Collectors Choice #3 The Babe
The entire premise of Gibson Custom's Collector's Choice™ series revolves around the recreation of the most prized Les Paul Standards. But our subject on this occasion represents a rarity among the rare—and even something of an enigma. In a little over 52 years on this planet, this fascinating "transitional" early 1960 Les Paul Standard has had only four owners, three of whom prefer to remain anonymous, while one is very much known to the guitar-playing public, Joe Bonamassa. Collector's Choice 1960 Les Paul #3 0-0137, otherwise known to all as "The Babe," is a marvelously well-preserved Les Paul Standard. It presents an unusual combination of late-'59 features on an early 1960 model-year guitar, as well as being one of very few verifiable Standards of the era produced with a factory-ordered Bigsby vibrato (called a "Floating Bridge" at the time). In short, the Collector's Choice 1960 Les Paul #3 0-0137 "The Babe" is a precise recreation of what is an unusual and extremely desirable Les Paul by any standards, and production is strictly limited so it is destined to remain an extremely collectible guitar.
While 1959 Standards were stamped with a serial number with the leading digit "9" and 1960 Standards began with a "0," the first digit of The Babe is actually stamped too faintly to be read with total accuracy. The fact, however, that its trailing serial numbers—0137—are low in the series, and that it was ordered by its original owner in June of 1959 and delivered in August of 1959, indicate that it would have been a very early 1960 model-year guitar, a detail that has been verified by each of its owners as well as by Gibson Custom. The original guitar currently in Joe Bonamassa's possession exhibits a vibrant Cherry Red Sunburst finish (which has retained most of its Aniline red dye, a rarity among vintage Les Pauls), although such finishes would soon appear more orange-red on Les Paul Standards as 1960 progressed. The original owner of the guitar recounts that he purchased this Les Paul from the proceeds of a bumper season's grain haul, a financial decision that left him unable to buy an engagement ring. When he ordered the guitar, he was asked whether he preferred a "more red" or "more orange" sunburst finish, and opted for the former. Gibson Custom has accurately recreated this "Cherry Tea Burst" finish on a two-piece plain maple top carved from woods that have been hand-selected to closely represent the grain pattern of the original, and the results are hand-aged to recreate the gently aged patina of the original instrument. The one-piece genuine mahogany body back and neck are finished in an accurate dark Analine red dye, while the top and the rosewood fingerboard are bound in vintage-accurate plastics.
Further examples of its unusual "transitional" status, this Les Paul retains the somewhat heftier neck profile of the '59 Standard. Recreated from precise measurement of the original guitar, the one-piece, quarter-sawn neck measures .920" deep at the 1st fret and 1.01" at the 12th, a depth and shape that make it just about the perfect profile in the hands of many players today. In addition to several other precise measurements, Gibson Custom has accurately recorded the specs of the original PAF humbucking pickups on "The Babe," and used them to recreate a pair of Custom Buckers used on Collector's Choice 1960 Les Paul #3 0-0137. Made with Alnico III magnets and accurate numbers of turns of period-correct coil wire, these pickups meticulously recreate the specifications, look, and—most importantly—the tone of the original late-'59 PAF pickups, offering all the characteristic warmth, depth, edge and clarity of some of the greatest pickups ever created. Further period-correct details include Vintage Reissue fret wire, aged acrylic trapezoid fingerboard inlays, tortoise side dots, accurately aged hardware (including the unusual aluminum base beneath the Tune-o-matic bridge), single-band green tuner keys, gold "Top Hat" knobs without silver inserts, and reproduction "Bumble Bee" tone caps. In short, the Collector's Choice 1960 Les Paul #3 0-0137 "The Babe" represents a painstaking effort to recreate the character and individuality of the original guitar, and gives a fortunate few players and collectors the opportunity to own as near to an exact recreation of "The Babe" as it is humanly possible. From its original owner via a mere two further stops to the collection of one of the most renowned guitarists of our time, Joe Bonamassa, this is a prized and precious 'Burst that you won't want to miss out on, we only have one of these so grab it while you can!