NEW YORK — Christie’s has announced that Les Paul’s own personal “Number One,” the very earliest approved production model of the famed Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, which monumentally changed the development of rock ’n’ roll in the 20th century, will be featured in The Exceptional Sale on October 13 in New York. It is estimated at $100,000-$150,000 – the same estimate Christie’s assigned to David Gilmour’s 1969 Fender Stratocaster that went on to sell in June 2019 for $3.9 million, setting a then-world auction record for any guitar.
Gibson Incorporated developed this innovative solid body electric guitar circa 1951-1952 to meet the demanding standards of guitar virtuoso and inventor, Les Paul, working with him to create it. Paul designated this his Number One, the first solid electrified guitar that met with his approval and was the culmination of his lifelong dream.
Kerry Keane, Christie’s consultant and Musical Instruments Specialist, remarked, “In any creation narrative there are always multiple protagonists, but the name Les Paul ranks at the pinnacle when discussing the electric guitar. His development of multi-track recording, and audio effects such as delay, echo, and reverb all profoundly influenced how music is reproduced and heard. Yet his lifelong search and development in perfecting the electric guitar would forever change the instrument. That transformation is responsible for the successful careers for generations of guitarists that performed on the Les Paul guitar. This guitar physically embodies his endless passion that produced the most iconic musical instrument in popular culture.”
Les Paul was a GRAMMY-award-winning musician and prolific inventor. The significance of his pioneering inventions on the history of music cannot be overstated. He is the only person to have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In 1950, faced with the loss of market share after the successful launch by Fender of an electric solid-body guitar, the management team at Gibson realized that the electric guitar phenomenon was here to stay. To develop one that would be both unique and excel in fulfilling the needs of musicians, they sought the help of Les Paul in both the design and marketing of this new product, a testament to the respect he held within the guitar realm.
“Les brought his idea to Gibson and they initially dismissed it outright, but Les was dogged. He held strong to his ideas and his beliefs, knowing that someday they would see the light. Les kept tinkering and inventing, and making his concept better and better. Then finally, after about ten years, and after lots of trial and error, the good folks at Gibson presented this very guitar to Les. He was smitten, and he was overjoyed … and the rest, as they say, is history,” said Tom Doyle, Paul’s long-time guitar builder, engineer, and producer.
In 1952, Les Paul and wife Mary Ford were household names. Their recording How High the Moon had reached Number 1 on the pop charts with 13 other recordings charting in the top ten. Thanks to radio and then television, Les Paul’s prowess as a guitarist was known globally.
The “Number One” Gibson Goldtop was one of Paul’s most-prized possessions. It represented the culmination of his lifelong dream to electrify the guitar, and it validated his life’s work in his search for tone.
As a result, the name Les Paul became a proper noun forever linked to one of the most iconic electric guitars in popular culture, and inspired the creativity for generations of musicians worldwide. Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, Pete Townsend, Keith Richards, and Slash represent just a tiny sample of the artists who credit Les Paul and this guitar as their muse.
Industry comments on the importance of Les Paul ‘Number One’
Venerated and world-renowned vintage guitar dealer Rudy Pensa of Rudy’s Music New York City says, “There is no other guitar like this… it’s the only ONE in world! This guitar is way beyond a guitar at this point. To say that it’s iconic is such an understatement… Its value both historically and monetarily, is beyond imagination.”
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of Steely Dan & Doobie Brothers fame said, “This is the Genesis, the ‘singularity’ of all Les Paul guitars. I cannot imagine rock and roll without the Les Paul guitar. Les’ NUMBER ONE is beyond valuable… and will most likely shatter every record known at auction… a fitting tribute to my friend Les.”
“There are rare guitars and there are legends. Les Paul’s cherished “Number One” Goldtop is the latter: Truly an historic instrument… The fruit of nearly three decades of labor, it was Les’ most cherished possession… The Jewel in the Crown” says acclaimed industry leader Guitarist Magazine UK
Les Paul’s Number One Goldtop guitar is being sold by Les Paul’s son, Gene Paul; and Tom Doyle. Gene Paul commented, “This was the most historically significant, valuable, pivotal, and important guitar to my father, his crowning achievement.”
Click to view a video in which Les Paul’s son Gene Paul explains the history of his father’s 1952 Gibson guitar known as ‘Number One.’:
In this video of an appearance on the 1952 TV show Omnibus, Les Paul and Mary Ford are interviewed by host Alastair Cook and perform live. Click to view:
Click to visit Christie’s online and learn more about the October 13, 2021 auction featuring the Les Paul Number One guitar.
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