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1972 Les Paul Deluxe, as made famous by Scott Gorham

The Les Paul Deluxe.  Probably most famous in the hands of Pete Townshend throughout the 70s.  But for me it's Scott Gorham, Thin Lizzy, and Live And Dangerous - the first live album I ever bought, and still the best!  This glorious 1972 Cherry Sunburst Deluxe brings it all back!

To be accurate, Live And Dangerous was my first live album, but not my first album.  I started with rock and roll.  Not because I'm as old as rock and roll, but because in those days what your parents listened to - lying around in dusty sleeves, or repackaged in the new tech, cassettes - was your only starting point for repeat-play music.  Spotify generation, be amazed.  But don't weep.  Limited choice is good.  You focus, you immerse, and you never forget.  Which explains why I can remember every track on the first vinyl album I bought: Walk Right Back With The Everlys - 20 Golden Hits.  Rock and roll, with harmonies from heaven.  The best of educations.

Next stop, Live And Dangerous.  Absolute no-brainer.  I loved the guitar, I'd self-studied rock and roll, so I had only two choices in the late 70s - punk or rock.  I chose rock.  I chose wisely.  The Boys Are Back In Town, Rosalie, The Rocker, Still In Love With You - great songs in their own right, and, just like those Everly Brothers songs, lifted by harmonies, but these ones the perfectly synchronised playing of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham.  And Scott Gorham on a Les Paul Deluxe.  Not that I knew that's what it was at the time, but ignorance is no obstacle to love, and I loved that guitar, or maybe more all the rock god shots of Scott with it that cover the gatefold and inner sleeves of the album.  What dreams are made of.​​

Which is kind of what the Deluxe is all about - or at least the rebirth of a dream.  Launched as a Goldtop in 1969, the Deluxe formalised the return of Les Paul to the Gibson fold.  It's hard to believe, but the single-cut Les Paul that we know and love was out of production for most of the 1960s, after falling sales prompted Gibson to replace it with a pointed double cutaway - still branded a Les Paul in 1960, but renamed as the SG in 1963.  Les Paul, the man, didn't like the SG, and left the building.  But that gap in production only served to increase the demand (and value) for those late 50s Les Pauls.  Les Paul, the man, saw the gap needed filling, pitched it to the CMI management team, re-entered the building, and helped launch humbucker-loaded Custom and P-90-equipped Standard models again in 1968.  By 1969, the P-90s had been replaced by mini-humbuckers, and the guitar we know as the Deluxe hit the shops in 1970. 


With its pancake body and mini-humbuckers, the Deluxe was never quite the Les Paul of old, and, as often happens, paved a way for its own replacement, the more traditional Les Paul Standard, gradually reintroduced during the course of the 70s.  But it was a perfect bridge for the gap​.  And such a wonderful guitar to play and hear.  There's a lot of talk about the brightness of those mini-humbuckers compared to the heavier tones you can get from standard humbuckers, but that uniqueness is key to its appeal, and this guitar can still knock you off your feet when you give it some air.  Line up The Boys Are Back In Town, adopt the pose, go to 11, press play, and let loose.  Take a break, cue Won't Get Fooled Again, and repeat.  Guaranteed to make you grin from ear to ear!

See & Hear It In Action
  • 1972 Gibson Deluxe Demo by Vintage-Guitar Oldenburg:  From clean to overdriven, all the tone you could wish for from this year-matched Gibson Deluxe.  This one without the "goof rings", but otherwise an exact match.  A fabulous demo by Vintage-Guitar Oldenburg!

The Boys Are Back In Town, spread the word around!





Les Paul Deluxe


Cherry Sunburst



Serial  Number


Number of Frets



Indian Rosewood


3-Piece Mahogany, with Volute, Unbound


3-Piece "Pancake" Mahogany/Maple/Mahogany with arched Maple Top


Schaller Deluxe Double Ring


PATENT NO 2.273.842 Mini--Humbuckers


ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic, Wired


Standard Stopbar Tailpiece

Scale Length


Full Length


Further Information:

  • The Deluxe may well have helped relaunch the single-cut Les Paul,  but cost control was high on the agenda in the late 60s and early 70s, particularly as majority ownership of Gibson fell under Norlin.  You couldn't mistake the basic shape, but times and economics had changed since those late 50s Les Pauls.

  • The most visible difference is the choice of mini-humbuckers.  Gibson hadn't stopped making their larger PATENT NO humbuckers in the 60s.  In fact, these mini-humbuckers bear the same "PATENT NO 2.273.842" decal on the underside.  But as a cheaper alternative to standard humbuckers, and probably to simplify the transition from the P-90-equipped Les Paul Standard that briefly preceded the Deluxe, Gibson chose the mini-humbucker design installed across much of the Epiphone range - which was easy enough to do without lawsuits, since Gibson had acquired Epiphone in 1957.

  • One occasional feature - also on this Deluxe - is the factory-installed rectangular plastic ring around each pick-up, secured with small tacks, rather than screws.  These aren't mounting rings, since pick-up height adjustment is self-contained.  Popularly known as "goof rings", their explanation depends on how far along the cynical scale you sit: they're cosmetic and an attempt to make the mini-humbuckers look more like standard sized humbuckers; or, they're covering up for poorly-edged routing work in the body top.   I'd go with the latter more than the former explanation.  The edges of each pick-up pocket in a Deluxe are visible by design - so even the smallest chip to the mahogany is going to be equally visible - and that would also explain why this isn't a standard feature on the Deluxe.  Some routs are better than others.

  • Less visible is the body's "pancake" construction.  A thin layer of maple sandwiched between two slabs of mahogany, capped by a carved maple top.  Cost may have again been one consideration - two thinner slabs of mahogany are going to be cheaper than one fat slab.  But there were some claimed practical reasons for this too.  The grain of the maple was placed at 90 degrees to that of the mahogany, a process known as "crossbanding", and was done for strength and resistance to warping.  Thinking about it, you're going to have to put your mahogany into some pretty extreme environments to warp it.  So it wouldn't surprise me if cost were really the presiding factor. 

  • None of these differences make the Deluxe an inferior instrument.  It's a Les Paul, and, throughout the early 70s, the best-selling Les Paul in the range.  And this one's a beautiful guitar, aged through a life of playing.  The cherry sunburst has faded lightly, and the neck has some serious playwear through to the wood.  Over the years, the tuners, bridge and featherweight stop bar have been replaced, and those new parts are now well-aged themselves.  When I got it, the nylon nut had worn just that little bit too low, so the guitar now benefits from a bone nut, courtesy of vintage guitar maestro Joseph Kaye..  But that's it.  The electrics are entirely original, and the guitar plays wonderfully.  A staggeringly low action, great tonal range and sustain.   Give this your love -  it demands to be played loud!

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