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Thread: Les Paul design

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    Les Paul design

    Both Les Paul and Gibson [Ted McCartys team] lay claim, it was they who designed the original Les Paul guitar.But who thinks Les would have a more obvious claim to inventing the ''335'' concept.His ''log'' guitar having a solid centre section and wings .Does anyone know or have thoughts on the design of either guitar.
    Last edited by singlecut 54; 11-27-07 at 01:24 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Personally, I favor Ted McCarty and his team. It's obvious from the Gibsons produced in the '50s that they were remarkably creative, especially in comparison to later years, when most of the new stuff looked goofy (corvus guitar, anyone?).

    Les Paul's efforts had been directed toward electrics that looked like traditional archtops, and, in looking at photos of the "log" guitar, I'm not convinced that his woodworking skills were particularly sophisticated.

    In contrast, the solid body LP was, from the first, quite nicely put together (with the exception of the upside-down tailpiece-bridge), with a laminated body and a carved top, both of which were easily built by the Gibson crew at the time.

    How much of its appearance was due to one side or the other is difficult to say, but certainly both Gibson and Les Paul were looking toward the acoustic f-hole for inspiration, as opposed to Leo Fender's pragmatic make-it-work approach. There are NO design features on the LP that says "this is a signature detail" of either McCarty or Paul.

    Mr Paul seems to have been responsible for the gold top finish, but I lean toward Gibson as the ultimate designer.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    Personally, I favor Ted McCarty and his team. It's obvious from the Gibsons produced in the '50s that they were remarkably creative, especially in comparison to later years, when most of the new stuff looked goofy (corvus guitar, anyone?).

    Les Paul's efforts had been directed toward electrics that looked like traditional archtops, and, in looking at photos of the "log" guitar, I'm not convinced that his woodworking skills were particularly sophisticated.

    In contrast, the solid body LP was, from the first, quite nicely put together (with the exception of the upside-down tailpiece-bridge), with a laminated body and a carved top, both of which were easily built by the Gibson crew at the time.

    How much of its appearance was due to one side or the other is difficult to say, but certainly both Gibson and Les Paul were looking toward the acoustic f-hole for inspiration, as opposed to Leo Fender's pragmatic make-it-work approach. There are NO design features on the LP that says "this is a signature detail" of either McCarty or Paul.

    Mr Paul seems to have been responsible for the gold top finish, but I lean toward Gibson as the ultimate designer.
    +1

    From what I've read Ted McCarty of Gibson had much more to do with the design of the LP than Les Paul. McCarty presented a prototype LP to Les Paul and he loved it. This prototype was said to be very close to the design we have today.

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    Les Paul Forum Member burstbucker1's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    McCarty designed the body of the Les Paul after a atomic explosion..the only things Les had to do with the design of the Les Paul was the tail piece and adding the maple cap..but Les had first wanted the body to be maple with a mahogany cap, which would have made the guitar to heavy..

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Hmmm...that may be a bit far-fetched. So that means the archtops of the '30s were designed after the atomic explosion, as well? Because they have the same shape as the LP.

    There is one piece of evidence that really convinces me that McCarty was responsible for the Les Paul: the fact that it used a Les Paul - designed tailpiece/bridge that was poorly integrated into the guitar, so that string muting was impossible in the normal manner.

    A man of the inventiveness of Paul would have flogged that until he got it right; instead, it was added onto Gibson's own design at the last moment (at Mr Paul's insistence), after all the tooling and jigs had been completed, and it was too late to change the neck angle to make it work.

    Of course, I can't prove all the elements of that last statement, but it makes sense as a reconstruction of the history of the guitar. Otherwise this obvious flaw would never have been incorporated into the Les Paul guitar. It wasn't too long before Gibson abandoned the idea, and went with the first stud bridge/string anchor.

    A R Duchossoir, in his Gibson Electrics Vol 1 gives a chronology of the Les Paul as developed by Gibson. He points out that Gibson wanted the carved top because makers of more rudimentary electrics -- read Fender -- couldn't possibly afford the tooling to do that, and it made the guitar look more traditional. He also says that Ted McCarty told him that the prototype was already painted gold when first shown to Les Paul.

    Duchossoir goes on to relate "[a]fter briefly playing on the prototype Les Paul, according to Ted MacCarty (sic), said the following words to Mary Ford: 'I think we should join them, because they are really getting too close!'"

    A later paragraph reads "Ted MacCarty (sic) asked Les Paul if he had any suggestions regarding the prototype, and Les proposed the new combination bridge-tailpiece he had just perfected." As noted, the Les Paul bridge was replaced with a Gibson-designed stud bridge at the end of 1953, with a change in the neck angle to accommodate it.

    Of course, all this is evidently based on the testimony of Mr McCarty (Duchossoir doesn't give sources) but it is reasonable to assume that, if, as stated in the book, development began in 1950 at Gibson and Les Paul was contacted in 1952 to give his blessing, that this version is internally consistent and makes more sense than the idea that Les Paul, busy as he was with his self-recorded hits, radio and television shows, would have had the time to develop the guitar in any detail.

    In the end, it's the awkwardness of the Les Paul trapeze bridge that convinces me.

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    Les Paul Forum Member Kap'n's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    Of course, all this is evidently based on the testimony of Mr McCarty (Duchossoir doesn't give sources) but it is reasonable to assume that, if, as stated in the book, development began in 1950 at Gibson
    I'm pretty much in agreement with what's been said. However, I would guess that if they started work on the LP in 1950, it would have been very late in the year. Fender first promoted the Broadcaster in April 1950, and the earliest most folks in the industry would have seen one (without a truss rod) would be at the July 1950 NAMM in Chicago. I suspect most of the senior folks from Kalamazoo were there, due to proximity. I suspect most shows of this sort tended to be in East Coast venues, like NY and Philadelphia.

    The Broadcaster was roundly ridiculed in the industry at the time. I would think it would have taken some evidence of it's success before any serious work would have started.

    On the other hand, that makes the development time seem even more impressive.

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    Les Paul Forum Member burstbucker1's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Hmmm...that may be a bit far-fetched. So that means the archtops of the '30s were designed after the atomic explosion, as well? Because they have the same shape as the LP.
    far fetched or not..it's the truth according to Gibson..heck, the pick i posted came directly off Gibsons site..
    "The way I play tends to be a response to who I'm playing with."

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by burstbucker1 View Post
    far fetched or not..it's the truth according to Gibson..heck, the pick i posted came directly off Gibsons site..
    I saw that pic on their site too...right next to the info about the waterfront property in Florida they're offering at pennies on the dollar....

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    Les Paul Forum Member Ad_02Std's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    That pic was a Gibson promotional image. There were a few in the series; a Flying V next to a ladies legs, an SG and something vaguely Satanic (can't quite remember that one). Anyway, I'm sure he was joking about the mushroom cloud being the inspirition for the shape of the Les Paul.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Besides...the cloud looks more like a 335 to me anyway!



    Eh???
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    Re: Les Paul design

    You mean a 339?

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    Les Paul Forum Member burstbucker1's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    I'm sure he was joking about the mushroom cloud being the inspiration for the shape of the Les Paul
    and the Gibson head stock was not designed after a open book either..
    "The way I play tends to be a response to who I'm playing with."

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by Ad_02Std View Post
    You mean a 339?
    Eh I suppose so, I never thought to think of the midge-er...little person 335.
    "Music is the only thing that you can share with a million million people and you don't lose, you gain. It helps you to get energy and to live long, because when your soul is very happy then you don't want to die." - Ali Akbar Khan

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by burstbucker1 View Post
    and the Gibson head stock was not designed after a open book either..
    No. It was designed after this chaps moustache.


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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by Musicinmysoul View Post
    Eh I suppose so, I never thought to think of the midge-er...little person 335.
    It definitely looks more like an ES than a Les Paul. In fact looks like it has a vibrato of some sort. I'm going with a 355 or CS-356.

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    Les Paul Forum Member burstbucker1's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    No. It was designed after this chaps moustache.
    good stuff..the add was on Gibson's site..and i remember the Flying V add also..but i also remember the article discussing how these images lead to the shape of these guitars..now is that what really inspired these guitars..i have no way of knowing..i just took Gibson for their word..i just took Gibson for a reputable infosource.. but if it is not the source of the shape design, someone must know and i'd like to know also..i'll contact Gibson tomorrow and let ya know what i find out..
    "The way I play tends to be a response to who I'm playing with."

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    Les Paul Forum Member Trans-Am's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    ... or was it the moustache design for the Gibson Jumbo Acoustic instead?

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Hah! I didn't know about that. But seriously, folks, the LP is a miniature archtop in shape, and, following Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is preferred.

    Anyhow, the chronology of the early LP design is not well defined. Duchossoir had access to Gibson's records, and it's not surprising, given Gibson's lack of documentation of serial numbers (and whether that elusive Moderne ever shipped in 1958), that he didn't discover any smoking gun on the Les Paul. So he had to rely on the memory of persons speaking 30 years after the fact (his book was published in 1981) and it wouldn't shock me to hear that McCarty was a little off on the time frame.

    In Tom Wheeler's American Guitars, he reprinted an interview with Leo Fender (from Guitar Player magazine) in which Fender says he started developing the Strat in 1951; everyone else says 1952 or 1953.

    As remarked above, it was a remarkable achievement, especially given the lack of respect given the Fender instruments at the time.

  19. #19

    Re: Les Paul design

    I think the shape of the Les Paul owes more than a little to Paul Bigsby's original solid body guitars. I would find it hard to believe that
    Ted and Les were unaware of Bigsby's pioneering design; His guitars were played by top stars before Leo came out with the Broadcaster.
    Bigsby is the unsung hero of us solid body fans.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    That's probably true, but neither shape is all that distinctive, in my opinion. I mean, it's basically a standard guitar shape that was shrunk so it wouldn't weigh a ton.

    There were other electric guitars around at the time, notably the App by O W Appleton, which was slightly larger than the LP with an arched solid maple body with routed rounded edges instead of the binding on the Gibson. It was built in the winter of '41-42, predating the Bigsby, and was 3-1/2" thick at the highest point and 1/2" wider than the Les Paul. The builder claimed to have shown it to Gibson.

    Bigsby was a tool and die maker, and the aluminum castings he designed for the Crocker motorcycle (made in Los Angeles 1936-40 or thereabouts) are works of art. A friend had two of them and they put the Indians and H-Ds of the period to shame: the design was integrated in a way that made them stand out.

    I think the fancy trim on the Bigsby was Travis' doing -- he was an amateur cartoonist, and no doubt prided himself on the curlicues.

    Of course, since it was Merle Travis, the guitar was highly visible in the late '40s - early '50s, and surely everyone was aware of it.

    The LP, in contrast, is what you would expect from Gibson: well thought out, with traditional decorative features that had already appeared on Gibsons. And, it was much easier to manufacture than Bigsby's ornate handiwork.

    But Fender, for all his quirks, made something more original...but he wasn't much of a graphic designer, so the early guitars and basses look (as some one put it) "like they'd been built in a high school wood shop class." It wasn't until he hired Freddy Tavares that his instruments started looking like they'd been designed by someone with talent for it...and even then, he copied (again, in my opinion) Bigsby's peghead shape for the second-generation Precision and the Strat and subsequent models.

    Me, I have four Fender basses (including a reissue of the original rowboat P) but the only electric guitar I own is my LP Deluxe. Second place is 'way back.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    That's probably true, but neither shape is all that distinctive, in my opinion. I mean, it's basically a standard guitar shape that was shrunk so it wouldn't weigh a ton.

    There were other electric guitars around at the time, notably the App by O W Appleton, which was slightly larger than the LP with an arched solid maple body with routed rounded edges instead of the binding on the Gibson. It was built in the winter of '41-42, predating the Bigsby, and was 3-1/2" thick at the highest point and 1/2" wider than the Les Paul. The builder claimed to have shown it to Gibson.

    Bigsby was a tool and die maker, and the aluminum castings he designed for the Crocker motorcycle (made in Los Angeles 1936-40 or thereabouts) are works of art. A friend had two of them and they put the Indians and H-Ds of the period to shame: the design was integrated in a way that made them stand out.

    I think the fancy trim on the Bigsby was Travis' doing -- he was an amateur cartoonist, and no doubt prided himself on the curlicues.

    Of course, since it was Merle Travis, the guitar was highly visible in the late '40s - early '50s, and surely everyone was aware of it.

    The LP, in contrast, is what you would expect from Gibson: well thought out, with traditional decorative features that had already appeared on Gibsons. And, it was much easier to manufacture than Bigsby's ornate handiwork.

    But Fender, for all his quirks, made something more original...but he wasn't much of a graphic designer, so the early guitars and basses look (as some one put it) "like they'd been built in a high school wood shop class." It wasn't until he hired Freddy Tavares that his instruments started looking like they'd been designed by someone with talent for it...and even then, he copied (again, in my opinion) Bigsby's peghead shape for the second-generation Precision and the Strat and subsequent models.

    Me, I have four Fender basses (including a reissue of the original rowboat P) but the only electric guitar I own is my LP Deluxe. Second place is 'way back.
    Any pictures of the Appleton guitar? I've never seen this one, or heard of it before.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    When I was writing the above I decided to check my facts and it took me a little while to find the App again (and, speaking of facts, the Crocker was built 1934-41; the first ones were single cylinder speedway racers -- 750-1500cc vee twin street bikes were made beginning 1936).

    There's a short piece on Appleton in Electric Guitars and Basses by George Gruhn and Walter Carter on p. 52. There's a photo of the guitar (and also the Bigsby Merle Travis guitar) and a shot of the peghead. The neck was from a Gibson.

    It looks like a Les Paul Junior, with a trapeze tailpiece, wooden-base bridge and a slanted single-coil pickup.

    Personally, I think the reason the early electrics all look alike is that they were smaller acoustics, in shape. Everyone was concentrating on the electronics and (other than Fender and Rickenbacker) didn't do much inventive with the outline.

  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member Axel's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    The App seems to have a carved top.
    I play a Trini Lopez Reissue through a Fender Blues Jr. Sunburst.

    Quote Originally Posted by camohoyt View Post
    I'm sure only Axel knows if they have wax potting. He knows stuff that Gibson don't even know about there own guitars. Like an angel from Les Paul Heaven!

  24. #24
    Les Paul Forum Member Kap'n's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    There's a picture of the App in American Guitars, along with it's builder.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Gibson did have a series of clever promo ads based on visual concepts/puns back around 1999 - 2001. However, they dropped the promo single sheet ad for the Les Paul showing a nuclear fireball next to an upside down LP in a BIG hurry after 9/11/2001: The ad's tag line (in very small print) simply said, "Welcome to Ground Zero."
    ...real acoustic guitars are cherry red and have little birds on the pickguard...

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Kap'n, I pulled out my copy of American Guitars and read the entry for App. It's more complete than the Gruhn & Carter piece but the other book has color pictures (the App solid body is in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville).

    Wheeler's book says that "Mr Appleton was visited by a Fender associate, David K Driver, and some published accounts asserted that Leo Fender had copied the idea for a solidbody from the Arizona inventor. Mr Driver, however, states unequivocally that the Fender Broadcaster was well under way by the time it was brought to Mr Fender's attention -- if it ever was -- and Rickenbacker's solidbodies (essentially fretted lap steels) had been marketed in small quantities for several years prior to App's invention."

    I'm not sure the "invention" was that much of a leap. Both Ric and Fender were making lap steels at the time, and they were certainly watching the slow demise of lap steels compared to the new pedal steel (it's interesting that the first recorded pedal steel was that of Bud Isaacs, using an instrument built by Paul Bigsby, on Webb Pierce's "Slowly").

    It probably made a lot of sense to convert the shop to making solid body "Spanish" guitars from the "Hawaiian" lap steels, to take advantage of the changing market (Fender later manufactured pedal steels from the '50s into 1981 -- I don't know the beginning date).

    Bacon & Day's The Les Paul Book quotes Mr McCarty to the effect that Gibson was closely watching Fender, and started working on its own solid body in late 1950 (which is in line with Kap'n's earlier post). Les Paul, in his turn, is quoted as saying that Gibson contacted him in early 1951 (presumably before any design was finalized) and, he added "I designed everything except the arched top...that was contributed by Maurice Berlin."

    I'm still of the opinion that the LP guitar was a done deal by the time Mr Paul saw it, with the exception of the bridge he designed.

  27. #27
    Les Paul Forum Member Kap'n's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Thanks. I haven't read the book in a bit..but referred to it voraciously for eons.

    David K. Driver was an early Fender sales rep, who I gather, from your description, probably handled Arizona East through Texas or so....prime Bob Wills territory.

    Solidbody electrics are a lot of convergent evolution. Solidbody lap steels from Rickenbacker date to the mid/late 30's. Radio-Tel, Fender's early distributor, was run by F. C. Hall, a major player at Rick, and father of current Rick president John Hall*. Rick also had a solidbody electric, albeit an impractical one, versions of which had a motorized vibrato designed by Kauffman...Leo's early partner in lap steel and amp production.

    Richard Smith seems to be of the impression that the practical aspects of the Broadcaster (bolt on neck, etc.) were based on Rick instruments more than the Bigsby, and probably much closer to those than to the App, which wasn't really a production instrument, but somebody's basement project.

    While there were proto-pedal steels in the early 50's, country music was by far dominated by non-pedal steel well into the 50's, probably due to poor pitch changing mechanisms.

    PA must have been a busy guy. I think he was pretty much a one-man show. Making necks for Martins, a few solidbodies, and a number of console steels. And somewhere in there managed to mass-produce tailpieces.

    I agree that Ted McCarty and Co. were the folks who made the magic formula of the Les Paul. I'm sure once Les saw the prototype, he saw realized what he had dreamed of, and in his mind, the convergent evolution of his ideas and Ted's became his ideas realized in his mind.

    Wonder what ever happened to that prototype. I wonder if it's in Les' basement

    *It's weird. If you spend a bit of time browsing on the Rickenbacker forums, you pick up on little pieces that there's still bad blood between RIC and FMIC, from the split between Fender Sales and Radio-Tel - fifty years and two corporate ownerships later, and past the death of all of the principals in that affair.

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    Les Paul Forum Member Kap'n's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    Bacon & Day's The Les Paul Book quotes Mr McCarty to the effect that Gibson was closely watching Fender, and started working on its own solid body in late 1950
    That's pretty interesting, and, if true, would show Ted to be even more astute than I'd envisioned.

    Prior to 1950, and the introduction of lap steels, Leo was predominantly a manufacturer of lap steels that were basic even by National/Valco standards. They may have sounded good, but there probably weren't many folks outside of So. Cal that knew that. Especially given the amplification of the day.

    Speaking of which. Fender's amps at the time had just evolved to the tweed point, with the Dual Professional/Super, which was Leo's first 'big league' amp. Prior to that, he had the wooden box "26" amps, which while decently powered and sounding, were not exactly roadworthy, certainly compared to Gibson's amps of the time, and maybe even Rickenbacker's, which were direct competition to both. I'd bet that Ted had never even heard of Leo until the production of the Dual Pro. Especially with Leo being the California outsider/maverick, I doubt that they had anything to do with NAMM, etc. until the Dual Pro came out.

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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by Kap'n View Post
    Thanks. I haven't read the book in a bit..but referred to it voraciously for eons.

    David K. Driver was an early Fender sales rep, who I gather, from your description, probably handled Arizona East through Texas or so....prime Bob Wills territory.

    Solidbody electrics are a lot of convergent evolution. Solidbody lap steels from Rickenbacker date to the mid/late 30's. Radio-Tel, Fender's early distributor, was run by F. C. Hall, a major player at Rick, and father of current Rick president John Hall*. Rick also had a solidbody electric, albeit an impractical one, versions of which had a motorized vibrato designed by Kauffman...Leo's early partner in lap steel and amp production.

    Richard Smith seems to be of the impression that the practical aspects of the Broadcaster (bolt on neck, etc.) were based on Rick instruments more than the Bigsby, and probably much closer to those than to the App, which wasn't really a production instrument, but somebody's basement project.

    While there were proto-pedal steels in the early 50's, country music was by far dominated by non-pedal steel well into the 50's, probably due to poor pitch changing mechanisms.

    PA must have been a busy guy. I think he was pretty much a one-man show. Making necks for Martins, a few solidbodies, and a number of console steels. And somewhere in there managed to mass-produce tailpieces.

    I agree that Ted McCarty and Co. were the folks who made the magic formula of the Les Paul. I'm sure once Les saw the prototype, he saw realized what he had dreamed of, and in his mind, the convergent evolution of his ideas and Ted's became his ideas realized in his mind.

    Wonder what ever happened to that prototype. I wonder if it's in Les' basement

    *It's weird. If you spend a bit of time browsing on the Rickenbacker forums, you pick up on little pieces that there's still bad blood between RIC and FMIC, from the split between Fender Sales and Radio-Tel - fifty years and two corporate ownerships later, and past the death of all of the principals in that affair.

    Some good points. Wish I'd come up with "convergent evolution" because that was it was. In any case, you've filled in some blanks.

    As to steels, guys like Jerry Byrd were playing lap steels well into the '70s and '80s. And regarding PA's "do-it-myself" philosophy, it's been said that he could have been a lot more successful (in the sense of building more instruments and having a larger company) but he wouldn't trust anyone else to do things right, including secretarial help.

    The electric guitar world was pretty small in the early '50s, and even later. I saw an online interview of Sterling Ball in which he described visiting Leo Fender in his workshop. I seem to remember that Ernie Ball's shop was in Santa Monica, not that far away.

    Gibson aside, Fullerton was part of rural Southern California in the first half of the century: it was citrus groves and dairy farms from Riverside County all the way down the Santa Ana canyon through Orange County and into Norwalk and Downey, PA's stomping grounds. A lot of musical innovators (Doc Kaufmann, George Fullerton, Leo Fender, Paul Bigsby and many others) settled in that basin. Back in the '50s (my first experience with the area) it was beautiful; blue skies and palm trees, and the smell of orange blossoms. Now, of course it's part of Greater Metropolitan Los Angeles.

    Here's an ironic twist: I worked my way through college (Cal-State Fullerton, as it happens) at the Sunkist Lemon Products plant in Corona, CA, up at the top of the SA canyon. The plant was in the middle of the citrus growing area, but as time went on and the area developed into a bedroom community for LA, the citrus production moved further away to Ventura on the coast and to Mesa and Tempe in Arizona. Eventually the plant was relocated, and along came ***Fender*** to build their current Corona facility on that site. So modern-day Fenders are made at a former lemon processing plant!

    Ric receives a lot of sniping online, for some reason, for everything from their pricing policies to their aggressive defense of their trademarked features. I had a Ric 366/12 from 11/67, and it was a very nicely finished instrument.

    But now I have my Les Paul....

  30. #30
    Les Paul Forum Member Kap'n's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    Gibson aside, Fullerton was part of rural Southern California in the first half of the century:
    Sure. Back in the day, Fender had a two-digit phone number.

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    So modern-day Fenders are made at a former lemon processing plant!
    Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet....

    Quote Originally Posted by lpdeluxe View Post
    Ric receives a lot of sniping online, for some reason, for everything from their pricing policies to their aggressive defense of their trademarked features. I had a Ric 366/12 from 11/67, and it was a very nicely finished instrument.
    Ricks are very high quality instruments. There's no doubt about that. And their aggressive stance towards trademarks is what keeps the from being cloned. Gibson and Fender closed the door after the horse left the barn, which is what makes them look stupid. Rick has to aggressively pursue their trademarks because their guitars are very idiosyncratic, and an acquired taste. If somebody made a guitar that looked and sounded like a Ric, but played more like a Gibson or Fender, it would surpass their sales. I've got a recent 360, and I like it a lot.

    But now I have my Les Paul....[/QUOTE]

  31. #31
    Les Paul Forum Member Seoighs's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Guys...somebody should compile and edit this into a narrative for the splash page of the Forum. Damn fascinating stuff...thank you.

    My (small) contribution would be to cite that in the recent McCarty 'Gibson's Golden Years' book, Ted very much viewed his role as that of an 'industry leader and team player', having worked within several areas of retail music sales, instrument production, and distrubtion for various companies. He expresses regret (and even 'hurt') that Leo Fender was unapproachable when it came to joining with the 'midwest guitar makers' (Gibson, Kay, Harmony) in their trade association. He also personally referred to the Broadcaster as 'that canoe paddle', which may have had more to do with his engineering and design background than commercial jealousy...at least early on.

  32. #32
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    Re: Les Paul design

    Thank you, Seoighs. We're just collating information that's out there, but nobody seems to look at.

    As to the "canoe paddle" remark, it's right on target. Fender was looking pragmatically at a way to make a buck, while Gibson had over 50 years of fine wood crafting in their history.

    The irony is that Gibson's tradition sabotaged their attempts to make a good electric bass (almost all are guitar bodies with long-scale necks attached) while Fender defined the basic design for years to come.

    I am now all-Fender in my bass line up, but the only Fender guitar I ever owned was a Strat that never felt right. I did some recording with it but it just didn't have any feel to it...your mileage may vary.

    Fender seems to have been quite a loner, which view is supported by the fact that in his various post-Fender endeavors (CLF and G&L) he associated with people from his Fender days, even when he didn't particularly get along with them (Tom Walker and Forrest White at Music Man, George Fullerton at CLF and G&L). He didn't like to share credit, even when it was obvious who the real designer was (compare the Broadcaster/Telecaster and the single-coil Precision that Leo designed with the Stratocaster and split-coil Precision, that were released after the hiring of Freddy Tavares).

    McCarty was much more the corporate leader, who could take his people and make them into a creative team, sparked by his own good ideas, the ES-335 being an excellent example. In the Bacon & Day book, 40 years after the fact, McCarty still remembered the names of some of the guys who helped work out the LP design.

    By the way, in my short list of Southern California musical manufacturers, I left out the Dopera Brothers down in Los Angeles. Dobro was initially there, until after about 10 years operations were moved to Chicago to become Valco, then eventually the resonator building became Original Music Instruments in Long Beach, CA (I have an OMI wood-body Dobro) before Gibson bought them out and moved it all the Nashville.

    Paul Barth, a nephew of the Doperas and an officer in National, started up a guitar factory in Riverside, CA around 1969 (I was off in Austin, TX, going to graduate school, but a couple of friends had gotten jobs at Barth Guitars). Information is extremely scanty, and I don't know that he ever actually produced any guitars under that name. After the plant faiiled, he opened up a small guitar store in La Sierra, CA, a little town between Corona and Riverside, which is where I met him. I took my wife's Yamaha FG-180 in for a set up, and ordered a factory hard case for a Ventura flat top I owned (man,those were the dear dead days!) as he was a dealer for that brand. It occurs to me that there'd be no way to find such a thing today....Anyway, in the tiny "show room" of his shop was the prototype Fender Telecaster Wildwood Thinline (shown on page 125 of the Gruhn & Carter book) which I thought at the time, and continue to think now, was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen with strings on it. Not long after that, I went off to Northern California to make my fortune and never saw him again.

    All this is fascinating to me, since a lot of the history of the electric revolves around the area I grew up in, and which (at the time) was invisible to me. The only reference I remember about Fender was when a truck driver from Anaheim (I ran the truck scale on the night shift, and the drivers hung around the scalehouse at night while their trucks were being loaded with wet lemon pulp, there not being much other entertainment there) bragged about how he could get me a job at the Fender plant. It wasn't on my career path, but who knows what would have happened?

  33. #33
    Les Paul Forum Member Seoighs's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    lpdeluxe:

    It seems that we are of the same mind on a couple issues. The only bass I owned when 'young' was a Fender Mustang Bass in creme (we have a P-Bass now, but it's essentially my son's). I traded that Mustang Bass for a brand new Yamaha FG-180 at Manny's Music on 48th st in NYC in 1970 when I was in High School. I remember spending an entire afternoon trying every acoustic in the shop before coming back to the Yamaha time and again. That 180 is still the best sounding and playing Acoustic I own, including a Martin
    D18 and a Taylor, I have recently bought two other FG 180's on ebay as back ups - I love 'em, and though I don't think I'll ever sell one, it's nice to see their values appreciating..over $600 for the nicest examples now, down a bit from a year ago. I still wish I had that Mustang...they're going for over
    $1k now, but I'm not really a Bass player, and I could never have afforded the FG 180 in those years without the trade. I needed an acoustic to seduce a hippie girl who loved folk music and hated rock...now my wife, and I am now much more heavily into electrics...lol. That FG 180 helped me lose my virginity!

    I really appreciate your 'up close and personal' history of electric guitars in Southern California. Interesting how many trends began in S. Cal and then swept the world. My 'other' hobby is sports car racing...which found a very healthy incubator in places like Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Diego...and the speed shops whcih sprouted thereabouts to nourish the sport, not to mention hod rodding.

    Thanks again...I want MORE!

    PS: Isn't a Fender Bass essentially a long-scale Strat with 4 strings?

  34. #34
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    Re: Les Paul design

    You want more?

    Be careful what you ask for!

    As a matter of fact, I attended the opening race at Riverside (and later raced both a Bultaco and a Honda GP bike there in the '60s). The site is now all housing tracts, of course, the same fate that overtook the Colton drag strip, Orange County Raceway, Ontario International Speedway, and many more. Even Willow Springs (by far my favorite track to ride), 'way the hell out in the desert, back in the day, is now by the side of a major highway.

    It was a thrill to watch Dan Gurney in the big NASCAR Fords at Riverside (and Ritchie Ginther in the big Ferraris, and the Scarabs, Jim Hall's Chaparrals, and let's not forget the killer cars in the spectator area: Morgans, gull-wing Mercedes, be still my beating heart).

    I saw the '61 USGP there, which Sterling Moss won in a Lotus. A friend who ran a 29-A roadster on deuce rails with a small-block in the modified class at the drags got hold of some of the Cooper teams' Avgas (they were stabled in the garage where he had his brake and clutch rebuilding shop) and promptly blew that little Chevy V8 into several large chunks th first run down the strip. I used to have one of the pistons (rather, the larger portion of one of the pistons) on a shelf in my bedroom.

    The Downey-Norwalk-Gardena area was a hotbed of little machine shops that catered to racers, especially to the guys racing at Ascot Park in Gardena. My Honda GP was assembled almost totally out of parts made around there -- Forgtrue pistons, Harmon & Collins roller cam, etc) except for the Yetman frame which was made in New England somewhere.

    As to FG-180s, my wife's (now my ex, many long years ago) was the first quality acoustic I ever saw. She had the yellow-plush lined hard case for it. Later I bought her a matching Yamaha 12-string, but it was stolen from her after our divorce. I'm glad there are appreciative owners of the 180 around. I mentioned the Ventura...it was an odd shaped Jumbo with a plywood top and bracing like floor joists. I eventually treated it to a custom bear-claw spruce top, new bridge and Gotoh tuners, and I still use it for bottleneck playing.

    Finally, basses: I just ended a couple-year stint as a bass player in a working band, and I ended up with all Fenders: a '51 P Reissue (great bass -- Leo did get it right the first time), a Classic '50s P with flatwounds that I did most of the gigs with, a fretless Jazz that I practiced with (I showed up at a gig with it and the guys in the band made me put it down and use the P) and my latest, a fretless P. Maybe now I'll go back to getting rid of stuff again: over the last couple of years I went from 16 instruments (including a pedal steel and a '63 Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gent) down to 9. Seven'll do it: two acoustics, the Les Paul, one fretted and one fretless bass, my Dobro and a late '30s Regal reso.

    The Fender bass predated the Strat and shares only some design earmarks with it. The double cutaways on the Strat came from the Precision, not the other way 'round.

    What do you play, other than the (obligatory) LP?

  35. #35
    Les Paul Forum Member Seoighs's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    I play GUITAR, why do you ask?! lol

    I currently have an '84 LP Studio Standard (first gen with dots and binding), '05 LP Faded/zebra, the Fender Bass, a couple Kay and Airline 592's (Barney Kessel electric clones), Strat 'Blackie' copy, Squier Fat Strat. The FG 180 Yamahas mentioned (INCLUDING) my original with the (original) gold plush lined hardcase 'same as your wife's had. The Martin, Taylor 301, and a Baby Taylor for travel, plus a Martin Backpacker which sounds worse than a Cherios box with a ruler and rubber bands attached. Also, an old Univox 'O'-size classical. Various and sundry amps...best of which is an early 80's Fender red-knob 'Evil Twin'. I think that covers the present inventory.

    I ALSO once had a Gretsch Country Gentleman, but didn't really care for it...bought in college, sold in mid 90's.

    ...and you're a RACE FAN!

    'remarkable coincidence on the racing thing. We lived in England when I was young, and my dad raced an MG TD there. We moved to Connecticut when I was 10, and I crewed for him at places like Bridgehampton (NY), Lime Rock Park (CT), and Watkins Glen. He was an airline pilot, SCCA official and wrote part time for a racing paper (National Speed Sport News - edited then and now by Chris Economaki). Dad used airline passes to take us to a lot of big venues around N. America;; prominent in my memory were visits to California circuits Riverside, Laguna, Sears Point...and elsewhere: Road America, Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio, VIR, Phoenix, Mosport etc,. Dad was Chief Steward at Riverside in 1967 for the CanAm race there won by Denny Hulme in a McClaren, who was our neighbor and an old friend from when he lived in Sussex (UK). I was about 13 then, and he let me sit on the car during the post race photo session in the winners circle. I think that was my favorite race series ever (F5000 was a close second)...you could 'feel' the cars in your gut. though I pursued the law as a profession, I have carried on as a club racer and am currently a licensed official for Grand Am Road Racing, NASCAR (road races only), IRL and SCCA. Dad died in '01...still feel his presence most at the races. We really should find an opportunity to have a beer together. Daughter is in College on the West Coast...I get there on occasion for busness also.

    ...and I prefer to refer to multi-ply top guitars as laminate rather than 'plywood'...it was done to prevent splitting, and I think it's one reason the Yamahas (and Kays) have aged so gracefully.

  36. #36
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    Re: Les Paul design

    With all due respect, the top on my Ventura was **plywood**, and cheap plywood at that! It looked like B-grade spruce from the front, but the underside resembled a cheap Filipino mahogany packing crate.

    The singer in my recently defunct band is a pilot for Continental, and carried a baby Martin with him so he could easily work out songs. He seemed to think it sounded pretty good.

    I owned a '52 TD, back in the day. None of us could afford to race (I was just out of high school) so we "rallied" with the routes selected with an eye toward breaking any number of traffic laws. Once I got out on a race track, it was quite an eye-opening experience.

    That Can-Am race in '67 was probably the last race I attended as a spectator at Riverside. In '68 I got my Bultaco and off I went in search of glory and whatever. In '70 I went to UT Austin (got my pic in the paper as publicity for the Aquafest road race through the streets & parking lot on E Riverside) and I was a contributor to the Austin-published MC News East for a few years. Then came love, then came marriage, then came the inevitable baby carriage.

    Ah, the days when road racers were spoken of in terms reserved for NASCAR drivers, today!

    The eastern tracks (Watkins Glen, Loudon, etc) always looked beautiful in the slick car mags. but I never made it that far.

    My mates and I used to fantasize about going over to England with our Hondas (until a close friend wadded his into a ball at Willow) but graduate school beckoned instead. My only connection with England was that my uncle, Jack Milne, was world speedway champion in...1937, I think. His brother Cordy was leading in points when WWII stopped all competition. That's probably why I mentioned Crocker's speedway bikes earlier.

    As of my last birthday, I'm officially older'n dirt, so I get to wax nostalgic and ignore the rolling eyes of my children, none of whom are the least interested in Les Pauls, fast motorcycles, or other forms of public rebellion....

    And I haven't been on the Left Coast since the late '70s. I live in what's called Deep East Texas, closer to Shreveport than any big city in Texas.

    We'll have to hoist a virtual Guinness in each other's general direction. Cheers!
    Last edited by lpdeluxe; 11-29-07 at 04:00 PM.

  37. #37
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    Re: Les Paul design

    With all due respect, the top on my Ventura was **plywood**, and cheap plywood at that! It looked like B-grade spruce from the front, but the underside resembled a cheap Filipino mahogany packing crate.

    The singer in my recently defunct band is a pilot for Continental, and carried a baby Martin with him so he could easily work out songs. He seemed to think it sounded pretty good.

    I owned a '52 TD, back in the day. None of us could afford to race (I was just out of high school) so we "rallied" with the routes selected with an eye toward breaking any number of traffic laws. Once I got out on a race track, it was quite an eye-opening experience.

    That Can-Am race in '67 was probably the last race I attended as a spectator at Riverside. In '68 I got my Bultaco and off I went in search of glory and whatever. In '70 I went to UT Austin (got my pic in the paper as publicity for the Aquafest road race through the streets & parking lot on E Riverside) and I was a contributor to the Austin-published MC News East for a few years. Then came love, then came marriage, then came the inevitable baby carriage.

    Ah, the days when road racers were spoken of in terms reserved for NASCAR drivers, today!

    The eastern tracks (Watkins Glen, Loudon, etc) always looked beautiful in the slick car mags. but I never made it that far.

    My mates and I used to fantasize about going over to England with our Hondas (until a close friend wadded his into a ball at Willow) but graduate school beckoned instead. My only connection with England was that my uncle, Jack Milne, was world speedway champion in...1937, I think. His brother Cordy was leading in points when WWII stopped all competition. That's probably why I mentioned Crocker's speedway bikes earlier.

    As of my last birthday, I'm officially older'n dirt, so I get to wax nostalgic and ignore the rolling eyes of my children, none of whom are the least interested in Les Pauls, fast motorcycles, or other forms of public rebellion....

    And I haven't been on the Left Coast since the late '70s. I live in what's called Deep East Texas, closer to Shreveport than any big city in Texas.

    We'll have to hoist a virtual Guinness in each other's general direction. Cheers!
    Last edited by lpdeluxe; 11-29-07 at 04:02 PM. Reason: "Trans-Am" corrected to "Can-Am. My mind must be going....

  38. #38
    Les Paul Forum Member Seoighs's Avatar
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    Re: Les Paul design

    My Dad worked for BOAC in Europe, then with Eastern Air Lines...sadly both of which no longer exist. My first job out of law school was with the Antitrust department of the Airline Trade Association...I guess my father influenced many of my choices...but he loved Western Music, which I generally loathed. 'Said it was a result of the RAF sending him for training to Oklahoma in 1940. Helped gaining his approval of my gutar fetish, though. to this day, I cringe at the mention of Bob Wills....lol

    In the 'sporting' days of Post WWII racing, didn't guys just drive their car to the track, tape the headlights, race, then drive home? Actually, I know a lot of folks who did that thru the 70's, but we always used a trailer...still do.

    I've attended moto grand prix events, but only as a spectator...saw a guy dump into a wall and his leathers were all that held his body together...I developed and instant respect for bike racers at that point...and a deep dread of how 'bad' things can get. Standing joke was that you could ID the best bike racers in the paddock by the size of the wheel barrows they carried their bollocks in. Sorry I pegged you as a Californian...'Been to Austin a few times..much different (and preferable) to much of Texas IMHO. Great music scene as I recall.

    ..and how did you know I loved Guinness?

  39. #39
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    Re: Les Paul design

    I've read about the Jaguar team driving their C and D types to Le Mans, but I was just a kid then (yes, I was once a kid!). By the time I got into racing, it was more usual to load the machine in a truck...although I recall riding my Bultaco the last 20 miles to the Carlsbad track one time for some disremembered reason, and collecting a bee sting on my sternum for my pains. That reminds me, there used to be a guy who'd show up at the track with his racer shoehorned into the back seat of his Corvair. Those were the days when men were men and women didn't use talcum powder.

    This last band I was in was a C&W dance band. We started out doing Santana and Neil Young, but before long the requests made it clear that people wanted to dance to Clint Black. It may have been my swan song, on stage. This busted up ol' cowboy don't like to stay up till 3:00 am Saturday nights any more, and we were playing 3-4 weekends a month.

    Austin's great. I was just there for Thanksgiving. My stepson and I used to gig around the area a lot (me on Dobro and harmonica) but that's been five or so years ago, now. I love Austin =sigh=

    As to the Guinness, well, it just had to be. I'm drinking one as I type....

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