Gibson Les Paul Special!
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Gibson Les Paul Special
Designed to be a little better than the Junior and TV series Les Pauls but more affordable than the expensive Standard models, the Gibson Les Paul Special made a nice guitar for intermediate players -- when the neck would stay on.
Actually, the problems with the Special have been heavily exaggerated -- unless you happen to have bought one of the ones with a mistakably removable neck.
But there was nothing wrong with the necks on Les Paul Specials when they were introduced in 1955.
Available only in the TV Yellow color intended to look good on black-and-white television, the Les Paul Special got off to a good start.
In 1958, however, the Special was redesigned, giving it the double-cutaway body style update that the Junior and TV models also got.
The idea was to make fretting higher notes easier than it was on the original single-cutaway design.
There was a bit of a problem, though.
Junior and TV models had only one pickup, but Specials had two.
The cavity for the pickup in the neck overlapped the joint between the neck and the body.
The joint was too weak once the design was changed, and the neck would break easily.
Moderately rough handling -- perfectly acceptable with most Les Pauls -- would snap the neck off Specials made in 1958.
Of course, Gibson fixed the problem as soon as they could.
They moved the neck pickup down the body, slightly changing the sound but solving the problem.
It is this stable version of the Special that Gibson reproduces in the current Custom Shop replica model available.
While the replica model’s price into the thousands of dollars probably puts it beyond the reach of most beginner and intermediate players, both the original Special and the reissue model are good choices for players whose backs aren’t used to extended gig playing.
They’re lighter than most Les Paul models, so you can stand with them for longer periods.
Some reviewers find the thick and bulky neck on the reissue model -- designed to match those used by Gibson on 1960s-era instruments -- hard to get their hands around, making complex chords and shredding difficult.
Still, the necks stay on.
Gibson learned their lesson about that pretty quickly.
If nothing else, the Gibson LP Special proves one thing: The often-celebrated guitar makers at Gibson are only human after all.
That’s how they came to make a guitar with a snap-off neck.
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