1989 Gibson Les Paul Standard

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Traditional mahogany construction, colour and aesthetics, weight, OHSC, affordable vintage values

Thumbs down:  The Bill Lawrence HB pickups may not be to everyone’s taste, too modern for some

Decree: A great late 1980s Les Paul Standard with a degree of uniqueness born just before manufacturing automation stripped away production idiosyncrasies that many guitarists seek

Model Description:

There is so much history associated with the Gibson Les Paul that readers are recommended to look elsewhere for extensive details about its lengthy heritage. Here, we are focusing on the Les Paul Standard during the 1980s. Once the single cutaway Les Paul was reintroduced in late 1968 (as the Deluxe model), it provided the foundation for further development and experimentation. During the 1980s, while under the ownership of Norlin, Gibson was forced to up its game in the face of stiff competition from Japanese copies and a shortage in the supply of quality tone woods. During the 1970s, the infamous cross‑banded ‘pancake’ mahogany/maple body with maple cap, a neck volute and thin maple necks, along with the addition of new colour finishes had become the de facto standard specification. However, these divergences from the accepted template proved unpopular with customers so, by the early 1980s, Gibson had reverted to using traditional solid mahogany bodies and necks. In 1986, Gibson was once again in private ownership, bringing with it a rejuvenated sense of direction and purpose. By the late 1980s, most of the familiar characteristics had been reinstated, much to the relief of many loyal customers. By the 1990s, a degree of automation had been introduced into the manufacturing process, leading to improved quality control, greater consistency and rigorous standardisation. The single cutaway Les Paul has been in continuous production since 1968 and available at all price points from the lower priced Epiphone models to high end Custom Shop specials. Over many decades, the Gibson Les Paul Standard has become just that, an industry standard and a benchmark to which others can only aspire. With a fine balance of suave and restrained, the classic Les Paul Standard remains a very desirable instrument to the current day. While some vintage models have reached sky‑­high values that are beyond the reach of most guitarists, there are plenty of worthy alternatives manufactured over the years and vintage values of many of these will only appreciate over time.

Guitar Description:

Here we have a terrific 1989 Gibson Les Paul Standard in gorgeous deep wine red nitrocellulose finish. You might be wondering what may be ‘cool & rare’ or even slightly different about this particular guitar to warrant attention, especially as it’s not that old in vintage terms. On face value, it may appear like any other 1980s Les Paul but there is a bit more to it. Gibson had experimented with many variants of the humbucking pickup since the Les Paul had been re‑introduced in 1968. This particular Les Paul has the relatively rare HB‑L (bridge/lead) and HB‑R (neck/rhythm) pickups, which were the brainchild of legendary designer Bill Lawrence while he was at Gibson, and only produced in 1988 and 1989. They are often nicknamed as the ‘circuit board’ pickups because of the look of the pickup base plate. The layout is largely cosmetic however, intended to aid installation, as the pickup coils can be split to increase tonal options. However, they are wired in traditional non‑split fashion on the Les Paul Standard. Lawrence’s HB pickups divide opinion, in that people seem either to love or to hate them. Their powerful clean ‘hi‑fi’ compressed sound didn’t appeal to some vintage enthusiasts, while they gained favour with many hard rock guitarists, both then and since. Personally, I reckon there is some typical collector snobbery going on with guitars from this period and that gets in the way of what is simply a great sounding and playing Les Paul. Otherwise, it has the usual appointments you’d expect from a Standard. It’s a lovely all‑original example in a really nice colour. The plain maple top can be seen through the finish, giving it a beautifully understated look with a genuine aged patina. It’s also relatively light weight for a Les Paul, at around 8½Lbs. It is also in fine overall condition with a few signs of regular use – always a good thing in my book. It comes with its original and very distinctive ABS ‘chainsaw’ hard shell case. OK, so it may not stand out from the crowd but that’s kind of the point.


  • Made in Nashville, Tennessee, USA on 4th January 1989
  • Translucent Wine Red nitrocellulose finish
  • Top bound plain maple cap over single piece mahogany body
  • Mahogany set neck
  • Bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and trapezoid pearloid markers
  • Scale length 24¾” (629mm)
  • Original Chrome hardware
  • Original Kluson tulip tuners with cream plastic buttons
  • Original single‑ply cream scratchplate (not fitted)
  • Original Bill Lawrence HB‑L (bridge) and HB‑R (neck) split coil humbucking pickups
  • Original hardware – bridge and tailpiece, toggle switch, knobs, strap buttons and jack socket
  • Weight: 8½Lbs (3.85Kgs)
  • Original Gibson ‘Chainsaw’ hard shell case

Detail Gallery:

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