Jimmy Page’s 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom
Jimmy acquired this Les Paul sometime towards the end of his stint with the Crusader, so probably around 1963. It was his main guitar during the pre-Led Zeppelin era, when he worked as a session guitarist.
The guitar was made in 1960, making it one of the last original Customs ever produced. It was equipped with three PAF (Patent Applied For) pickups designed by Seth Lover in 1955, a Bigsby tremolo, and Grover Rotomatics tuners.
Session Musician Era
Jimmy worked as a session guitarist for a number of years, up until he joined the Yardbrids in May of 1966. During those years, this Les Paul Custom seemed to have been his main guitar, as it’s often reference as “the” guitar used by him in a number biography books – including “Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography” by Chris Salewicz and “No Quarter – The Three Lives Of Jimmy Page” by Martin Power.
Some of the songs that Jimmy played on from that era include the “Goldfinger Theme Song”, Tom Jones’s It’s Not Unusual”, and Petula Clark’s “Downtown”. He also played on a couple of songs by the Kinks, and on The Who, “Bald Headed Woman” – Jimmy Page Before Led Zeppelin: 20 Great 1960s Session Songs.
The Toggle switch Mod
Sometime in early 1970, Jimmy modified his Les Paul Custom with two more toggle switches. This allowed him to turn each pickup on or off separately, so he could for instance used the bridge and the neck pickup together – something he couldn’t do with the regular 5-way switch.
This modification was done sometime shorty before the Led Zeppelin North American Tour which started on March 21, 1970. This means that all the recording that Jimmy did with this guitar, which apparently included “Wholla Lotta Love”, was done prior to the mods.
Led Zeppelin I, II
Jimmy obviously had the guitar when he recorded both Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, but it seems that at least on the first album, he only used his 1959 Fender Telecaster. On the second album, a lot of sources indicate that he used the Custom to record “Whole Lotta Love”. Aside from that, it’s unknown whether the Custom was featured on any other Zeppelin songs.
Jimmy’s Les Paul Custom gets Stolen
The guitar was stolen from Jimmy in April of 1970 during Led Zeppelin’s US tour. Jimmy decided to post an ad in Rolling Stone Magazine, but unfortunately, no one ever called back – or at least not until very recently.
Black Beauty, which got nicked in the States; it disappeared in airport, somewhere between Boston and Montreal. A lot of my studio work had been done with that guitar. I didn’t want to take it out of the house. Funny that once I did take it out, it got nicked!Jimmy Page for the Guitar World 1991
There’s a little bit of confusion regarding this guitar, the source of which is the book “Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography”. In the book, it is stated that the guitar that was stolen from Jimmy was a Les Paul Custom given to him by Keith Richards.
Midway through the tour, however, there was a problem. At Winnipeg Airport in Canada a road manager noticed that something was missing: Page’s ‘Black Beauty’ guitar, a Les Paul Keith Richards gave him that he had played on the entire tour. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ had been recorded with Page playing the Black Beauty.Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography
However, based on all other sources, Keith Richards had nothing to do with the guitar. This was Jimmy’s own Les Paul Custom.
Jimmy’s Custom gets Found
In the late 2010s, after 50 years, the guitar found its way back to Jimmy Page.
Apparently, it was stolen by someone who worked at the airport, and then it spent 20 years sitting below that person’s bed. After that person died, their spouse took it to a local guitar shop, told the story, and ended up selling it for $5,000. An attempt was made at that point to authenticate the guitar, but after a quick look-over, no indication of the two additional toggle switches ever being there was seen, so the guitar was once again re-sold.
From that point on, it spent another 20 years with its new owner, Paul “Bleem” Claesgens. Just recently, Paul took the guitar for some repairs to the exact shop where he bought it, and after a second inspection, it was discovered that the guitar was re-painted and the new paint covered the holes made by the extra toggle switches.
From then on, a deal was struck between Paul and the people representing Jimmy. Jimmy got his guitar back, and Paul was simply given a different vintage Gibson Les Paul Custom.
If you want to read the full story about it, including the statements of the people involved, please refer to GuitarWorld’s wonderful article – How Jimmy Page was reunited with his beloved 1960 Les Paul Custom – nearly 50 years after it was stolen.
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