Looking Forward: New Les Paul Designs for 1969
PLEASE READ, VERY IMPORTANT:
Although this site was a ton of personal work to create, contributions from users around the world have added missing pieces to the history of LSLP's. This particular article would not have been possible without several contributions by George P. George wanted this material shared and gave me the green light use his scans as I saw fit. George, THANK YOU.
"The return of the Les Paul Standard and Les Paul Custom guitars marks the inauguration of a new era of collaborations between Les Paul and Gibson. Additional products, resulting from this association are also available. Without doubt, we expect they will contribute as much to the music of tomorrow as the original Les Paul instruments contributed to the music of today."
- 'The Return of the Les Paul' brochure, published June 1968 by Gibson, Inc.
Ok... maybe not.
As part of the renewed partnership between Les Paul and Gibson, they co-developed several new models of string instruments and amps. The new stringed instruments included: the "Les Paul Professional", the "Les Paul Personal", the "Les Paul Jumbo" and even a "Les Paul Bass model". All are not very well known, and even fewer enthusiasts are aware that a line of ground-breaking amp designs also resulted from this new cooperative effort between Gibson and Les.
Needless to say, these electric guitars and basses were a departure from the "mainstream" when they premiered in late 1969. The guitars were called the "Personal" or "Professional" models. With walnut brown finishes, dizzying array of switches/knobs, and few design choices which echoed the Les Paul models of the past --- few then or now would confuse these new models with their predecessors. All of these new 1969/1970 models feature low-impedence pickups, which can require a special adapter (pictured in the LP Personal section) to be used on a conventional amp. Les felt these pickups were the future, and he designed his amp to work with them sans adapter. Les continued to use these pickups until he passed away four decades later. The bass model is very similar in looks and function as these "Personal" & "Professional" model guitars. Adam Clayton from U2 has one. Although most of Les' new designs did not capture the future direction of instrument design, his new "Les Paul Jumbo" was quite prescient. It was an acoustic/electric model. Few acoustics today ship without pickups installed. Les Paul Jumbo's are rare. Beyond rare in fact -- nearly unfindable. All new Les Paul designs at the end of 1969 premiered "embossed" pickups covers which displayed Gibson's logo. This design cue reappeared for a short time in 72/73 on the conventional "Deluxe" and "Custom" models. Not to be overlooked was Les' unusual approach to amp design in 1969.
The Les Paul amp was completely different than the Marshall and Fender amplifiers popular in the music of the 50's through the late 60's when they were released. First, they were solid state and not tube based. This was cutting edge, "space age" technology of the day. Tube amps were fragile, and tubes themselves constantly wore out. Transistor-based solid-state amps were more durable and maintained a clean sound at almost any volume. This was very different than tube amps which we all know are different animals at different volumes. The second difference in Les' design was to make the amplifier head, called the LP-1, contain only a preamp. The cabinet would contain a power amp and a number of speakers. This allowed multiple powered cabinets to be daisy chained off a single pre-amp. Some users would use other, smaller powered cabs with their LP-1 heads when the MASSIVE 6 speaker Les Paul cabinet was a bit much. It weighed 150lbs!!?!?
This new generation of Les Paul products have something in common with late 50's Les Paul Standards: they were arguably a failure in a business sense. All new 1969 designs were discontinued in the 1970s. However, unlike late 50's Les Pauls, these new designs never gained substantial ground with players or collectors. The same is true today, multiple decades later. The amps, guitars, and basses are not valuable compared to their more conventional LSLP cousins. As a result of being generally less desirable, little period literature is available about them... until now. A generous visitor to this site has located the original brochure/manuals for the solid-body electric models of this era. I am excited to present them below.
Brochure   / Manual #1:
"Les Paul Personal and Professional Guitars"
"The ingenious Les Paul has created, through years of experience and study, the most advanced electronic tonal network available. These unique instruments are capable of producing literally all modern tonalities and will bring forth sounds never before achieved on an electric guitar. Traditional Gibson quality and select materials have contributed to the success of this truly unique instrument."
Brochure   / Manual #2:
"Les Paul Bass Guitar"
"The Les Paul Bass is equipped with the most advanced electronic tonal network available today. This unique instrument will produce literally all modern boss tonalities and bring forth soundsnever before achived on an electric bass. This innovative instrument has been produced through endless hours of research by the finest Gibson craftsmen and the most knowledgeable electronic engineers."
Brochure   / Manual #3:
"Presenting the Monster"
"The new Gibson 'Les Paul' amp not only grabs you...it shakes you! This all new concept in amplifiers puts out 190 watts of might mean power That's RMS clean, clear power...not peak."
Les Paul Personal:
"Guitar, Solid Body, Fretless Wonder Fingerboard, Walnut Finish, two Deluxe Low Impedence Pickups with New Design Les Paul Tonal Circuitry, gold-plated parts. Master Volume Control Included for Optional Microphone..........$645.00"
"Optional Microphone for Les Paul Personal -- price upon request."     "Transformer to Convert Low Impedence Instruments to HIgh Impedence -- price upon request."
Les Paul Professional:
"Guitar, Solid Body, Walnut Finish, two Deluxe Low Impedence Pickups with New Design Les Paul Tonal Circuitry, nickel-plated parts...........$485.00"
"Transformer to Convert Low Impedence Instruments to HIgh Impedence -- price upon request."
Preceding text quoted from Sept 1969, Gibson "Retail Price Guide". Neither available in left-handed variant. Bigsby optional on both models. Professional model was positioned BELOW the Personal model.
Les Paul Bass:
"Electric, Solid Body, Fretless Wonder Fingerboard, Walnut Finish, 2 Deluxe Low Impedence Pickups with New Design Les Paul Tonal Circuitry..........$465.00"
"542 Faultless Case (Plush) for above model... $80.00"
Les Paul Jumbo:
"Flattop, Electric, Cutaway, Natural Spruce Top, Bookmatched Rosewood Rims and Back, One Deluxe Low Impedence Pickup, with New Design Les Paul Tonal Circuitry.........$595.00"
"303 Archcraft Case (Plush) for above model... $30.00"
"515 Faultless Case (Plush) for above model... $75.00"
Preceding text quoted from Sept 1969, Gibson "Retail Price Guide". Neither model available in left-handed variant.
"Gibson Les Paul, Solid State Pre-Amp Featuring both High and Low Impedence Inputs. Contains Reverb, Tremelo, Vibrato, Vibrola and Foot Switch. Built-in Circuit Breakers...........$495.00"
"C-100 Cover for LP-2... $12.50"
(Power Amplifier Equipped Cabinet)
"Gibson Les Paul, Solid State Power Amp -- Speaker Combination. 4 Heavey Duty Special Design 12" Speakers and 2 Special Design High Frequency Horns. 190 Watts RMS Power Amplified with built-in circuit breakers...........$695.00"
"C-200 Cover for LP-2... $30.00"
(Pre-Amplifier + Power Amplifier Package Deal)
"Gibson Les Paul, Solid State, Including LP-1 pre-amp and LP-2 Speaker Cabinet -- power amp Combination. Reverb, Tremelo, Vibrato, Vibrola. High and Low Impedence Inputs -- 190 Watts RMS, additional LP-2 units availabe to increase power!...........$1095.00"
"C-1200 Set of Covers for LP-12... $39.50"
Preceding text quoted from Sept 1969, Gibson "Retail Price Guide". Approx Dimensions of LP-2 (Power Amp / Cab Combination) -> 45" tall, 16" inches deep, & 28" inches wide -- Approx 150 pounds!!!
Wait? Why are these on a site about Late Sixties Les Pauls?
IMPORTANT: The VAST majority of these new models were shipped and sold beginning in 1970. However, all were developed in 1969 or earlier as they appear in pricing information back well into 1969. If we go by this pricing literature, orders began to be taken starting around September of 1969. I believe that merits their inclusion. They never really caught on in terms of sales, and they only limped on through a few years into the 1970's. However, Les himself LOVED the guitars and continued to play them until his passing. Cool instruments, Gibson recently reissued them (2014). I would love to play one some day; the amp too.
LES PAUL PERSONAL MODEL:
Very rare 1969 Example: 8900XX
These images are from an internet auction in 2014. The serial number is a low 8900xx number, and the guitar has 44th week of 69 pots and a correct-for-1969 headstock logo. These numbers dovetail nicely into the conventional LP Deluxe and Custom models from very, very late 1969. Apparently, a mere handful of these left the factory in 1969. This example has a 3pc neck and a pancake body. It is an early serial number to have a pancake body. This could very well be one of the VERY few of these that did NOT have a volute. (As I recall, this one does not.) This one appears to be in remarkable condition as well.
This example of a Personal has a FACTORY microphone input on the top of the guitar. Combined with a short goose-neck XLR cable, a performer could have a microphone move with them as they played guitar on stage. Pretty neat, and certainly a VERY "Les" thing to do. The controls are very elaborate, and I am not entirely sure what they all do. One switch is a "Phase Switch".
LES PAUL PERSONAL / PROFESSIONAL MODEL CASE:
Photo Courtesy of T. Røyseth of Norway.
Recently a kind gentleman out of Norway sent me pictures of his killer, very early LP Personal. I noticed right away that the case was something I had not seen before. Note the special pad built into it. My period literature does not list a separate case model number for the Personal and Professional models, but here is a picture of one "in the flesh". Good luck finding one if you need it for your guitar. I cannot imagine how rare an orange lined one would be. Thanks again, Mr. Røyseth!
Additionally, this may now be the earliest one of these guitars I have seen. Its serial number corresponds to the beginning of orders being available in September 1969. More details pending...
LES PAUL JUMBO MODEL:
Very rare. Early 1970 example, serial 908xxx
These images are from an internet auction in 2016. The Ebay user's name is PezDudeWelch. Pez, if you would like these pictures removed, please let me know. I have obscured your serial number.