2008 Gibson Les Paul LP295 - #0049
This was a brand new novelty model from Gibson from 2008; a limited production (guitar of the month). A Gibson Les Paul based on the early 50s ES 295 archtop (notice the sharp lower horn, reminiscent of the ES175). The same archtop played by Scotty Moore, Elvis's first guitar master. This guitar originally came with a Bigsby tremolo bridge and NOT the really cool, correct, rare and unique trapeze wrap-around bridge. I think it was too much trouble for Gibson to have manufactured and fit these bridges to this commemorative guitar, which Gibson should have done.
This was a hardly played guitar and I can understand why it was not played much. It had the typical Gibson finish and feel to it. While being impressive to look at in terms of finish perfection and aesthetics, it was sterile to the extreme. It was definitely more fitting to hang it up on the wall and not to play it. It was characterized by a real problem, which most new guitars suffer from. It did not engender visceral satisfaction with the human senses.
They call the finish "Nitrocellulose Lacquer" but that is so far from the truth; its actually a plastic. It may have been flawless in appearance but everything about this guitar emotionally distanced the human player from the instrument. You certainly don't want that from a musical instrument. It was very hard to make a connection with this instrument. It was one of those experiences, where you would pick it up and play it for a few minutes and while not finding anything wrong with it, you felt bored, uninspired and your passions were not aroused. You could not lose yourself in the music. It was more like having a relationship with an appliance and NOT an organic musical instrument. Sadly this instrument would expectedly be sold and sold again and nobody would know what the problem really is with the instrument. The concept of this guitar model was very promising but it just did not speak to the player and that was unfortunate. They also did not execute the concept fully and did a half-ass job in designing the whole vibe of the instrument. What was missing besides offering emotional impact? It was missing the proper bridge that would put this instrument over the top and make it one of a kind and even historically monumental. This instrument could be made into something that Gibson could not even do back in 1952. I was so excited to see what the first year Les Paul in 1952 should have felt like, had they not botched the design of it and had to put out a shameful compromise, with the strings strung under the bridge. Simply ridiculous and embarrassing.
I knew exactly what to do about it. I set out to make the guitar as organic and as unique as I could. It had to be made both tactile and visually imperfect, as a handmade instrument naturally is and this would eliminate its sterility and become emotionally impactful to the player. I knew that I also must find the trapeze bridge and make it into a first year 1952 Les Paul inspired kick-ass instrument. If Les Paul wound not have been asleep at the time the first Les Paul came out, the folks in Michigan would have gotten the neck angle correct and the first Les Paul would have felt and played very similar to this instrument, with the strings properly wrapped over the bridge and NOT under the bridge. If you don't know what I am talking about, you certainly do not know your guitar history and you would certainly still buy a Les Paul with the strings wrapped under the bridge. Start educating yourself!
For those of you who know what I am talking about, you can just imagine how history would have been different, had they not released a flawed and virtually unplayable Les Paul in the first year. These bridges are so good that I content that the first incarnation of the Les Paul would have been the most coveted of all Les Pauls, in terms of tone and playability at least. These trapeze bridges are totally awesome and turns any guitar into a real aggressive, monster of a rock n roll weapon. In fact, its a more aggressive sounding guitar than any Les Paul with a TOM bridge. Its a bigger sound. The bar of the bridge is big heavy chunk of pure yellow brass.
My intentions was to keep it as original as possible, not changing the pickups or the hardware, except for the bridge.
I was lucky to locate a reproduction trapeze bridge, which was originally made for Gibson and used years ago on a limited run reissue model of the 52 Les Paul. This bridge however was not meant to be retrofitted on just any Les Paul, which was not made for it, since Gibson changed the mounting design of the bridge in the way it fit their reissues. What Gibson did was NOT historically correct. So I had to work with this reproduction bridge which was NOT designed to fit with the vintage posts, the way the vintage bridge was mounted to the top of the guitar. However, I devised a way and made it mount - through much ingenuity, design and modification - very close to how the original bridges mounted on the very first incarnation of the Les Paul and the ES 295 for that matter.
This guitar still only weighs 8.1 lb. I removed the finish completely from the back of the neck and it feels fabulous.
I transformed a boring sterile generic guitar into a historically-inspired, very unique, great playing and sounding instrument, which became a killer guitar. It feels amazing now and is addictive to play with my Zachary setup and Zachary Optimum Gauges strings (10++ set). Oh, and I wish so badly that it had 24 frets. I will have to devise a way to extend the fingerboard. I have some ideas.
The next task is to re-fret it, change the nut to my Mission Impossible nut and turn it as much as possible into a Zachary Guitar.