Made for the fans! Although not an official artist model, this 1956 Les Paul Aged was ordered through Gibson Custom’s Made 2 Measure program by Max Guitar as an homage to Neil Young’s long-serving LP known as ‘Old Black’. Max Guitar has specially ordered two versions of this guitar from the Gibson Custom Shop: A lightly aged and a heavily aged one.
Old Black has been heavily modified over the years – believed to be a ’53, it was spray-painted black before Young acquired it in a trade from Buffalo Springfield bandmate Jim Messina.
A Bigsby tailpiece was already in place in time for the recording of Cowgirl In The Sand with Crazy Horse in January 1969, while a Firebird mini-humbucker was added to the bridge position – replacing a short-lived DeArmond Dynasonic – in 1972.
Lacking both the bypass switch and the aluminum plates on Young’s guitar, the guitar stops short of being a full replica but nevertheless manages to channel the spirit of Old Black within the realms of the options offered by the Made 2 Measure process. Rather than being modelled on a ’53, it utilizes another Goldtop as the ‘base’ model – the Historic 1956 Les Paul Goldtop Reissue, aka the R6. The Aged finish features simulated forearm wear and lacquer checking
Standard ‘R6’ specifications include a hide-glue joints, a vintage-correct neck tenon that extends into the neck pickup cavity and a Historic truss-rod assembly with no tubing. The fret wire here is a little fatter than vintage. The Ebony vintage gloss nitrocellulose finish may not be as gouged and worn as Young’s guitar, but there’s still extensive faux playing wear here: we have simulated rub-through to the bare wood around the back, in the forearm area on the top and along the fingerboard binding on the treble and bass sides of the neck.
Gibson Custom employees are hand-ageing these instruments; while their surprisingly primitive tools and processes can produce results that look a little stylized next to a vintage example, the various dings and razor-cut lacquer checking here makes for an appealing overall look that will bed in nicely when the guitar finds a permanent home and the owner adds some real-life road wear of their own.
As usual, a nicely rounded 50s-style Gibson neck instantly feels like ‘home’ but fans of slimmer profiles shouldn’t be intimidated – it’s no monster and, in combination with the aforementioned medium-jumbo fret wire, this is a real joy to play and one of those guitars that encourages you to push the boundaries of your abilities a little harder. The nylon nut helps keep tuning stable and friction low, even with Bigsby abuse. the proximity of the B7’s tension bar to the ABR-1 creates a similar break angle across the bridge to that of a stop tailpiece, while the nylon nut helps reduce friction and keep tuning solid, even with vigorous whammy bar use.
As you would hope when playing an instrument in this price bracket, there’s a world of inspiration here and for the right player it’s hard not to lose hours just drinking in the possibilities unlocked by this guitar. Getting the choice of amplifier right is key, too.
The complex harmonics, easy musical feedback and touch dynamics of a small tube amp allow you to go from sweet to savage just by varying picking-hand intensity. Through an amp with a scooped, blackface-style midrange, the mini-humbucker at the bridge can sound a little brash and scratchy, but the chewy mids of a tweed suits it perfectly.
DESCRIPTION: Single-cutaway solidbody electric guitar. Made in USA
Medium Fat neck
True historic specs: All hide glue joints, thin lacquer, vintage correct layout
BUILD: Solid mahogany body with maple cap, set mahogany neck with rounded 50s profile and 12-inch radius rosewood fingerboard. 22 medium-jumbo frets. Nylon nut
HARDWARE: Kluson Deluxe vintage-style tuners, ABR-1 tune-o-matic bridge, Bigbsy B7 vibrato tailpiece
ELECTRICS: Gibson Custom Firebird mini-humbucker (bridge) and soap bar P-90 (neck), three-way toggle pickup selector, 2x volume, 2x tone
SCALE LENGTH: 24.75”/629mm
NECK WIDTH: 42.6mm at nut, 52.5mm at 12th fret
NECK DEPTH: 22.7mm at nut, 25.2mm at 12th fret
STRING SPACING: 35.9mm at nut, 50.8mm at bridge
FINISH: Lightly or Ultra Aged Ebony nitrocellulose
ThorpyFX The Dane
Two Rock Studio Pro 35
Universal Audio Ox