I love a Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul guitar. The heavy guitar feels right in my hands. The strings vibration is nothing like any other guitar I’ve played. For the past decade, or so, I’ve collected four Les Pauls, and I reviewed two of them for you here: My valued ’57 Les Paul VOS and my beloved 56′ Goldtop.
In the image below, you can see all four of my Les Pauls, and the newest one, on the front left, is my 2018 Historic Collection 1959 Les Paul Standard “Dark Bourbon Fade” just purchased from Wildwood Guitars in Louisville, Colorado — and on the front right, is the first Les Paul Standard “Iced Tea Burst” I purchased back in 2008.
I find it wildly fascinating that the two guitars, built a decade apart from each other, so closely resemble each other, while also being alarmingly different in distinctive, yet charming, ways. 2008 was the first wacky year for “The New” Les Paul Standard that included “weight relief” holes carved out of the body, an asymmetrical neck and locking tuners. My new Les Paul is part of the Gibson Custom Shop Historic Collection, and it arrived yesterday, fresh from Wildwood.
Life is relationships. Music is minding. The conundrum of being human is learning how to take care of each other without messing up the rest of the living around you — and part of that experience is knowing who you can trust, and figuring out who is only out to make a dime from your pocket.
Troy Benns works at Wildwood Guitars, and he’s now been a friend, mentor, and associate of mine, for 11 years, and he’s never sold me a bad guitar, or offered me ill advice. There are a 100 premier guitar shops around — but only one Troy Benns at Wildwood.
You may think it odd I buy my guitars long distance when I live and work around New York City — but that’s the beauty of our Modern Age and the internet — go where you want, get what you need. Boutique guitar shops from afar may still bring intimacy, and excellence, right to your eye and ear — and then your door — by you, via a single click!
Here’s evidence of that argument as the great Troy Benns plays my 2018 Historic Collection 1959 Les Paul Standard! He made the video for me two days ago so I could see how the guitar looks, feels, and sounds before he shipped it to me.
Troy, as you can see, is a talented player, and his style of music is not my style — and that’s why a video like this is so important. I play fingerstyle Blues and Jazz, and Troy’s performance is a lot hotter and louder than mine — and that’s important to know, and test, the boundaries of the guitar. Because of this video, I know the barking the guitar does in Troy’s hands will become a whisper in my fingers.
Here’s the official Wildwood blurp on my guitar:
The Gibson Custom Shop Historic Series has evolved so much since its inception. Over time, the Custom Shop team has gotten closer and closer to recreating the magic of the coveted vintage treasures of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Pulling inspiration from the various eras of production in their storied history, Gibson has managed to identify all the characteristics of a great Les Paul and put all them into one irresistible-looking package. From hide-glue construction to premium tone woods, these instruments are closer than ever to instruments that defined a generation and inspired millions. Building off of the presentation of the 2017 Les Paul Standard models, the all-new 2018 Historic Collection takes things to the next level, with new neck profiles (including an all-new ’59 profile scanned from an original vintage treasure) to period correct fretwire and all new “Fade” finishes. Make no mistake, you don’t just see the difference–you FEEL it, too. Obsessively perfect, ultra-accurate aesthetic appointments compliment stellar finish options like aniline-dyed 1-piece mahogany backs, historically-accurate deluxe Kluson tuners, and gorgeous maple tops to create instruments that look and feel like vintage instruments. A pair of so-close-to-vintage-it’s-scary Custom Buckers complete the package by unleashing the glorious, ultra-rich harmonic content of these phenomenal instruments. Wildwood Guitars is proud to present: The Gibson Custom Shop 2018 Historic Collection.
My guitar not only plays really well, the ’59 neck is divine, and even though this guitar was built only two months ago — it plays like it is 50 years old! Amazing. I love the thought and care Gibson put into their Custom Shop work — worth every penny and bead of sweat delivered.
Some friends have commented they are offended by the black mark on my new guitar — it’s a little gash-looking thing between the pickups — but it was actually that “flaw” that drew me to this guitar. The mark makes the guitar immediately recognizable, and real. It’s a beauty mark. That mark is proof-of-life that a guitar is a living thing — wood is real, and breathy, and life is filled with blemishes — and if you’re only concerned about flawlessness and the gloss of a faceless facade, then playing a Les Paul guitar is not a thing made, or intended for you.
Yes, Gibson Custom Shop guitars are expensive, and I pay my own way, so I have to carefully plan my dreams to fit my budget. A great guitar is not only a monetary investment, but also a dedication of purpose, and to the stillness of beauty; and while some may argue an expensive guitar doesn’t make a difference in playing, I disagree.
Great guitars are often expensive because they get greater care and attention to detail during the days of creation.
I am proof a great guitar makes a poor player better — because a great guitar is easier to play, easier to keep in tune, easier to cover a mistake; a great guitar forgives you — and, yes, while a guitar master player can make a $10 guitar sound good, there are many more poor players like you and me than there are master guitarists like Troy Benns.
Don’t be scared by high prices. Don’t be afraid to invest in your raw talent. Aesthetic excellence makes a difference in the functional foundations of your life — and flaws in perfection are the marks of the living! Embrace them — and play on!