In honor of the dearly departed Les Paul’s birthday, here are five classic users of his namesake guitar, manufactured by Gibson from 1952-1960 and then from 1968 on.
The man who brought the Les Paul into the heavy turf that it now dominates, slung low and cockily whipping out riff after riff. The trebly crunch like you can hear on “The Ocean” would open up whole worlds of rough clarity in guitar.
The guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band for only three years before his death in a motorcycle accident in 1971, Duane Allman remains a legend for his powerful playing on those early albums, almost always done on a Les Paul. Hear the controlled gutsy tone he got for the jams the band played at live in 1970.
His fret work is not as in-your-face as the other four players on this list, but that distinct backbeat he drilled into his reggae is vital, if understated, and was largely done with a Les Paul Special from around 1972 on. Here’s him with the Wailers in 1980, just before he died.
Mr. Young is famously monogamous regarding his “Old Black,” a heavily customized 1953 Les Paul Goldtop he traded for in 1969 and still tours with. “Old Black” has taken a thrashing over the years, so has steadily gotten a grittier tone over the years. Check out this live version of “Hey Hey, My My” to hear the man and his guitar.
Not as big a name as the others, and most famous for his work on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, but also super influential for his playing with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. (Check out East-West for a guitar’s answer to John Coltrane’s saxophone.)