In June 1965, Eric Clapton bought a second-hand, Cherry Sunburst 1960 Gibson Les Paul. No one could predict that with it he would change the history and sound of the electric guitar. While with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, he played it through overdriven Marshall amplifiers to provide distortion, feedback and sustain. Although not the first to use electrical by-products to his advantage, Eric Clapton did refine their use. Partnered with his virtuoso abilities and most importantly, his angst-driven passion, they combined to create his signature sound. Eric purchased several more Gibson Les Pauls, but his first Cherry Sunburst remained his favorite. The guitar was stolen during early Cream rehearsals in the summer of 1966 and was never recovered.
However, the 1960 Les Paul that Clapton purchased was a discontinued model. The original Les Paul model was manufactured between 1952 and early 1960 (Cherry Sunbursts were not introduced until 1958). Clapton's popularizing of the Les Paul model affected the electric guitar world in such a manner that Gibson put the model back into production in 1968. Today, vintage Cherry Sunburts from the 1958-1960 period are valuable collector’s items.
As the 1970s began, Eric Clapton abandoned the Gibson Les Paul in favor of the Fender Stratocaster. However, he never completely abandoned the brand using various other Gibson models in his studio and live work.
In December 2010, Gibson USA issued a limited edition of 500 guitars that recreated Eric Clapton's 1960 Les Paul through the close personal cooperation of EC and painstaking reference to available photographs. The Eric Clapton 1960 Les Paul was produced in extremely restricted numbers: 55 guitars were hand-aged by renowned finishing expert Tom Murphy, and hand-signed by Clapton himself (with Clapton keeping the first 5 guitars). A further 95 guitars were Murphy-aged, and 350 guitars were finished with Gibson's Vintage Original Spec (VOS) treatment. All 500 guitars display the striking characteristics of EC's original 1960 Les Paul Standard, including the subtly figured maple top with Antiquity Burst finish, period-correct hardware (including Clapton's own upgrade to Grover tuners), and two of Gibson's finest reproduction PAF-style humbucking pickups.
Each Eric Clapton 1960 Les Paul came with a Custom Shop hardshell case with Clapton's signature silk-screened on the exterior, an engraved leather Certificate of Authenticity, and a vintage replica guitar strap. The aged and signed instruments also included an engraved wood plaque with the May 7, 1966 Beano comic cover, while aged guitars will include a poster of the Beano cover. All 150 aged guitars come with a limited 180mg vinyl LP of John Mayall Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, while VOS guitars include John Mayall Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton on CD.
Pricing & Finish Options Eric Clapton 1960 Les Paul Recreation from the Gibson Custom Shop
Antiquity Burst - Aged / Signed: US $29,412 msrp
Antiquity Burst - Aged: US $14,706 msrp
Antiquity Burst - Vintage Original Spec: US $8,468 msrp
Article about Eric Clapton's 1960 Les Paul Standard Guitar (external site)