The incredible story and decades of dedication that gave birth to Les Paul’s ‘Number One’ Goldtop – the solidbody guitar that changed the world

Les Paul
(Image credit: Jason Borucki)

“The first time I saw that guitar, he wasn’t playing it,” Gene Paul recalls of his father Les Paul’s most cherished possession. “He asked me to go downstairs and get a specific guitar. And when I brought it back upstairs, it was in its case. And he said, ‘Put it right on the table there.’ And he said, ‘Open it up.’ And I opened it up – and it was this gold magnificent guitar, simple… elegant.  

“I was just so struck by it,” Gene continues, “because I was used to the black Les Paul [Custom] guitar and the white one – the ones he usually used on stage and had in the control room. But he asked me to get this one and I brought it out. So I’m sitting there and looking at it and I asked him,‘What’s this?’ And then he sat down and told me a story…” 

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Jamie Dickson

Jamie Dickson is Editor-in-Chief of Guitarist magazine, Britain's best-selling and longest-running monthly for guitar players. He started his career at the Daily Telegraph in London, where his first assignment was interviewing blue-eyed soul legend Robert Palmer, going on to become a full-time author on music, writing for benchmark references such as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Dorling Kindersley's How To Play Guitar Step By Step. He joined Guitarist in 2011 and since then it has been his privilege to interview everyone from B.B. King to St. Vincent for Guitarist's readers, while sharing insights into scores of historic guitars, from Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat to the first Martin D-28 ever made.