Inside a Burst

When it comes to classic guitars, terms like "holy grail" get thrown around an awful lot. You've got your Broadcasters, Korina Explorers and Flying Vs, and pre-war Martin Dreadnoughts. And then there’s the standard Les Paul produced between 1958 and 1960. The “Burst.”

In 1958, Gibson switched from a Goldtop finish to a stunning Cherry Sunburst on the Les Paul which lasted until the SG body style took over in late 1960. These mythical instruments have been endlessly replicated and reissued since, and command extreme prices when they come up for auction. Today we're going to dive head first into a Burst from 1960. Get ready for an up close and personal tour of one of the most iconic guitars ever made.

We'll start with electronics. The Patent Applied For pickups were designed by Seth Lover and added to the Les Paul model in 1957. Early examples lack the PAF sticker seen here.

We'll start with electronics. The Patent Applied For pickups were designed by Seth Lover and added to the Les Paul model in 1957. Early examples lack the PAF sticker seen here.


These pickups were specifically designed to solve the issues of signal noise by connecting two single-coils in series and out-of-phase from one another.

These pickups were specifically designed to solve the issues of signal noise by connecting two single-coils in series and out-of-phase from one another.


Original PAF pickups used nickel coverings seen here. By early 1962, the transition began towards “Patent No” humbuckers.

Original PAF pickups used nickel coverings seen here. By early 1962, the transition began towards “Patent No” humbuckers.


Looking at the pickup cavity, we can see the main body wood. Les Pauls are typically made with a Mahogany body and Maple top. In the Burst era, two pieces of Maple were seamed along the center of the body.

Looking at the pickup cavity, we can see the main body wood. Les Pauls are typically made with a Mahogany body and Maple top. In the Burst era, two pieces of Maple were seamed along the center of the body.


The two tone and two volume controls layout set the standard for two pickup guitars. The caps on the top of the control knobs changed in late-1960 from plastic to metal.

The two tone and two volume controls layout set the standard for two pickup guitars. The caps on the top of the control knobs changed in late-1960 from plastic to metal.


Underneath the knobs, we can see pots and capacitors. These capacitors are known as Sprague Black Beauties.

Underneath the knobs, we can see pots and capacitors. These capacitors are known as Sprague Black Beauties.


The three way pickup selector design changed slightly in 1959: the ring surround the switch got thinner and the font was altered.

The three way pickup selector design changed slightly in 1959: the ring surround the switch got thinner and the font was altered.


Inside the tone switch cavity. Here we also get a good close up on the red-finished grain of the old-growth Mahogany body.

Inside the tone switch cavity. Here we also get a good close up on the red-finished grain of the old-growth Mahogany body.


Close up on the Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. The Tune-o-matic was added to the Les Paul in late 1955.

Close up on the Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. The Tune-o-matic was added to the Les Paul in late 1955.


Another view of the PAF humbucker and the mounting hardware for the Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece.

Another view of the PAF humbucker and the mounting hardware for the Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece.


Unlike the Les Paul Custom (which used Ebony) the Les Paul Standard features a single-bound Rosewood fingerboard.

Unlike the Les Paul Custom (which used Ebony) the Les Paul Standard features a single-bound Rosewood fingerboard.


The neck profile of the Burst was made gradually thinner from 1958 to 1960. This 1960 example has what's since been termed a 'slim taper' neck shape.

The neck profile of the Burst was made gradually thinner from 1958 to 1960. This 1960 example has what's since been termed a 'slim taper' neck shape.


By the Burst era, the Les Paul used Keystone tuners with "Kluson Deluxe" on the back.
Note: The tuners on this example are replacements as the originals started to disintegrate.

By the Burst era, the Les Paul used Keystone tuners with "Kluson Deluxe" on the back.

Note: The tuners on this example are replacements as the originals started to disintegrate.


The deep running neck tenon is often considered a major factor in the Les Paul's legendary sustain. For some, this is an important point of differentiation between Gibson and Fender guitars.

The deep running neck tenon is often considered a major factor in the Les Paul's legendary sustain. For some, this is an important point of differentiation between Gibson and Fender guitars.


Sales dwindled throughout the Burst era prompting Gibson to replace the design with the SG body style at the end of 1960. Though the Les Paul was brought back in 1968 (learn more about that here), Gibson never again captured the level of quality and innovation witnessed from 1958 to 1960. Only around 1700 Les Pauls were produced in this era and even less are currently accounted for. This all combines to earn the Burst a place as one of the true holy grail vintage guitars.

Thanks to the Chicago Music Exchange for use of their images.

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