As a young player I had owned several Les Pauls and heard about the release of the new line of Les Pauls, the Professional and the Personal. The promo for the line revolved around this being the ultimate Les Paul that was ideal for recording . It was said to have the most advanced pickup system of any electric guitar to date. Of course, I had to play one and like any self respecting guitarist thought I had to own one too. I went down to the local Gibson dealer and there it was, the Les Paul Personal sitting on a stand , I took off my coat with anticipation and asked if I could play it. (The main differences between the Les Paul Personal and the Les Paul Professional was the addition of a microphone input with its own volume control . It was also more ornate, with the Gibson split diamond headstock inlays and gold-plated hardware throughout).
They plugged me in to a Kustom Amp (with blue naugahyde) and handed me a complicated looking natural woodgrain guitar that felt like it weighed about 50 pounds. The solid Honduras mahogany guitar actually made the guitar weigh in at about 12.5 pounds. The series was first listed in the September 1969 Gibson price list. (these were all low-impedance instruments in a dark walnut finish. The Les Paul Personal was the top of the range; $645, followed by the Professional at about the same price as the Les Paul Custom at $575.)
Low Impedance and What?
I remember being in the store struggling to get a sound like the ones I was used to but all I could get was a sterile small voice with very little gain, when I commented to the salesperson that it had no gain he apologized for not giving me the line transformer that was shipped with the instrument. Now with the line transformer I continued to play with it but despite the built in tone emulation it just didn’t give me that traditional crunch and characteristic distortion that I was used to. The weight combined with clarity of tone, complicated functions and the fact that I didn’t really know what to do with a low impedance 3 pin connector ultimately turned me off. Despite being intrigued it just didn’t inspire me enough to replace what I was already happy with – my LP Custom and Marshall
Mine was probably a very similar experience to many that were taking place in music stores throughout North America. The new low impedance LP’s were fulfilling a perceived need rather than a customer driven one in the market place. In Gibson’s zeal to introduce a new and innovative product that could compete with the never ending stream of knock offs now coming out of Japan they lost sight of what defined their brand.
Evolution and the End of the Line
The Les Paul Recording guitar evolved from the Professional and Personal models and were first produced in the Kalamazoo Michigan factory in the late sixties. World guitar markets were increasingly moving production to Japan and at the same time the Gibson factory itself was in a state of transition to a new factory under new ownership in Memphis, Tennessee. Gibson did not stop experimenting and guitars such as the Les Paul Personal, and Les Paul Professional (with a matching Les Paul Bass) appeared complete with the quality of materials and craftsmanship that Gibson was famous for.
These new guitars, although designed to be the best solid-body Gibsons ever produced , failed to capture the imagination of the broader market because in fact, it was the short comings of the electronics on the original that created the crunchy fat tone that became the signature sound of Rock and Roll recordings the world over. This big tone combined with the sexy sleek look was just a winner and why would we want to mess with that?
Misunderstood but Not Forgotten
Fast forward decades later. I got a call from a friend who asked if I wouldn’t mind appraising a guitar a friend of his had, it turned out to be a 1969 Professional. I brought it home and opened up the case and started to take a closer and now more educated look at what was really there, this time years later as an adult in the comfort of my own home. Now, rather than feeling heavy it just felt substantial . I could immediately tell that this guitar was meant to be a step above and was designed for serious players. It was clear that with minor modern processing you could get anything out of it in terms of sounds – and the pickups were truly quiet. In my market comparison I noticed that there were a couple for under the 2000 dollar mark which put the Professional far below Standards and Customs of the same vintage.
Recently I had a notification on my Facebook page that Gibson was re-issuing the Recording as the Recording II, with the same features as the original. This surprised me because initially the sales of this instrument were incredibly low. The Les Paul Personal was produced in very small numbers between 1969 and 1973, with a total of 370 guitars shipped. The peak year was 1970 with 220 guitars. No numbers for the Professional but likely similar.
In hunting about for more information I came upon this on the Sweetwater Sound site:
Sorry, the Gibson Les Paul Recording II is no longer available. We’ve left this page up for reference only. Check out the great alternatives on this page ( which of course are standards and customs).
So it appears that the Les Paul Recording is still suffering from the same perception afflictions that it succumbed to in the early 70’s, it is simply misunderstood and so this time did not even go into production for lack of interest. However, this doesn’t change the fact that this guitar was the guitar that Les Paul designed to be the best LP ever produced and he in fact played that guitar till the day he died. In my opinion this is one of the best guitar deals on the market with one of the best stories, it is truly an exceptional instrument and if you can get your hands on one for a good price don’t let it go.
The Story of a Guitar
The LP Recording is not only about a guitar but also about one of the 20th centuries greatest artists and innovators, Les Paul. He gave us great guitar playing, the solid body electric and the first multi track recorders and the LP Recording is just one more example of his never ending desire to make things sound better.
Excerpted from Les Pauls Estate Sale, June 2012
1968 Prototype Gibson Les Paul Custom Recording Model (Est. $60,000 – $80,000). White flat top with Bigsby tail piece.