Les Paul Gibson guitar prototype may top $80K

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. –  The Les Paul Foundation is teaming up with Julien’s Auctions to offer property and collection of guitars, equipment and musical artifacts from legendary musician, engineer and inventor Les Paul. The auction takes place June 8-9, 2012, in honor of what would have been Paul’s 97th birthday (June 9, 2012).

Les Paul electric guitar prototype

1968 Les Paul Prototype Custom Recording Model, estimated at $60,000-$80,000. Photo courtesy Julien’s Auctions

Les Paul, born Lester Polsfuss in Waukesha, Wis., in 1915, was on his way to making his mark on the history of 20th century music at an early age. He was born with an inquisitive streak that he described as, “curiosity and I got a double dose of it. I’ve never stopped trying to figure out what makes things work or how to make things work better.” It was this curiosity that spurred his lifelong quest to find the perfect sound in his instruments, recordings and performances.

His efforts produced one of the first solid-body electric guitars, which went on to become one of the most widely played and recognized guitars in the world, the Gibson Les Paul. Paul not only revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, but also the technology behind modern day sound recording.

Les Paul pioneered innovative techniques with sound-on-sound recording and commissioned the first 8-track tape recorder, which would become the core technology behind multi-track recording still used today.

Paul was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his achievements in 2005 and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2006.
The sale will include equipment, memorabilia, personal effects and instruments that span the entirety of Paul’s career from his days as Rhubarb Red to his weekly Monday night shows at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City.

Auction highlights include a 1968 Prototype Gibson Les Paul Custom Recording Model (estimate $60,000-$80,000). The guitar has a white flat top with Bigsby tail piece and note in Paul’s hand reading, “Reward this is the property of Les Paul A.K.A. Lester William Polfuss…Mahwah, New Jersey USA…” The guitar is featured on page 350 of his autobiography, “Les Paul In His Own Words.”

Another auction highlight is Paul’s 1951 Fender Nocaster serial number 1751 (estimate $40,000-$60,000). Butterscotch with black pickguard, neck date “5-10-51 T.G.”, no body date, with original thermometer case, the guitar has a replaced volume and one tone pot but originals are present. This guitar was personally gifted to Les Paul by Leo Fender who signed the back of the headstock “Leo Fender.” The guitar is uncharacteristically light, weighing only 7.4 pounds.

A 1927 Gibson L-5 Sunburst Cremona serial number 87230 is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. A hole has been drilled through the original pickguard, the back has been re-finished and there is no original case. This is one of the two L-5s purchased by Les Paul, then going by the name Rhubarb Red, at Gibson in Kalamazoo, Mich., with his friend and band mate Sunny Joe Wolverton in 1933. Paul discusses the trip and purchasing this guitar extensively in his autobiography. He later gave this guitar to a friend Dave Moran, who requested the guitar be returned to Paul upon his death.

A 1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop (estimate $14,000-$16,000) has no serial number, a Trapeze tailpiece and the tuners have been changed to Grover’s. The guitar is marked Pat. Pending and comes with the original case. This is one of the very first Les Paul guitars produced. The back of the headstock is hand signed “Les Paul.” The guitar is pictured on page 238 of Paul’s autobiography, “Les Paul In His Own Words.”

Registration is required to bid in the live auction and can be done either in person at the exhibitions and auction, or by visiting JuliensLive.com or by calling 310-836-1818 before the sale. Bidding starts June 8 and June 9.

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