I have a dangerous hobby.  I frequently visit the Wildwood Guitars homepage and salivate over all the great guitars they have in stock.  I’ve always wanted what I consider to be my Holy Grail Guitar — a Les Paul Gold Top with soapbar P-90 Pickups — and one day, a few weeks ago, I happened upon a Gibson Historic Custom Shop version of their hallmark 1956 guitar on the Wildwood site, and I was hooked.

The guitar was priced at $4,415.00USD and — after catching my breath, and checking my wallet — I decided to touch in with my old pal Troy Benns to see what he could do for me on price and if I could use Wildwood’s layaway program to reserve that guitar with a down payment.

Troy quickly responded, and gave me a fair price, and told me layaway was no problem.  He had the guitar removed from public view.  The images you see of my gold top Les Paul in this review are the beauty shots that initially enticed me from the Wildwood website.

I wanted that ’56 Les Paul Gold Top because I’d never seen another one like it and I’d been looking for a long time.  Finding a unique Les Paul with P-90 pickups is a challenge, and when you find a good one, as I did, it becomes an event to be honored.

To my ear, the sound of a classic Blues guitar is found in a Les Paul with P-90 pickups — and since 1956 was the last year P-90s were the Gibson standard — PAF (Patent Applied For) Pickups became the new standard pickup in 1957 — I knew this Gibson Historic ’56 was the right guitar for me.

Now I’ll show you what made this ’56 Les Paul Gold Top Custom so uniquely sweet and why it tugged my eye to pull out my credit card:  The back and neck are gold, too.

That’s right, as you can see below, my ’56 Les Paul Gold Top isn’t just gold on the top — it’s gold all over!

Most Gold Top Les Pauls have a natural wood back or a back painted black, and I know an “All Gold” Les Paul Gibson Custom might look a little over-the-top — and, perhaps, even gaudy to some eyes — but all that gold was what I loved about it.

This guitar is completely golden and obnoxious in quite a beautiful way, and I knew only I could love her the right way and truly accept her Gold Top and Gold Sides and Gold Neck and Gold Back as they were meant to plucked and vibrated.

When I received the guitar from Wildwood yesterday morning, I was surprised to see my All Gold baby was actually quite subtle and sophisticated in hand.  The gold paint isn’t gaudy or obnoxious at all.  In fact, the gold is actually quietly deep and resonant — and a little orangey with red hues in the right light angle — and I am confident as the guitar ages, and if I’m lucky, the guitar will become a little green as the bronze powder in the paint oxidizes over time.

Oh, and yes, in case you’re wondering, the first thing I did was pee on my new Les Paul.

Here’s the full spec description of my guitar:

Carved Maple Top, Gloss Finish, All Gold Top, Back and Neck, Solid Non-Weight Relieved Back, Single-Ply Cream Binding on Top and Neck, Period-Correct Toggleswitch Washer & Jackplate, Nickel Hardware, ABR-1 Bridge, Lightweight Aluminum Stopbar, 1-Piece Mahogany Neck with Long Neck Tenon, 22-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard, Acrylic Trapezoid Inlays, Early ’50s Rounded Neck Profile, 24.75″ Scale Length, 1 11/16″ Nut Width, Holly Headstock Veneer, Vintage Tulip Tuners, P-90 Single Coil Pickups, CTS Pots and Bumble Bee Capacitors, 2 Volume, 2 Tone, 3-Way Selector Switch, Includes Custom Shop Case, Certificate of Authenticity, 8.87 lbs, SN 60228

The guitar is listed as weighing 8.87 pounds and I can’t believe the guitar is that heavy!  It feels half as heavy as my 12 pound ’57 Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop VOS.  I don’t care how much a guitar weighs.  I have a 2008 Les Paul Standard that weighs more than my ’56 Gold Top but not as much as my ’57.

Troy told me the P-90s on this guitar have a “3-D Sound” and I didn’t know what he meant until I was able to plug in to my Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb and wail awhile.  Troy, as ever, was right on the money.  The sound from the P-90s in this ’56 envelops a room and caresses the ear.  I have a lot of guitars, but none of them quite have the chiming bite and the buttery creaminess of P-90 bridge and neck pickups solo and in unison.

DR Pure Blue Strings really make this guitar sound from history.

The P-90 single coils only get a little noisy when you crank your amp into overdrive, otherwise, they are surprisingly well-behaved and silent.

I like a hefty neck and the neck on this ’56 Les Paul doesn’t disappoint — even though it is a little thinner and flatter than my ’57.  There is slightly less left hand vibration in the neck on the ’56 than the ’57 and that was a little disappointing.

The description of this guitar says it has nickel hardware.  To my eye, the hardware looks like chrome.  Troy Benns assured me it is nickel.  Here’s a test you can do at home to discern the difference between chrome and polished nickel.  Take a white handkerchief and hold it next to the Stop Bar.  If the reflection of the white handkerchief in the Stop Bar has a yellow hue, it is nickel; if the reflected handkerchief hue is blue, you have chrome.  I did the handkerchief test on my ’56 — and I’m yellow reflected and nickel — just as Troy said.

The action on the guitar is wonderful and playing is lullaby soft and easy.

The tuners are flimsy.  They look to be the same tuners installed on my ’57 Custom, but these ’56 Custom tuners don’t have a hard enough bite and getting a precision tune is tough because there is too much play in the keys — so you either end up over-tuning or under-tightening — while trying to find that dead-on sweet spot.

Here are some great YouTube videos created by our good friend Gregor Hilden using the same — but not identical — sort of Gibson History 1956 Gold Top Les Paul I now have, so you can hear the sting and feel the beauty of of this musical beast:

Troy Benns also tossed some really cool t-shirts into the shipping box, making for a delightful surprise upon the opening:



This concludes my review of my new Gibson Historic All Gold 1956 Les Paul Gloss, and I hope I gave you a sense of just how great this guitar is to play.  I’ve only had my baby in hand for a day and a half, and yet, I already know in my bones this golden ’56 Les Paul Historic Custom will become my Number One guitar.

Now I have to resist revisiting the Wildwood website.  There are just too many intriguing temptations waiting for me there every day.  In fact, I just happened — by chance and by golly — to see an acoustic Gibson Montana J-45 True Vintage VOS guitar calling my name on Wildwood while slowly daring my eye into pulling out my wallet again.

27 Comments

  1. Hello David

    I live in Sydney Australia, and I very much enjoyed reading your story above, and it compelled me to write to you and tell you about the guitar that I bought last year.

    I own several Fender and Gibson guitars, ncluding a Custom Shop Les Paul Black Beauty and a Custom Plus Les Paul maple Fireburst. Both a stunning. But in my youth I coveted a Les Paul Gold Top and by sheer good fortune I found one last year.

    I have previously bought a few guitars from Guitars of America (GOA), an online reseller of quality guitars, and being located in Australia, this suited me fine. I was talking to Steve from GOA, and mentioned that I was keen to find an ‘All Gold’ model if such existed, as the regular Gold Tops with the natural wood or painted back didn’t appeal as much. He came back a few days later after speaking with Gibson, and they actually had one Custom built model on hand which basically fitted what i was looking for! Suffice to say I sent payment very quickly to secure it.

    The guitar came with the following specifications :
    • Custom All Gold Finish
    • One-Piece Mahogany Neck
    • Split Diamond Inlay on Headstock
    • Carved Maple Top
    • Warm-Toned MahoganyBbody
    • 24-3/4″ Scale
    • Ebony Fingerboard
    • 22 Frets
    • Figured Acrylic Block Inlays
    • Gold Hardware
    • 490R Neck Humbucker with Alnico II Magnets
    • 498T Bridge Humbucker with Alnico V Magnets
    • Nashville Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece
    • Metal Tulip Tuners
    • Body, Neck, and Headstock Binding
    • 1-11/16″ Nut Width

    I was sent advance photos by GOA, and noted that the guitar also came with Black Speed Dial Knobs, Black Switch Washer and 2 Black Pick-up Mountings. Whilst the black accessories looked very good against the gold finish, I yearned a finish that reminded me of the Gold Tops that I looked at through the shop windows in he 1979’s which had gold and creme accessories. So I purchased original accessories from Gibson namely Gold Top Hat Knobs, Creme Switch Washer and 2 Creme Pick-Up Mountings.

    An old work colleague from the USA came to visit us in December 2011 and brought my guitar with him. Opening the case filled my senses (sight and smell) with enormous satisfaction as this stunning guitar was finally here. I took her up to my local luthier and within 30-minutes all the black accessories had been replaced with the more classic gold and creme ones. To say that the final result is stunning is an understatement.

    By the way, the other reason I really liked this one was because it came with NO pickguard, although there was a a black pickguard in the case for those who preferred to install it. But I was never interested in drilling into the body and am happy for it to be wthout a pickguard., as it adds to its uniqueness

    It is simply amazing, and I could not be happier. Also it results in jaw dropping reactions from all the people who have seen this unique ‘All Gold’ guitar.

    I agree with your comment above that this ‘All Gold’ finish was what makes this so unique and it is certainly the only one I wanted.

    If you have an email I would be happy to send you some ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. Then you can see if you agree!

    Best wishes
    Gabe