1989 Gibson Les Paul Custom

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Iconic rock image, playability and tones, weight, OHSC, vintage values

Thumbs down: Temporary replacement pickups, play wear, quite a modern Les Paul

Decree: An iconic piece of guitar history that plays its part in the long lineage of Les Paul heritage

Model Description:

Shortly after Gibson had introduced the Les Paul Model in gold top finish in 1952, the company started working on other models to carry the legendary jazz guitarist’s name. Gibson launched the glamorous upmarket Les Paul Custom in 1954, nicknamed the ‘Black Beauty’. The low wide frets earned the guitar another nickname, ‘the fretless wonder’. Unlike the plainer gold top, the Les Paul Custom had a full mahogany body, multiple ply binding, ebony fingerboard with large pearl block makers. It was initially released with P90 and Alnico V pickups, which were superseded by Seth Lover’s PAF (Patent Applied For) humbuckers in 1957, of which the Custom had either 2 or 3. Due to falling sales, the single cutaway Les Paul Custom was discontinued in 1960 and was superseded by a new double cutaway model that would become known as the SG. As a result of customer demand, the Les Paul Custom was reintroduced in 1968 as a 2‑pickup model, although it now featured the Les Paul Standard’s mahogany body with maple cap. During the 1970s, under the ownership of Norlin, Gibson faced stiff opposition from Japanese copies of their flagship models, which coincided with production challenges, forcing Gibson to up their game from the mid‑1980s onwards. The Gibson Les Paul Custom has been in continuous production since 1968, albeit with many specification changes along the way. There are too may detail changes to cover here and there are plenty of online resources detailing the variations in features from 1954‑1960 and from 1968 up to the current day, should readers wish to delve deeper. Variants based on the Les Paul Custom’s template appear at every level from the budget models issued under the subsidiary Epiphone brand right up to Custom Shop and historic recreations of classic models. The formidable Les Paul Custom remains very desirable and vintage values will only appreciate over time. Opulent and archetypal in both form and function.

Guitar Description:

The stunning ebony Gibson Les Paul Custom is iconic and so totally ROCK. It is indisputably a legendary timeless classic. For many, the gleaming black and gold Les Paul Custom is what modern guitar music is all about. Let’s be honest, could it really be any cooler? This one was born at Gibson’s Nashville plant in Tennessee on 6th April 1989. It was apparently hand selected in the States and bought into the UK in the mid‑2000s although I have no evidence to support the theory that it was better than LPs distributed by Gibson in the UK during the second half of the 1980s. It is, though, a reasonable weight for a Les Paul, at 9lbs (4.1kg). It once had replacement pickups/electronics (active EMGs) but the original pickups and wiring have been restored. Personally, I think Gibson got it right in the first place, so I don’t really understand that particular modification but swapping out pickups, tuners and other bits and pieces was all the rage in the 1990s. The black finish has worn away from parts of the neck through use, showing the mahogany beneath. There is also a slight chip to the top of the headstock binding. The multiple‑ply binding to the body and headstock and the single‑ply binding on the neck binding has faded nicely to cream, rather than the somewhat clinical, stark white of many modern versions. As you would expect, it plays beautifully and sounds just right with its stock pickups. The neck has a smooth slim neck profile with a fast, low action, which fits perfectly with the ‘shredder’ anecdote about the previous owner. As with the best instruments, it has been used for its intended purpose and has just the right amount of play‑related wear to give it ‘that’ genuine vintage look and feel that can’t easily be imitated. While it isn’t museum-grade and it is relatively modern, it is aging beautifully and will continue to do so. Plug it in, turn up the volume and play… LOUD!


  • Ebony black nitrocellulose finish
  • Solid single cutaway mahogany body with maple cap
  • Mahogany set neck
  • Bound ebony fingerboard with 22 frets and pearloid block markers
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Gold hardware
  • Original gold Gibson tuners with tulip buttons
  • Original ‘floating’ scratchplate
  • Original humbucking pickups (has had active EMGs in the past)
  • Original switch, knobs, strap buttons and jack plate
  • Original bridge and tailpiece
  • Weight: 9lb (4.1kg)
  • Original shaped brown Gibson U.S.A. hard shell case with pink fur fabric lining


Reportedly, Gibson endorsee Les Paul requested a classy, upmarket black and gold version of the guitar, as he wanted it to ‘look like a tuxedo’.

Although it wasn’t vintage at the time, acquiring this guitar in c.2007 ignited my interest in vintage guitars and precipitated the concept that would ultimately coalesce into CRAVE Guitars.

Detail Gallery:

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