Thursday, June 9, 2011

Not for sale: 71 Gibson Les Paul Custom

(click twice to see it up close..)
This is my 1971 Gibson Les Paul Custom. It's not some collector showpiece with a sparkling finish and polished gold hardware. Nope, this baby is beat all to hell. It's been through years of active duty, or perhaps I should say hacktive duty, seeing as I was the one playing it most of those years. This legendary American guitar has been increasing my coolness factor for decades in basements, garages, pole barns, banquet halls, auditoriums, biker bars, yooper bars, redneck bars, bowling alleys, boat clubs, outdoor festivals, backyard parties, school gymnasiums, block parties, and even when I'm just sitting around on the patio.

I knew I had to have this guitar the first time I played it back in 1981 at A&R Music in Lincoln Park MI. The action was silky smooth, the tone was bright and rich, nine pounds of solid wood with mother-of-pearl fret board inlays and Gibson logo on the headstock. She was the most badass guitar I had ever played, by far. There were scratches and scrapes in the front and back and the hardware was losing the brass plating but that didn't bother me one bit. This '71 Custom was my ticket into the super-elite Les Paul brotherhood and that was a big deal to a high school kid in 1981..

I put the guitar on layaway and paid a little every week and took time to visit for a while in the aisle where it waited on the rack with a SOLD tag around the neck.   I had taken a 2nd part-time job as a dishwasher at the Bonanza Steak Pit in Lincoln Park for less than $3 an hour to chip away at the $450 layaway.  I disliked that job and my boss so much that I quit in the middle of the shift when I had worked just long enough for my last paycheck to cover the final layaway payment.  It took a couple hundred hours of washing dishes to buy the guitar but I made sure not to spend one extra minute doing it.  Hey Mr, Jouppi. I quit.  You get to wash the dishes tonight. seeya.

I've played that '71 Les Paul hard ever since and have put more than a few new scratches in it along the way. You can't make it through all those gigs and road trips over 30 years without picking up a few scars. But I still don't mind them.  I just love the way it plays and sounds, as sweet today as when I first picked it up, although it does feel heavier now. Dozens of people over the years have asked me how much I would sell it for and I always give the same answer. A million dollars. I mean, if someone really wants it that bad...
Thank you Lester William Polfuss (aka Les Paul) for giving the world the Les Paul electric guitar and for all of the great rock and roll music it has inspired musicians to create and play.

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