Les Paul’s Right Hand Man Reveals Long Lost History Making Guitar –
THE Original 1954 Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty”
The Genesis of all other Les Paul Guitars to come…

LES PAUL'S ORIGINAL 1954 GIBSON BLACK CUSTOM "BLACK BEAUTY" - Tom Doyle, Les Paul's personal guitar-man, luthier, sound engineer, co-inventor, and close personal friend of over 45 years, shows us Les Paul's personal 1954 Black Custom... THE Very First and Original Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar that was custom made just for Les - The ONE that started it all... THE Genesis of every other Les Paul that has ever been made since... every other make and model Gibson Les Paul guitar was based off of this specific guitar! There would be no Les Paul Standard, there would be no '59 Burst, no Les Paul guitar as we now know it without this first Black Les Paul Custom Guitar.

This is THE electric guitar that started it all. The first 1952 Goldtop, albeit iconic, was a bit of a "flop" and had a whole bunch of inherent design flaws. Les wanted and demanded that Gibson make a much better electric guitar if it was going to have his name on it -- So he and Gibson's Ted Mccarty got to work and they designed this Les Paul Black Custom especially just for Les.. and Les approved!!! This guitar had all the right mechanical specs, proper parts, design features, aesthetics, and sound that Les had been after... and is the VERY guitar all other Les Paul guitars to come have been based on ever since. This is Les Paul's personal Custom "BLACK BEAUTY" guitar that left the Gibson factory in late December of 1953 and was delivered to Les in the first weeks of 1954. Les used this guitar on all of his Listerine Shows, and began modifying and experimenting almost immediately. You can see what looks like several Black Les Paul guitars on these mid 50's TV Shows, but in reality it was just this one - just with different hardware configurations that Les would try ie: different pickups, different knobs and various controls, and even stoptails that were switched out for various Vibrolas and Vibratos, and so on. This beautiful Black Gibson Guitar is the beginning of the beginning, and we are so proud and very grateful that Les Paul himself personally gave this historical icon to Tom way back in 1976, for all of Tom's years of dedicated service.

Guitar Player Magazine called this guitar "One of the Most Important Electric Guitars of All Time!"

Tom with BLACK BEAUTY (with all her hardware stripped off) back in 1976 in his Dumont, NJ Shop when Les first brought her to the shop for refurbishing. Les had been experimenting on the guitar, banging away on it, altering it, changing parts, pieces, hardware, electronics, tinkering on her, and had been playing her pretty constantly for about 20+ years at this time… She was looking rather “worse for wear”. One could say that Les Paul played this guitar to pieces… and wanted Tom to make sure she was around for the ages and asked Tom to bring her back to her Original Glory. Tom convinced Les not to undo all of his changes, iterations, modifications, etc... but to simply put in new frets, and get the guitar back into playable working order... Les ultimately agreed

Tom Doyle, Les Paul’s personal guitar builder, soundman, co-inventor, and confidant of almost 50 years now reveals to the world that he has Les Paul’s Original 1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom… known worldwide as “Black Beauty” – The very first Les Paul guitar to be made the way Les Paul Guitars are now made today. Made famous, most notably as the one and only Black Custom made by Gibson especially for “The Master” and featured in The Les Paul and Mary Ford Television Shows of the mid 1950’s… sponsored by Listerine, and filmed right in Les Paul’s home in Mahwah, New Jersey.

In late 1953, The Gibson Guitar Company made a very special guitar just for Les Paul that was the prototype for the ideas that Les himself had been working on with Ted McCarty (President/CEO of Gibson 1949- 1966) for an improved, higher-end model of the original Goldtop Les Paul guitar that Gibson was making at the time. This new guitar featured superior refinements, a new bridge and tailpiece system, finer inlays, a fancy looking binding around the entire guitar, all in black, with gold hardware… and somewhat reminiscent of a formal black tuxedo. Of course, the many new engineering and manufacturing enhancements made this new Gibson Les Paul Custom feel, play, and sound even better, and became the benchmark for the Les Paul guitar we know today!

This very special guitar was the very first Les Paul Custom to ever be made by Gibson back in late 1953… it was made solely and specifically for Les Paul personally, and was the prototype for the new, higher end Les Paul Custom Model. More importantly with all its refinements and changes, it is of course the original archetype for all Les Paul guitars produced by Gibson to this day. This was Les Paul’s test bed guitar for the better part of 20 years, and is the guitar he used and heavily modified as he developed what would ultimately become the Les Paul Recording Guitar. This guitar was one of Les’ most revered, favorite,  and oft played guitars… he called it “Number 3” - with Number 1 and Number 2 being the first two 1952 Goldtops. This 1954 Les Paul Black Beauty is the precursor of all the other Les Paul models to come from Les Paul and Gibson, and is the very essence, embryo, and origin of the Les Paul electric guitar known and celebrated throughout the world since.


In 1976, Les Paul brought this guitar to Tom Doyle to be refurbished and restored, along with about 6 or 7 other guitars at that time. Tom made no secret that he was quite overwhelmed with all the work and the timelines that Les was putting on these restorations. Les often made very high demands on Tom’s time, his work schedule, his craftsmanship, his guitar making skills, and often his patience. Les sensed that Tom was becoming somewhat “perturbed” with his demands, and wanted Tom to know how much their relationship meant to him, both personally and professionally. So in a gesture of good faith, Les ultimately gave this priceless and historical piece to Tom as a gift. Lo and behold however, the guitar had no hardware on it!


In another later “negotiation” Tom restored one of Les’ D'Angelico L5 copy guitars, and in remuneration (in lieu of a cash payment), a trade was made for all of the Black Custom’s original hardware. Well, as original as it all could be given that Les used this guitar ceaselessly to tinker, mod, develop, tweak, and otherwise bench test all of his ideas for all of those 20 plus years! “Les threw in most of those other experimental parts into the deal for good measure, and I still have most of them as well”, Tom recalls. When Les Paul brought his invaluable heirloom to his trusted friend, the guitar was in less than playing condition due to all of Les’ now famous experiments and constant tinkering. With Les’ guidance and oversight, Tom slowly and accurately refurbished and restored the guitar back to its well-known and illustrious condition.

Some forty years ago, both Les and Tom knew that this instrument would be considered a bellwether, one of the most iconic pieces of Les Paul’s career, and a very important and historically significant piece of our collective “American Experience”. However now, even Tom admits that neither of them truly could wrap their heads around what this guitar represents today… some 60 years after it was first made for one and only Mr. Les Paul. This guitar transcends its inherent importance as a collectable guitar, an historical musical instrument, and as an amazing piece of memorabilia… It is literally part of the lexicon and fabric of our worldwide musical history, our shared American culture from the last century, and of course… Les Paul’s own legacy.


Tom Doyle has owned this priceless and historical guitar, kept it safe, and has taken care of it for almost 40 years… So now as he approaches the age of 72, and his career winds down; he has decided that the world should share in the history and magnificence that is “Black Beauty”. This seminal piece of history will be offered for sale soon, and it is Tom’s hope that the guitar will be donated or permanently loaned to a museum or other public exhibition institution for all to enjoy into perpetuity...



Tom Doyle with his right hand man, Max Stavron proudly holding Les' Original BLACK BEAUTY

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