The sound of the ’59 Les Paul, through 10 mythical songs

By Sergio Ariza

There is no guitar model more desired in the world than a Gibson Les Paul Standard, or Burst as the connoisseurs prefer; particularly those of three years in which it was made, the 58, the 59 and the 60. Specifically those of the year 59 are considered the authentic Holy Grail of the guitar; they do not reach a thousand copies, some 1,500 if we add those of 58 and 60, and their price, today, is closer to that of a house than that of a guitar. There is no more mythical guitar and with a more peculiar sound than this, and as Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap knew, this preciousness is capable of sustaining a note until the end of eternity, if in addition the fingers that caressed it belonged to people like Mike Bloomfield or Duane Allman, the sound that came out of them was the closest thing to the sky of rock & roll. This year marks 60 years since its appearance and from Guitars Exchange we will not miss the opportunity to celebrate it in several ways. Here is a small selection of great songs in which it appears:  

The Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

The Satisfaction riff is a monument to the wonderful simplicity of rock & roll; how you can start a revolution with something as simple and, at the same time, wonderful as three notes played with a Les Paul Standard of 59. Even though
Clapton and Mike Bloomfield are often considered responsible for bringing the Les Paul back into fashion in the mid-1960s, the first rock star to widely use this model was none other than Keith Richards, who transformed it into a star item between 1964 and 1967. In addition to Satisfaction he also showcases it on Little Red Rooster, Time is on My Side, The Last Time, Get Off My Cloud and Let's Spend the Night Together, as well as multiple live performances, such as his tour of USA in 64. The funny thing is that when he decided to get rid of it in 1967, the one who bought it was a young Mick Taylor, who at that time was in the Bluesbreakers of John Mayall, replacing the great Peter Green. Two years later Keith got his hands on her again when Taylor replaced Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones. That Les Paul was stolen in the early 70s and would end up being sold in the 21st century for approximately one million dollars.

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton - All Your Love

A drum beat gave way to the sound that was to define rock in the next decade, a Les Paul Standard 59, through a Marshall, and the person responsible for touching it was the God himself, Clapton, making it like the Rock version of the Bible. Moses had climbed Mount Sinai and had come down with the new commandments. There was not a single guitarist in England who did not want to look like a crazy dude with a Les Paul, or much better with a Burst. Although for a long time it was thought that the mythical 'Beano', named after the comic that Clapton reads on the cover of the album, was 60, in 2016 Joe Bonamassa said the guitar, which was stolen when Clapton was at the beginning of his career with Cream, was in the hands of a private collector and that it actually came from the sacred harvest of 59.

Bloomfield/Kooper - Stop

The same thing that happened in England with Clapton happened in the USA with Mike Bloomfield. At the moment that the guitarist got a Standard 59, before he had a Gold Top 56, and appeared with it in the mythical festival of Monterrey of 1967, he transformed it the object of desire of a whole generation of guitarists. Tone is key to a guitarist, their fingerprint, and their signature, and Mike Bloomfield had a tone like very few. Listen to Super Session, for example, a record in which with his Les Paul connected to a Twin Reverb; without any other effect other than the magic of his fingers and his incredible tone, he achieves the best moments of his career. This song could have been called Don’t Stop -  and once Bloomfield gets to play the last thing you want is for him to stop. I do not exaggerate if I say that the blues has rarely been played better in history. This is possibly the best single of his career; the great
Buddy Guy once responded when asked if a white person could play the blues: "Mike Bloomfield plays more blues than me. If you listened to this guy you would stop asking stupid questions about whether they can play the blues or not. Mike is one of the best without a doubt. "

Fleetwood Mac - Black Magic Woman

As we have said, the 59 Les Paul is one of the most desired guitars of all time but the real 'Holy Grail' is 'Greeny', the peculiar Les Paul Standard that Peter Green used in his time in the Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac, a band that he created himself in 1967. Green is one of the most magical guitarists and gives more feeling than many others in history, offering notes that were able to give “cold sweats" to his own Idol,
BB King. Many of those notes, such as Oh Well, Black Magic Woman or The Green Manalishi, were made with 'Greeny'. One of the reasons why 'Greeny' is so special is that it then passed into the hands of Gary Moore and, much later, to those of Kirk Hammett. But, in spite of our love for these two guitar heroes, 'Greeny' had already given the most beautiful notes of its career while it was with Green, as you can see in Black Magic Woman, where he delights us with two incredible solos, full of sustained notes, echo and an emotion that even the great version of Santana could not match.


Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love

With Whole Lotta Love
Jimmy Page showed that he could do magic both with the guitar and behind the production table. Aided by Eddie Kramer, Page takes out the wand and gives Zeppelin their definitive sound, with the legendary riff of Whole Lotta Love, simple and wild, played by the guitar that would define his career, his mythical Les Paul Standard Sunburst from 59 that Joe Walsh got him that same year. His beloved 'number 1' is the cathedral on which the sound of the 70's would be based.


Free - All Right Now

You could say that rock was built on the notes of a Les Paul Standard - if the fact that two of the five most famous riffs of all time, Satisfaction and Whole Lotta Love, were made with a Burst does not seem enough, what do you think about adding All Right Now? This monument, as well as the wonder of the album that contains Fire And Water, were recorded with one of our protagonists and one of its best performers,
Paul Kossoff, the master of vibrato.

The Allman Brothers Band - Blue Sky

Among the bearers of a Les Paul 59 are many on my personal list of favorite guitarists, Clapton, Richards, Page, Green and Bloomfield among them, but if you ask me my favorite, I do not doubt it: it is Duane Allman. The Allman Brothers’ musician is the guitarist who has most times excited me with his guitar, his solos in Whipping Post, Mountain Jam, Blue Sky, Layla and Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad  have brought me to tears countless times, either when he uses his mythical slide or his magic fingertips, any of the named songs could be here. However Blue Sky contains my favorites solo of all time, whether it is played with a Les Paul 59 or any other guitar, as I can not help but opt ​​for this work of art, written by
Dickey Betts, in which Duane makes poetry in the first solo of the song. The tears would flow anyway even if you didn’t know that  this ws going to be one of Duane’s last studio recordings, as he was going to die a few weeks after having arrived at 24 years of age.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Don't Ask Me No Questions

On October 25, 1964 the Rolling Stones appeared for the first time in the most popular program of US television, the Ed Sullivan show, playing Time Is On My Side, and one of the many millions of kids who were dazzled by that performance was
Gary Rossington, who would never forget that the guitar that Keith Richards wore on his shoulder was a Les Paul 59. He could not get one until 1971, the year his mother died, and then he decided to baptize his Burst after her, Bernice. Its sound would become one of the definitive sounds of southern rock and Rossington would put it to good use in several classics of the band like Don’t Ask Me No Questions, pertaining to their second work, Second Helping. Today Bernice hangs flanked by the guitars of two of Rossington’s biggest idols, Duane Allman and Eric Clapton, at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.


ZZ Top - Tush

Another of the guitars that could qualify for the title of most iconic is the 'Pearly Gates' by Billy Gibbons, the story of how he got it, and baptized it, has been repeated multiple times so we will not do it again. But it is enough to say that Gibbons has not hesitated to use it on all ZZ Top albums. One of the best examples of its powerful and unmistakable sound is on Tush, which closed with the best note on the band’s fourth album, Fandango!

Ace Frehley - Rip It Out

In 1978 Kiss was the most popular rock band in the US so, being neither tight nor lazy, they decided to release four solo albums at the same time and, even though none of the other members played on each other's albums, they nonetheless used the Kiss ‘label’. Of the four the most successful, both in commercial and quality terms, was that of the guitarist Ace Frehley who released his new guitar model for the album, a brand new Les Paul 59 that had cost him $ 4,000. Its sound can be appreciated from the devastating start of Rip It Out. A pity that Frehley decided to get rid of it, on the way to ‘paradise’ while gambling in Atlantic City, in 1985. There he would lose a huge amount of money but certainly nothing comparable to the fact of detaching himself from a guitar that, today, should be worth at least half a million dollars ...