Monday, 15 October 2018

Gibson Les Paul Switchmaster Custom 1957

Many many years ago when I first started playing the guitar etc. John Miles was an artist I liked.  Remember him?  Most famous was his breakthrough hit of Music - which is a marvellous tune, with a bit of 7/4 timing thrown in with piano, orchestra and rock guitar solo.

Anyway John Miles had a black Les Paul Custom - hmmm.... another influence on my desire for one of these in later years maybe.  But his was special.  Many customs from the late 50s were built with three pickups - it was the default set up and continued into the SG custom that followed in the 60s - it is extremely rare to see a two pickup SG custom although two pick Les Paul Customs became the norm after the 1970 reintroduction.   John's had three pickups but rather than the usual three way switch and two vol and tones his had a four way slider switch and six controls.

Here is a video of him playing it in 1976 in one of his hits Slow Down.  Esp about 1:30 in you'll see the guitar during a Peter Frampton / Joe Walsh inspired voicebox solo.

In a standard three pickup les Paul the middle pickup is only live when the switch is in the middle position - where you'd normally have bridge and neck pickups both on - on a three pickup you get bridge and middle.  You can't individually alter the tone or vol of that pickup too - it's just governed by the bridge controls too. 

Frankly a bit of an odd set up - you think that Gibson just stuck the middle pickup on the custom in 1957 when humbuckers became the standard pickup to compete with the three pickup flagship Stratocaster that Fender had launched.  But they didn't think the switching through.  Now they did have a guitar in the range - the ES5 - big jazz thing!   That had been fitted with P90s and called the Switchmaster for a couple of years as they had this four way switch, each pickup separate and all together being the options and vol and tone control on each.   Here's a lovely 1956 version...

(PS that's available off Reverb for a very reasonable £10,000!)

Why all this interest... well... because.... I've just found one for sale!

How stunning is that boy!   Note it doesn't have the gold hat box knobs of John Miles' version but I actually like this look more.   The tuners have been changed to kidney bean Grovers

Here's the back view.

Now this is a 1957 model.  So two years before the legendary 59 Les Paul (standard).  But obviously a custom (which was considered the better version pricewise in the catalogues at least)  and something a bit unique.  Now up for sale in London at... £80,250.   Ok not cheap but a bargain compared to a burst from 58 through 60.

Given I'm about to retire should I get myself a present.... ;-)

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