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Is Les Paul's Gibson Black Beauty Guitar the "Holy Grail"? Join the Debate

Guitar Player’s February 2015 issue features a cover feature about Les Paul’s 1954 Black Beauty.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the Black Beauty is the very guitar on which Les performed many modifications over the years as he sought to improve upon Gibson’s original design.

In writing about the guitar, Guitar Player interviewed Tom Doyle, the man who was Les Paul’s guitar tech for many years and the current owner of the Black Beauty.

In the course of the story, Tom makes a number of claims for the guitar’s importance as “ground zero” for the modern Les Paul guitar. Among the changes Les made were an improved neck pitch, stop tailpiece and lower action.

Unfortunately, those claims didn’t sit well with some of the leaders of the vintage guitar world.

In a Washington Post article on the guitar that ran February 6, noted Nashville vintage guitar dealer George Gruhn thundered, “That article is absolute bull, and the whole thing’s as crooked as can be. It’s an attack on everything I’ve worked on for over the last 50 years.”

Likewise, Tom Wheeler, the former editor of Guitar Player, sent out an email to many in the industry, as well as Doyle, saying that the article contradicts everything “we know about the development of the Les Paul.”

Guitarist Steve Miller has come to Doyle’s defense. Miller, who it should be noted is Les Paul’s godson, said to the Post, “Is Tommy hyping it up a little bit? Hell, yeah. But is this guitar an important guitar? It’s an electric guitar, it’s made by Gibson, and it was Les’s guitar. That’s what makes it a great guitar.”

Rather than weigh in on the debate, we thought we’d leave it to you. Check out Guitar Player’s story right here, and let us know what you think.

Incidentally, Doyle’s guitar goes on the auction block February 19, so we will soon find out what it’s worth. Stay tuned.

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Guitar World Staff
Guitar World Staff

Since 1980, Guitar World has been the ultimate resource for guitarists. Whether you want to learn the techniques employed by your guitar heroes, read about their latest projects or simply need to know which guitar is the right one to buy, Guitar World is the place to look.