The Top 10 Greatest Gibson Guitars of All-Time
Gibson Guitar Corporation was founded on October 11, 1902, and has been making quality instruments ever since. However, most of you may agree with me and say they really started making good stuff in 1952 with the production of the first Les Paul. Ever since then, they have made millions of some of the world’s best instruments.
You may agree, you may disagree, you may not have an opinion about this, but this is the best Gibson electric guitars of all time in my eyes. Enjoy! And please feel free to leave what you think are the best ones in the comments section!
10. 1954 Gibson Les Paul Junior
Although it was designed for beginners in 1954, you pretty much only see the real pros using the original ones. Gibson still makes the LP Jr., but it is not exactly at entry level price like it was in ’54. Epiphone now has their own version of the Junior for $120 – the price of the Gibson when it came out. Les Paul Juniors have one pickup, which is a single P-90 (usually) pickup in the bridge position. Others have been made or modified to house a humbucker pickup, but the P-90 is the classic and the favorite among most of its players. In 1958, the double cutaway version was produced in addition to the single cutaway. Colors of the LP Jr. included vintage sunburst, cherry red, and the most famous of them all – TV Yellow.
9. Gibson Explorer
Like the Flying V, the Explorer was first released in 1958. Unlike the Flying V, which was re-released in 1967, the Explorer wasn’t brought back until 1976. The Explorer features 2 smoking hot humbuckres, with a Tune-o-matic bridge. Like any other guitar, the Explorer went through design and construction changes over the years in attempt to make a better guitar. The Explorer went through changes in wood, from korina to mahogany to alder and back to korina, and the volume and tone knob arrangement to name a couple. Again, like the V, this guitar is found most commonly in the metal and hard rock families these days.
8. 1956 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
The biggest way this guitar changed the Les Paul was the revolutionary Tune-O-Matic bridge. It allowed for better action and playability for the player. It featured two P-90 pickups, and it was the last year the Les Paul came standard with them. Still a favorite and always will be mainly because of the P-90s. They produce a sound somewhere in between a single coil and a humbucker, yet nothing like either one of them at the same time. The classic and most luxurious finish on the original and the new unbelievably accurate custom shop reissues has rich slightly cracked finish with a honey-like depth quality to it.
7. Gibson Flying V
This set the standard for pointy guitars everywhere. Yes it came out with the Explorer, but I feel like the V is more famous, and therefore goes in a higher ranked spot. This is the typical guitar you might see on a birthday card for a rock star 10 year old, or more commonly now on the cover of a Guitar Hero case. No matter what, it deserves it 100%. It came out, with the Explorer, in 1958, but it was not received well. It was brought back in ’67 after being discontinued in ’59, and was a smash hit. Blues guitarists worldwide went nuts over this, and today the crowd for the V is more in the hard rock and metal pool.
6. 1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom
The original Les Paul was produced in 1952, but the custom was not introduced until 1954. The idea behind the Gibson Les Paul Custom was to create a more luxurious appearance for the audience (and the player, of course), and a better playing experience for the guitarist. Success. Les Paul wanted a classier looking guitar that the gold, so he suggested black as it made the guitar look like it were wearing a tuxedo. Many nicknames were given to the guitar like “Black Beauty” and “Fretless Wonder.” It featured a Gibson P-90 pickup in the bride position, and a newly designed Seth Lover alnico V pickup in the neck. Seth Lover, as you may know, was the creator of the humbucker pickup. The split diamond headstock inlay signified the guitars importance and high quality. Obviously, that same importance and high quality is still loved today for every style of music imaginable.
5. Gibson ES-335
Perfect for nailing those jazz chords because of its rich and warm semi hollow sound, this has become a favorite of millions of guitarists and fans alike. No, not all of those millions of people are jazz players, because the ES-335 has jumped straight into every single genre imaginable. It is the sound many guitarists have been searching for for years. This guitar is the favorite of guitar heroes ranging from B.B. King, all the way to Tom Delonge. Just like every other guitar on this list, it has changed music forever.
4. 1957 Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty
With it’s unbelievably versatile 3 pickup switching system and deep jet black finish, this guitar has become instantly recognizable as the “Black Beauty.” Yes, Gibson Custom Shop has made a two pickup black beauty, but the three-pickup is classic BB. Peter Frampton’s signature guitar is his version of the black beauty due to its three-way pickup system. Countless blues guitarists have produced some of the greatest guitar tones out of this “Beauty.”
3. 1961 Gibson SG
This could possibly be one of the most important guitars ever made. This was made to replace the Les Paul, but Les Paul hated it and asked to have his name removed from it. In the 1963, it just became known as the SG, or “Solid Guitar.” The idea was to create a slimmer, lighter guitar that was easier on player’s shoulders. This was successful, but the neck falls down to the ground if you don’t hold it or press your forearm against it, like Angus Young does. The sound it very distinctive, and is great for a ton of styles. However, guitarist missed the Les Paul, since this replaced it, and wanted it back. In the late 60’s, Gibson continued production of the Gibson Les Paul.
2. 1957 Gibson Les Paul
This was the first year the famous Les Paul came with humbuckers. It changed everything. It still had the gold finish as the earlier 1950’s Les Pauls and a natural wood stained back and sides with a bound top. You will still see countless professional and nonprofessional guitarists using this beauty. It is a wonder of a guitar that has produced millions of tasteful solos and slick licks over the past 50+ years.
These are all fantastic guitars, but one still tops them all. And that is... drumroll please...
1. 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Okay, actually, if you don’t agree with me on this one then you should be hit in the head with a shovel. Yeah, that just happened. This is the most coveted guitar in history. They cost as much as a house – upwards of $250k. I have heard of these going for as much as $400k! They set the standard for thousands of guitars today, and have influenced millions of beginners to play guitar, as well as millions of guitarists to write songs! Players of this guitar include the greats such as Billy Gibbons, Slash, Jimmy Page (a 1960), Paul McCartney (also a 1960), and so many more it would be impossible to name them all! Easily one of the most famous guitars in history.
In the comments capsule, please tell me what you think is the bset Gibson guitar ever made! Let me know if you think I left a guitar off this list. It is very possible I thought about it, but there was not enough room in the top 10 to cover all of those bases. If you spot any mistakes or have any comments I would love to hear about them.
Mike Rice on January 10, 2019:
I had a 60 LP Special red DC #0 9901 given to me by my uncle, excellent guitar. 1984 red Flying V, 84 Purpleburst Explorer. w Kahler. 1955 L-00 flattop. Epi 1998 -58 Korina Explorer, 96 Epi lmtdEd LP Blue Sparkle. Loved em all!
Frank Spero on June 20, 2018:
the best is the first one I had a 56' gold top played through a fender piggy back bassman volume on five and the most beautiful distortion you will ever hear
DK on June 05, 2018:
Les Paul's suck :p I'll probibly get some hate on this comment but semi hollows are better
deac allan on May 04, 2018:
my favorite is gibson ls6
email@example.com on February 22, 2018:
the best is the first les paul that gibson built
Rts on June 20, 2017:
Which guitar is best for beigners
Timothy Plonk on August 07, 2016:
In my opinion,the 1960 LES PAUL Standard should have been included.I just love the slim contour of the neck.I have small hands short fingers,so that contour allows me to play for hours without any forearm cramps or sore knuckles.
Ray on July 11, 2016:
Agree with Phillip. And what about the ES175, the greatest jazz guitar ever?
B52 on April 15, 2016:
57, 58, 59......the best years for Gibson and the Les Paul. The 57 is such a tone monster and so easy to play well. Like a fast car egging you on to go faster, this baby encourages you to try out different sounds each time you pick it up. The 58 is such a sweet sounding musical instrument, much more than just an electric guitar! The 59.....probably THE best electric guitar ever made. I have a 54, 57, 58 and two 59's...all re-issues of course, (450k for an original is crazy), custom made limited runs to the original spec. The more I play them, the better they sound, and the better I sound as well, and I consider myself to be a really lousy player! However just hitting 3 or 4 sweet notes on any of these.....they are such versatile instruments. A great player can coax such beautiful sounds out of these babies, in any "genre" of music.
Butch Hanslip on January 23, 2016:
As far as what my favorite is, The Black Beauty. I would love to get into more Blues and have seen this guitar on Gibson Guitar Board. As far as what guitar I have is, The Gibson Less Paul Gold Top Standard. I love it and is a keeper!
darryl on October 05, 2015:
Firebird needs to be on there !!! And also a es 330 and 345 for the semi hollows. I like korina gibsons and the rarest the Moderne. And last Gibsons with p90s like the sg special or les paul special double cutaway easy fret access plus i like birds so i would take a non reverse firebird 3 p90s.
Phillip on May 31, 2015:
This is truly one of the worst lists I have ever seen. Firstly, it is basically is a list of variations on the Les Paul (60 percent of your list) with some other solid body guitars and the admittedly deserving 335 thrown in as filler. In all fairness, the LP did change, so you can make an argument for including various subspecies. Also, this is not to say any of these guitars are bad. They're wonderful. But...
How about what Gibson made before 1952. Where is the Super 400? What about the Johnny Smith? L5? Byrdland? Tal Farlow? While Gibson solid bodies are nice, why is there only one arch top on this list (and a thinline at that)?
Again, lovely guitars, but maybe this list should be renamed "10 Best Gibson Guitars for a Lead Rock Guitarist." Then I would agree with you 100 percent...although I might put a fancier SG up.
Mr Twiddle on January 06, 2015:
Great list - no complaints as it's subjective in any event.
I have a slew of guitars, mostly Gibson & Fender, and would concur with the site ethos that Gibson has the edge. Stats are great musical tools but Gibsons "feel" like a proper instrument. Wood, glue and a human hand, not nuts, bolts and a spanner. (OK computer routers are ubiquitous and Fenders can be hand finished but you know what I'm getting at!!).
The one I use most is a 2000 ES335 but my favourite is a 1974 LP Deluxe which sounds terrific through a 1976 Twin and looks like an old faithful dog. I had it refretted a couple of years ago and expect it to outlive me by many years!!
Keep up the listing, friend. Kind regards.
Fanis on August 01, 2014:
and if you can can you tell me some good songs that i have to know
Fanis on July 31, 2014:
I have none of them and i am quite a beginner which would you think best suit me ?i am thinking of 1957 les paul but i am not sure
peter pennington on July 08, 2014:
My favorite gibson was Randy Roads white les paul custom because I own a left hand version of that guitar.The action is very low the tone is unbselivable.We will be friends for life.
George on June 28, 2014:
I have to disagree. You forgot the bird. Firebird was the guitar of johnny winter for so long! And let's not forget Eric Clapton, rare to see him with a bird but he did play with one. Maybe not used by many artists but you gotta put it on the list considering the sound have been not squeezed totally, there is still much to explore with the bird. Take in mind that the president of gibson ted mccarty hired the retired designer ray dietrich to design a new model because the sales were going down after the success in the 50's because of les paul creation, so gibson needed a new success for the 60's, that my friend is the firebird. I love your list but you must have a firebird added. However, i still believe you are a les paul lover.
Nick montano on January 16, 2014:
Nice list, however, I would have included the Firebird, estetically talking, it is my favourite.
dougie on April 25, 2013:
These are some friken awesome guitars and im only 12
lux on February 03, 2013:
I want a lucille so bad D: i could play the blues then go into hard rock mode and play black velvet all day.
Oatieoat@AOL.com on July 25, 2012:
Although not a vintage guitar, the Les Paul Ultima with the vine inlay is undoubtedly the most beautiful guitar ever made, at least as far as Gibsons, which most players know are"THE" guitar.
OrangeKid on February 26, 2012:
Nice list, 90% of the guitars I play/own are Gibsons. They really are some of the greatest guitars on the planet.
Flounder on April 10, 2011:
Great list. I am not an expert, so I ask: any opinions on the small hollow bodies such as the CS 336..?
Tom on January 20, 2011:
Dude, what about Les Paul Traditional? In my opinion Trad is better then the 2008 Standard.
GearHead2012 on December 12, 2010:
i own a flying v and i freaking love it!
pagey on September 11, 2010:
I am glad you put the sg so high but was waiting for you to mention the jimmy page double neck sg but I won't hold it against you great list
parkerk393 (author) from Arlington, Texas on November 24, 2009:
Sadly, Greg, I do not own any of these... :( Do you?
greg austin from Canada on November 24, 2009:
nice. which one(s) do you have?
parkerk393 (author) from Arlington, Texas on July 31, 2009:
johnb0127 from TX on July 30, 2009:
parkerk393 (author) from Arlington, Texas on July 30, 2009:
Matthew Lee on July 30, 2009:
Whoop whoop '59 Les Paul!!!!