“This is nuts and my jaw is on the floor with how badass this one is. I am in Tone Heaven!” Jared James Nichols just got a ’57 Les Paul with the craziest refurb ever

Jared James Nichols and his 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard
(Image credit: Jared James Nichols / Black Magic Guitars via Instagram)

Jared James Nichols has a thing for electric guitars in distress. Remember Dorothy? That was the 1952 Gibson Les Paul – thought to be one of the earliest ever made – destroyed in a 2013 tornado, expertly restored by luthier Joel Wilkins. Now Nichols has a new squeeze and it is another spectacular refurb of a 1957 Les Paul Standard.

This guitar has not so much brought back from the dead as it has been rescued from the ‘turd pile’ and all glammed up for its high-school prom with a totally unorthodox but brilliant refurb.

Demoing it on Instagram, Nichols revealed that it is one of the first Les Pauls to be fitted with humbucker pickups – the then-cutting-edge Gibson PAF (‘Patent Applied For’. He is in love.

“Here are the first notes and the unveiling of the new guitar,” he wrote, captioning a video in which he is throttling the guitar with his bear-hug fingerstyle approach. “Here she is, an early 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard, one of the first humbucker-equipped Les Paul Standards ever. Rocking a set of monster real-deal double-white PAFs – crazy black-over-gold finish by Joe Riggio showing plenty of flame. This is nuts and my jaw is on the floor with how badass this one is. I am in tone heaven!”

We’ll just leave him there to enjoy the moment. 

Nichols duly thanked Riggio for his luthiery, but also John Ladas of Black Magic Guitars who was bringing the instrument into his life. Today, November 9, Ladas shared some of the details behind this epic six-stringed project restoration.

“A few short months ago I got a killer, super early 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Factory PAF guitar) in the shop,” wrote Ladas. “Everything was there parts wise, it was light 8.5lbs, super vibey but had a couple of things.”

Those couple of things would make it player’s grade. Grover tuners had been added. The bridge posts had been moved back. Nonetheless, there was something about it. This was “absolutely special”.

“The face refin could have been better and some phat flame was peeking out so I did the completely mature and sensible thing and immediately stripped the top!” continues Ladas, with a bonkers emoji to underline just how bonkers this whole endeavor was.

There was no shortage of flame on the top, which you can see in his pictures above. But it was asymmetrical. Rather than do what many a player wants, ie, apply a sunburst finish to the top, Ladas decided they needed something more dramatic, and with Riggio has a co-conspirator they decided to refinish it black over gold.

“She comes back looking absolutely Wild!” writes Ladas. “The original cream plastics and softer 57 PAFs aren’t exactly right so the mock ups begin… I have ‘50s parts for days and a collection of the very best sounding PAFs on stand by, so let’s keep pushing!”

They left the bridge, its saddles and the stop-bar tailpiece intact. Likewise, the control knobs, harness, switch and tip, and back plates are all original. 

But Ladas and Riggio would soup-up the sound, too, swapping out those early ’57 PAFs for a pair of ’59 ‘Double Whites’ reading 8.5k at the neck, 9.1k at the bridge, adding black surrounds, removing the poker chip washer for the switch and eschewing the pickguard, all of which made it look the part but as Ladas notes, more to the point it is “sonically perfect”.

“As fully invested, no Fs to give, pot committed guitar dorks, this is the stuff we live for!” wrote Ladas. “Brother Jared, may inspiration continue to flow from you endlessly.”

And that’s the story of Nichols’ latest resurrection. All that’s left is to give it a name. 

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.