’74 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top

This is one mean guitar. So many oddities packed into one package! I’m working on validating a few things, but a good deal of this appears to be original. Below is a list of oddities and anomalies.

  • Factory installed Grover tuners
  • “Custom” Truss Rod cover (not Les Paul Custom)
  • Brass nut (Installed in 1978).
  • First fret inlay (unknown installation date)
  • Brasilian rosewood UNBOUND freboard (unaltered, unshaved).
  • Brasilian rosewood bound body
  • Vintage Clarostat pots
  • Sprague Orange drops

I bought a black light to inspect the finish and look for anything strange. Unfortunately, CFL flourescent lights don’t make the best black lights. I will likely have to get a better one to get more conclusive results.

Even so the back and sides glow as if they’ve never been touched. The top, due to it’s color and the relative weakness of the black light, is inconclusive. I believe it may be a refinish because the paint extends to the edge of the guitar, covering the binding. I can’t see why anyone would want to custom order rosewood binding and then cover it up, unless they were trying to go for the “Studio” look 10 years before Studios were even released. 😉

Another strange feature are the Clarostat pots. The solder work is amazing and the wiring that is in there has never been touched. That’s not to say it didn’t start it’s life with different pots. The problem with Clarostats is that it wasn’t a likely choice for Gibson to have used at this point in the game. Typically CTS pots were being used then. Clarostats were more often found in wah-wah pedals. Because Clarostats are not easy to date, I have no idea when these were made. I will continue to research this and update the page once I get definitive information.

The wiring scheme is also different scheme from this era, with the caps terminating at ground rather than bridging from the volume. In addition, the treble/rhythm pots are flipped and the pickups have independent volume control with no master in the middle. This is a wiring scheme I’ve been wanting to fiddle with for a while. I like it well enough, but the volume/tone pot physical positions will likely vex me for a bit.

As for the Sprague Orange Drops: again, an area which has very little information. Typically, black beauty Spragues were installed in Les Pauls of this era. Moreover, the Sprague polypropelene film and foil caps of the era were typically a maroon / oxblood coloration. Not Orange. This is the biggest clue telling me the wiring is not new.

As for how it plays and sounds, it is night and day over my ’78 and ’80 Les Pauls. There’s an organic quality to this guitar that the others seem to lack. I can only guess that it has to do with the difference in tenon and the ABR-1 bridge. The old “Patent No.” mini humbuckers are somewhat different from the ones in my ’80, but only marginally. Both are quite clear and distinct pickups with very full midrange and beautiful highs. They aren’t as muddy as full sized T-Top humbuckers, but neither do they lack the lows you would want or expect from a Les Paul.

The neck itself is wonderfully shaped, starting thin near the nut and widening out towards the heel. Very similar to my ’79 ES-335 CRR and to my ’65 Epiphone Olympic. This is the sort of neck I love. This neck contrasts the ’78 and ’80, which seem to have a less distinct, more straight forward loggy quality. That’s not a negative, as I quite like a log like neck; it simply is a distinction from the others.

This guitar is full of sweet harmonic overtones when cranked through my ’63 Gibson GA-40T Mariner. It seems to whistle and sing. You can hear very distinct sub-harmonics when certain chords are played, especially higher up on the neck. It’s almost as if a second guitar is harmonizing with this one.

The originality of the electronics and guitar top are not really important to me. I simply like to know everything I can know about my instruments. It’s part of the fun for me. If they turn out to be something changed at a later date, so be it. This guitar is staying with me for a long time, regardless.

Below are a couple of threads about this guitar on MyLesPaul.com and LesPaulForum.com
My Les Paul – Norlin Forum
Les Paul Forum – Sunburst Pub

Parent page: Instruments and Amplifiers