Case Study: Jimmy Page's Signature Les Paul
by Simon Higgs
isn't something that you get to see every day. I was fortunate enough
to be working as an Artist Relations consultant at Gibson in
1991 when this guitar was built. Just for the record, I had very little
to do with this particular guitar being built other than my genius
post-Spinal Tap roadie suggestions such as "hey, Roger, why don't
you give 'im four humbuckers and make them all go up to 12 - it's one
more, init! ". However,
I managed to snap a few pictures of this very unique guitar as it was
At the time, Gibson's west coast offices were based in
a small industrial complex in North Hollywood at Saticoy & Fulton. Three separate
divisions of Gibson worked there side by side - Artist Relations,
Gibson Labs, and the Gibson West Coast Custom Shop. Each division was
in a separate but adjoining part of the complex with their own front
door. Most visitors didn't see the other two divisions except by
special invitation. This allowed privacy, yet the close proximity allowed
virtually unlimited collaboration on new product development.
And did we have ideas!
While I was there, Gibson Labs designed a 1U rack-mounted
tube/valve guitar pre-amp called the XFL3 (Extra F^%ing Loud 3 channel)
as well as a MIDI guitar controller called Max. Around 100 Max units
were built while I was there (I managed to find one on eBay recently), but the XFL3 guitar pre never saw the light of day other than a few unfinished prototypes. Unfortunately for most of our ideas, Nashville had this really bad habit of ignoring them.
On the other side of the wall from the Artist Relations
office, English master luthier Roger
Giffin ran Gibson's West Coast Custom Shop with the very capable
assistance of Gene
Roger's background includes designing the M-series
Steinberger (for Mike Rutherford of Genesis),
building the official Live Aid "Africa" guitar, and building
copies of the famous "Blackie" Strat for Eric Clapton to play
on his 1985 world tour.
list of "name" guitarists is the Who's
Who of rock'n'roll, so it was no surprise that Roger ended up making
this guitar for Jimmy Page.
On the right, Roger Giffin is fitting the bridge pick-up
to the almost complete Jimmy Page guitar. Note that the bridge and tailpiece
are yet to be fitted.
guitar was built for Jimmy Page's own personal use in 1991, and became
the prototype for the Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul
released in the '90's. This is not the same as the 2004, Tom
Murphy-aged, line of Jimmy Page Signature guitars that were later built
in the Nashville Custom Shop.
The guitar being replicated is a Les Paul Standard. You're
probably dying to know if this is a replica of Jimmy Page's legendary
#1 guitar. Well, here's the good news. It is!
On Roger's web site, there are a couple of pictures
from this custom shop guitar including one of Roger, with a big cheesy
grin on his face, playing
the custom shop. Tony Bacon & Paul Day verify the guitar's history
Gibson Les Paul Book" (see below).
On the original guitar, the only major visible differences
from a (very worn) stock guitar are the addition of two switches under
the pick guard, for series/parallel and the other a phase switch and
Grover machine heads. The neck is thick at the nut and at the neck heel,
like a typical 1958 Les Paul, but it tapers to a super-slim depth in
the middle. Page said that it was like that when he bought it, and he
hasn't changed it.
The headstock is standard except for one small detail
(and it's definitely not the blank truss rod cover - see below).
#1 has been modded many, many times by Jimmy Page over the years and there have been several configurations of "secret" switches.
the replica guitar, the switches have been changed to push/pull
pots. In addition, the new guitar also has a compound
There are some other features on this guitar that I
am sworn to secrecy over (mostly
in the electronics department), but they
may be easy
to figure out if you are familiar with guitar electronics.
There are other features on the guitar that I simply can't remember.
What's really annoying is that, as time passes, I am also forgetting
which is which. Heh.
doesn't take very long to figure out this is no ordinary Les Paul or
who this guitar belongs to. You just have to look at the serial number.
The back of the headstock has a custom serial number.
The nearly completed prototype Signature
built to Jimmy Page's exact specifications.
The Finished Guitar
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the actual finished
guitar. Once Roger had put the finishing touches on it, he whisked
the guitar away in a cloud of secrecy and then reappeared some time later
with a big smile on his face and no guitar. Fortunately, Tony Bacon & Paul
Day managed to photograph the finished guitar for "The
Gibson Les Paul Book."
Next Page: Top
Luthier Secrets Revealed!