How many guitars does a guitarist need? The common joke among guitarists is n+1, with n being the number of guitars currently owned. I’d say four: Maple and rosewood fretboard Stratocasters, a Telecaster, and a Les Paul. But the minimum is certainly two: one with single coils and one with humbuckers.
Hence, when my wife asked me what I wanted to hang on the empty wall of my new home office, my answer was “how about a couple of guitars?”. She then asked about what kind of guitar I would like to add, and, already owning two Stratocasters (a MIM Standard and an American Original ’60s), my reply was “a Les Paul Standard ’50s”. A couple of weeks later, she surprised me with a road trip to pick up the only one available for sale in the Netherlands at the time, at Guitar King – quite the Christmas present!
When it comes to guitars, I’m a traditionalist. I prefer original-spec guitars. Hence, with regard to Les Pauls, I always fancied the Traditionals above the Standards. But then, halfway through 2019, Gibson re-aligned its models, returning the Standard to be the traditional model (mirroring the American Original in Fender’s range). It is available as ’50s and ’60s model, the main difference being the neck shape. The ’50s is available with P90s and Humbuckers. There are several finish options, and while I don’t dislike a Gold Top, nothing beats Heritage Cherry Sunburst.
My guitar has a really nice, bookmatched flame maple top. The body is a single piece of mahogany. There is no weight relief, but the weight is definitely acceptable – a bit heavier than my AO ’60s Strat, but not by much. Pickups are Burstbuckers 1 and 2, a PAF-style humbucker. The ’50s model comes with a pretty fat neck, which I much prefer to thinner necks. The factory setup is excellent. The guitar comes with a nice Gibson case, a strap, a cleaning cloth, and a multitool with several Allen wrenches and screwdrivers – nice, especially considering that Fender has scrapped all case candy. An additional nice touch are the included build sheet (mine was finished on July 30th 2020, and carries a 2021 model year serial number) and photograph showing the guitar on the bench during final setup/quality control.
Playability is great, the shorter scale length is definitely noticeable for someone used to Strats. And yes, I second the feeling that a Les Paul appears to be easier to play than a Strat. The pickups have more output than the vintage-style single coils of my Strat, which leads to more gain and sustain. This guitar is a natural match for my Marshall Origin 50, and with my Plexi Drive clone turned on, you’re in Classic Rock heaven. The verdict: if you’re looking for a Les Paul in the style of a ’50s model, definitely give this one a try. For those who prefer thinner necks, check out the ’60s model.