’s with several issues: wood origins, build quality vs pricing, and a highly questionable use of modern technologies in iconic and classic models, where players and collectors seem prefer to have little or no mutation, in face of the vintage style, look and feel they love.
However, in recent years, there is also the feeling that they has somewhat rebounded and is back on the right track with a better separation of what is classic and what is modern… I have to say I can almost feel the hand of Jim DeCola at the helm of Gibson USA, someone who is far more than a top-class luthier or master-builder, someone who has had continuously been bringing quality and fresh, useful ideas into the companies he has worked/collaborated with, namely Fender and Peavey (he is the #1 responsible for the Peavey EVH Wolfgang design and development, along with Eddie Van Halen, of course).

In honor of the brand’s 120th Anniversary, this Gibson Les Paul Signature model is a flagship model that encompasses charateristics from the Standard, the Traditional, and the Classic models:

  • Although there is a neck binding, the frets are cut over that binding and not “undercut”, as in the common models (a wider fret that goes over the binding, all the way to the edge of the neck, giving more playing surface);
  • There is a 15dB Turbo boost switch which drives the guitar into overdrive — great for boosting lead tones or making amps scream (the amount of boost is trimpot-adjustable);
  • Min-ETune tuners as a standard – nevermind this, as they were replaced by Grover Rotomatic locking tuners.
Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, September 2016

Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, September 2016

I love black guitars, and I love mate finishes.
To make this dream come true, I trusted the good guys of Guitar Rehab Lisbon, namely Hugo and Sónia. Here she is… unfinished, raw, as close as it gets to the condition it once arrived at Gibson’s factory in the iconic city of Nashville.

Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, October 2016

Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, October 2016

As I mentioned above, instead of a gloss top, I went for the matte finish, and I can only say good things about Sónia’s work.
The original colour was somewhat unbalanced in terms of darkness of its body pieces, having the lower half much darker than the higher one. Needless to say, the staining was near to perfect and it now looks like a bookmatched top.

Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, January 2017

Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, January 2017

After a number of years looking for (and using) high output pickups, I discovered the magic of  Alnico-2. Their vintage vibe, medium output give room for personal expression better than any other type of humbucking pickups I have ever tried before.
I considered the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop 1978 – a balanced set, just like the one Maricela Juarez wounded for my rosewood fingerboard Peavey Wolfgang, which I highly recommend -, but it’s a Les Paul, man… I had to go for the classic Alnico-II Pro set.

The overall result exceeded my expectations, the guitar weight is perfect for a guitar like this (weight relief, check!), and although I still have to fine tune the boost gain, it is clear to me this one has become of my favourite instruments.

Hugo Salvado and the Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, January 2017

Hugo Salvado and the Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, January 2017

So, the current specs are:

  • Body: mahogany, chambered;
  • Body Top: 2-piece flamed maple;
  • Finish (top): matte transparent black burst (original: gloss transparent wine red);
  • Finish (sides & back): gloss transparent wine red;
  • Binding: multi-ply, body top, creme;
  • Neck: Mahogany;
  • Neck Profile: ’50s Neck Profile (.818″ at 1st fret, .963″ at 12th fret);
  • Fingerboard: 1-pc Rosewood, creme binding;
  • Inlays: Mother-of-pearl, trapezoid with 120th Anniversary banner on the 12th;
  • Truss Rod: Standard;
  • Tuners: Grover Locking, 14:1, kidney buttons (Original: Min-ETune™, Vintage Style Buttons, 40:1);
  • Neck Joint Angle: 5°;
  • Neck Radius: 12″;
  • Width @ Nut: 1.695″;
  • Width @ Bridge: 2.260″;
  • Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo, Cryogenically Tempered Undercut Over-Binding;
  • Pickup – Neck: Seymour Duncan Alnico-2 Pro (Original: ’57 Classic Humbucker);
  • Pickup – Bridge: Seymour Duncan Alnico-2 Pro (Original: ’57 Classic Humbucker);
  • Volume Controls: 2 Coil Split Push/Pull (500K Non-Linear) for each pickup;
  • Tone Controls: 1 Master Tone Control
  • Boost: Mini Toggle for 15dB gain;
  • Capacitors: Orange Drop;
  • Toggle Switch: 3-way Switchcraft with Cream Plastic Tip;
  • Output: 1/4″ Jack;
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic, chrome;
  • Tailpiece: Stop bar, chrome.
Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, February 2017

Gibson Les Paul 120th Anniversary, February 2017

So, when I picked it up from Gutar Reahb in February, the feeling was something close to “I need to plug this into a Marshall amp quick” and confirm how sweet the sound and feel are.

A good project/idea, and an excellent execution… congratulations to everyone involved, from the Gibson team at Nashville to the Guitar Rehab crew at Lisbon!

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