Jimmy Page’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard “Number One”
This is Jimmy’s “Number One” guitar, a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, which he bought in 1969 and used extensively on tour and in the studio with Led Zeppelin. Up until that point, he used a 1959 Fender Telecaster, but the Les Paul quickly became his favorite.
As soon as I played the Les Paul I fell in love. Not that the Tele isn’t user friendly, but the Les Paul was gorgeous and easy to play. It just seemed like a good touring guitar. It’s more of a fight with the Telecaster but there are rewards.
The Gibson’s got all that very stereotyped sound, maybe, I don’t know, but it’s got a really beautiful sustain. I do like sustain. It relates to bowed instruments. Sustain speaks for itself, that’s the whole thing. It’s the whole are that everyone’s been experimenting in, once it became electric, if you think about it – it was mainly sustain.Jimmy Page – original source needed
Page got his ’59 from Joe Walsh (James Gang; later Eagles) in April of 1969. Walsh did an interview with Guitar World magazine in which he shared the story about the exchange:
Jimmy was still playing the Telecasters that he played in the Yardbirds. He was looking for a Les Paul and asked if I knew of any, ’cause he couldn’t find one that he liked. And I had two. So I kept the one I liked the most and I flew with the other one. I laid it on him and said, ‘Try this out.
He really liked it, so I gave him a really good deal, about 1,200 bucks. I had to hand-carry it; I flew there and everything. So whatever my expenses were, that’s what I charged him. But again, I just thought he should have a Les Paul for godsakes!Joe Walsh – Interview with Guitar World (page now offline)
This guitar had a few modifications done to it before it got into Page’s hands. The back of the neck was sanded down and shaved, making it very thin and easier to play – which was the thing that Page really liked about this guitar.
One issue that was caused by this is that it’s still unknown what year model the guitar is. Due to the sanding of the neck, and the fact that none of the pickups are original, the serial number on the guitar is no longer present. But most people agree that Les Paul is probably from late 1959, or early 1960.
After Page got to play the guitar for a couple of gigs, he decided to swap the original Kluson tuners with gold-plated Grovers – since he was already familiar with them from his Les Paul Custom.
My memory on this is a little hazy, but the sheer fact that these holes haven’t seen filled in, I’ve got a feeling that I would have changed the machine heads, the production ones, to the Grover – which I was more familiar with from my Les Paul Custom. They are more sensitive, and boy – they held up for all those days back then.Jimmy Page talks about his Gibson Les Paul
The electronics were modified as well. Pickups were changed numerous times. Originally, the guitar had the Seth Lover PAF pickups, but after a tour of Australia in 1972 the bridge pickup malfunctioned and was promptly replaced with a T-Top humbucker which remained there for the duration of Led Zeppelin. The T-Top was eventually replaced with a custom wound Seymour Duncan humbucker sometime in the 90s.
The neck pickup remained the same until the 2000’s when it was replaced by an original PAF humbucker from the 1960s.
Push/Pull out of Phase Switch
Jimmy replaced one of the original knobs with a push-pull knob, which enabled him to reverse the phase of the pickups when this switch was activated.
As far as when exactly this happened, based on Jimmy’s statement below, it didn’t happen until he modded his Number Two Les Paul. This second Les Paul he got in 1973, and it was modded way later, in the early ’80s by Steve Hoyland. So obviously, it can be concluded that this out-of-phase sound was not featured on any of Led Zeppelin’s albums.
I customized my number two Les Paul, which again is a real od vintage one. However, that gave any combination of all of these (pickups). But, it was a little fussy, because all of the knobs were push/pull, and I had little switches (below the pickguard).
Reality of it was – the thing that I found most important to me was the fact that you could reverse the phase on this. By reversing the phase you get a close approximation to the sound Peter Green would get.Jimmy Page talks about his Gibson Les Paul
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