I broke a guitar string on Friday. I picked up the Paul and started playing and the high E string broke immediately.
The last time I broke a string playing was in 2003, and I know I broke one stretching in a brand new set in 2000. I can honestly say that I can't remember the last time I broke a string while playing. I'm actually surprised I don't break more, I really like the sound of older strings on my guitars, New strings have a "bell-like" quality that is very bright and harsh to me. mature strings seem to settle in and I can get more of the softer jazz-like sound I love so much (think vintage ES-335 through a tube amp)
Once I took the strings off the guitar I realized that I couldn't possibly just slam a new set on it, the wood was looking parched and there was some accumulated grunge (sweat, skin oil, dust and just general schmutz) in the crevices. I decided to at least document the condition of the guitar on this post. I've owned this instrument for 10 years now and It's never been treated to a photo shoot. In 1979, Gibson, in there ultimate wisdom, decided to create a less expensive version of their flagship guitar, the Les Paul. A Les Paul is a beautiful instrument made from a solid mahogany slab and topped with a carved piece of figured maple. It's fit and finish are simply stunning, as was and is, it's price tag. Vintage Les Pauls from the 50s can fetch easily $40,000 and sometimes $100,000, and we aren't talking about historic guitars that have been blessed by being played by some Rock God, we are talking about run of the mill production instruments that have been cared for over the years. But I digress.
Gibson made "The Paul" as an inexpensive workhorse, something with which you could take to a gig without worrying about damaging it. They took the tried and true shape and cut it out of a solid slab of black walnut, which makes for a very heavy guitar weight wise, it's also a much brighter sounding wood than mahogany, it's more like maple just a tad warmer but with similar resonant qualities allowing for a nice long sustain. Gibson used ebony for the fretboard, which I think is one of the guitar's greatest assets.
So back in 1998 I sold my low-end Ibanez RG to Bobby Steele of the Undead (former Misfits) for like $100 and purchased "The Paul" It was hanging on the wall at a local luthier's shop and it called to me like a magnet. She was filthy, and terribly beat up, but when I plugged her in she sang very much like her more well-to-do sisters. The guitar had been used by a local player in a working band for years. The finish was dull and lifeless, but she was all original with the exception of a TP6 tailpiece rather than the stock stopbar. When I first played it I was quite taken aback by the feel of the neck, it wasn't "fast" it was quick, but more importantly it was comfortable. The frets in the first couple positions were very worn in literally dented over each string from years of playing open chords, as you went up the neck the denting gave way to beautiful wear that had eroded the the frets into a very low and wide profile. The fret wear really made this guitar feel more like a vintage Les Paul Custom. I plugged it into a Musicman 112 Seventy Five (an amplifier that a few months later I would trade a Marshall for!) and fell in love! It was so resonant and the pickups so much hotter than anything I was used to playing, it was very easy to overdrive a tube amp and clean it up by simply backing off the volume. The neck pickup is a bit muddy but I could live with it. This was a real player's axe, the price tag was $375 and I had to have it. Incedentally the value of these axes has steadily increased (about 7.5% per year) over the last few years and they are now selling for $900+.
I have done very little to this guitar over the years. When I lived in Florida the neck had required a slight (1/4 turn) adjustment during the winter to compensate for the lack of humidity, something I've found to be completely unnecessary up here in PA. In fact this is a guitar that I can put down on a stand not play for weeks and then grab it and have it be perfectly in tune (something my Strat can only dream of).
The stamped date inside the body cavity is JUL1979 And the Serial #72019521 translates to the 21st guitar made in Nashville, TN on the 201st day of 1979 or July 20th, 1979.
So anyhoo these guitars had only an oil finish, so when I broke the string on Friday I cleaned the body and neck with a rag and some naptha, and worked some orange oil into the wood, I put a heavy coat of oil on the body and let it sit for a few hours, then wiped off the excess and let the oil set up overnight, yesterday I buffed the finish a bit. I put on a new set of the only strings this axe has known for the last 10 years Dean Markley Nickel Steel Electric in REG gauge (.010-.046) I raised the action ever so slightly on the treble side and tweaked the intonation and the results are under the cut. Like I said I post this just to document the condition of a, nearly, 30 year old instrument, and to pay homage to a wonderful guitar that in all likelihood I'll be buried with!