“This man changed the game in so many ways”: One of Les Paul’s own Les Pauls – which has a rare maple fretboard – has been listed on Reverb

A Gibson Les Paul Custom 1981 owned by Les Paul
(Image credit: Reverb)

Online gear retailer Reverb is an absolute goldmine of quirky, historic and down-right bizarre electric guitars.

In 2023 alone, Reverb’s virtual store shelves have played host to Peter Green’s 1962 Silvertone Speed Demon, a PRS Silver Sky prototype that once belonged to Carlos Santana, and, erm, a Kramer Triax – one of the wildest guitars designs ever conceived.

Now, another vintage rarity has made its way onto the site: a 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom that was once owned by Les Paul himself.

That connection alone would usually be more than enough to sell this instrument to any avid Gibson fan, but this particular Les Paul comes with an extra twist – it’s equipped with a maple fingerboard.

Sure, maple fretboard-loaded Les Pauls are not entirely unheard of, but they are pretty darn rare. Throw in a personal connection to the instrumental pioneer who actually designed and built the guitar itself, and you’ve got all the ingredients for an exceptionally notable piece of gear.

“Here is something quite unique,” the Reverb listing quite rightly states. “We have a very unusual Gibson Les Paul custom that was the property of Les Paul himself.

“This is a great opportunity to own a piece of guitar history,” it continues. “This man changed the game in so many ways.”

With a natural-finished mahogany body and three-piece maple top to match its pale, block-inlaid fingerboard, the guitar is certainly a peculiar beast, with the sleek binding, flashes of gold hardware, and black headstock and pickguard serving as the only respite from an otherwise overwhelmingly beige guitar.

Other notable specs include those pickups, which are actually Tim Shaw-stamped humbuckers.

As we said above, it's highly unusual to see a Les Paul carrying a maple fingerboard. After all, the brand has enthusiastically stuck to its traditional choices of either ebony or rosewood for the majority of its entire guitar catalog, let alone its Les Paul lineup.

But there are exceptions to the rule. Maple ‘boarded LPs can be traced back to the mid-1970s, when Gibson began producing Les Paul Customs that were almost identical to this ‘81 example, dubbed by some as the “Blonde Beauty”.

The history of such guitars gets hazy around the early ‘80s, with Trogly – one of YouTube’s foremost Gibson experts – noting they slipped into obscurity around 1987. In the 2000s and 2010s, though, the Customs returned in a variety of formats (and in limited numbers), most notably in the form of a flame maple-topped reissue and Zakk Wylde’s Vertigo signature guitar from 2012.

Since then, such examples have been pretty hard to come by – and it’s been even harder to find ones that have been owned and played by the man who actually masterminded the Les Paul guitar back in the 1952.

Intriguingly, this isn't the only example out there: this LP is actually one of a pair once owned by Paul, whose estate auctioned off some of his guitars back in 2012.

The 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom has been listed for $13,953. Head over to Reverb to find out more.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.