The latest incarnation of the Gibson Les Paul Studio is a 50’s Tribute model, available in five ‘worn’ finishes and sporting a pair of distressed P-90 pickups. Obviously, the Worn Gold Top model is the only one of the five colours that bears any resemblence to the actual guitars available in the 1950’s, but that was a long time ago and not everyone is hung up on nostalgia, however iconic the guitars of that period may be.
Other finishes are Worn Heritage Cherry Burst, Worn Satin Ebony, Worn Satin White and Worn Honey Burst – all grain-textured satin nitro – and hand-finished to achieve the pre-worn look. The distressing is actually very light, with subtle ‘wear’ on the edges of the body and the back of the neck. There are no artificial chips or dings – the guitar is not trying to replicate any particular model.
Construction is the traditional mahogany body and neck with a maple top and rosewood fingerboard. The chambered body keeps the weight down to between five and six pounds, but as far as hardware and electronics are concerned, everything is standard Les Paul Studio – Kluson style tuners and Nashville Tune-o-matic bridge. Actually, there is one minor difference. ‘Orange Drop’ tone caps have been installed to, as Gibson put it, “translate that raw, gnarly P-90 tone in true 50’s style”.
Like most Gibson guitars straight out of the carton, this Les Paul Studio was well set up, although the factory-set action may be slightly high for some people. After a quick tune-up, I was eager to find out what P-90s on a modern mahogany/maple Les Paul sounded like. P-90 pick-ups are famous for being rougher sounding than humbuckers – and they certainly can be when plugged into an overdriven amp – but by turning the volume control down, they clean up nicely for a clear rhythm sound. The front pick-up on this guitar was very expressive – perfect for jazz or bluesy tones – while the back pick-up was wiry through a clean channel but full-on rocky through the second channel of the Engl Classic I was using. All in all, very satisfactory.
If for you, guitars are all about the sounds they can produce and not about fancy and expensive tonewoods, inlays and elaborate wiring, then the Les Paul Studio 50’s Tribute will be a revelation. This is a guitar that oozes tone – especially for the blues – and will deliver on all counts, for solos or rhythm playing.
Even if the model didn’t have the 50’s Tribute name or the ageing, it would still be a very attractive guitar to own as it plays and sounds so good. However, the real reason this instrument will make a mark is the inclusion of the P-90s, which have turned an ordinary Les Paul Studio into something a bit special. A fitting tribute indeed.