Route 59: The Desolation of Smaug *ominous intro theme plays* Gibson’s love of gold has grown too fierce! When this happens, only bad things can follow… The first they heard was the noise like a Humbucker coming over from the East! Their amps growled in the hot, dry gain! He was a Tobacco Burst from the East! SMAUG HAD COME! Such shred was had that day! For the Brand of “Gibson” means nothing to Smaug! His eye was set on another prize! For a Tone Chasr will covert tone with a dark and fierce desire. Gibson was lost… and a new KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN has arrived! *CINEMATIC INTRO!* It’s the year 1960: The 2-year-old Gibson Sunburst Les Paul Standard model has given the Les Paul name a small boost to its declining sales numbers, however it was not enough. Gibson now make a decision that would set in motion a sequence of events that would be talked about for generations! They discontinued the Sunburst Les Pauls. The “Bursts” were lost… The Les Paul model would not be made by Gibson again until the late 60’s. Even when they did come back, they were never the same again. Even today, Gibson still don’t make the bursts exactly right, using 100% Hyde glue where the original Bursts used fish based glue for the headstock logo and a different epoxy-like resin for attaching the maple cap onto the mahogany bodies. The depth of the neck tenon is smaller and even the front dip/carve isn’t quite the same. The Bursts were the first solid body electric guitars to have figured maple tops visible! Something I think we all take for granted today. They would see the worlds first introduction of the Humbucker aka the “PAF” or “patent applied for” pickups. Introduction of the carved top electric guitar body. Introduction of the tune-o-matic bridges that can be adjusted for intonation aka the ABR-1, named after “adjustable bridge”. Lots of amazing technology came into play for these guitars. These build styles would unknowingly become a standard for all electric guitars for the next 60 years and counting! For years, artists would look for these strange and beautiful instruments, and some would end up in the hands of some upcoming super stars. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Green, Billy Gibbons to name a few. And not only that, but these guitars would also end up being played on some of the most iconic albums in history. From the bands these artists played, even to artists such as Steve Lukather of Toto, who as well as the Toto albums, would use his ’59 Burst on Michael Jacksons Thriller album! These guitars became part of rock history and over time, have started to fetch quite a hefty price tag… The most well-known Burst is undeniably “Greeny”, Originally owned by Peter Green, which is where its name came from. It would end up with his guitar student Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy, and in more recent years, has found it’s way into the hands of Metallica’s very own Kirk Hammett. The rumour is that Greeny cost $2million! Well, this has been denied and Kirk himself has said it didn’t even cost $1m, however it likely wasn’t far of that impressive $1 million mark…. Which is pretty insane, still. BUT WHY!? Why are these guitars so sought after? They are just strings and wood, right? Well, yes but something magical did happened in the late 50s. After WWII, America had become a powerhouse of manufacturing. During this time, a lot of stars aligned for Gibson. Excellent craftsmanship by the luthiers at the Gibson Kalamazoo Factory, excellent quality and OLD wood from various parts of the world and America, which are extremely rare these days. We are talking Brazilian Rosewood boards which has been an endangered species and firmly on the CITES list since 1991, east American curly maple (this is why a lot of old Burst have dark lines in the maple. These lines are mineral deposits from the area the trees were grown!), Solid 1pc bodies and 1 pc necks of old hondourus Mahogany. Even some of the unknown details like the red aniline dye used on the ’58 and ’59 models, which were UV sensitive, and would fade in direct sunlight. Gibson would change this during 1960 but this is why Bursts can look so strikingly different from one another. If you happen to see a 58/59 with a ton of red, you can bet it’s spent most of it’s life in its case. Some bursts had faded before even leaving the shops, like the burst known as “red-eye” which retained its red spot due to the price tag hanging from the guitar while near the window in the music shop it was sold from. A fun thing to do is to check under the “poker chip” and you’ll see its original red finish! Some Bursts would darken over time too. This would happen when the red dye was applied on thicker than normal. Usually done to cover any imperfections in the wood top, and this is what happened to Joe Perry of Aerosmith’s Burst, which would end up being bought by Slash for $8000 in the late 80’s, and is THE guitar used in the November Rain video. … But they were all of them, deceived…. For another guitar was made. In the far East, a company called Fernandez has built in secret, a MASTER BURST! 1 Burst to rule them all! Well, not really but this is a really fascinating part of the story! The reputation that Gibson had built for themselves managed to reach Asia during the 60s and demand for the Gibson Les Paul models were growing rapidly! However, Gibson chose not to do anything about it… As a result, to get a Gibson in Japan, was VERY expensive due to shipping and import costs. They essentially priced themselves out of their own market. So in the late 60’s a few companies were founded and started making Gibson clones and the very early ones even used the Gibson name and logos! This would quickly change, and these brands would start making these guitars with their own names: Tokai, Greco and BURNY! Tokai are probably the most well-known, as they have made MANY guitars in their time. Greco have really gained some market presence these days and the earlier version of these Gibson copies can fetch prices into the thousands. And then there is Burny… Burny are just slightly left-of-centre and as a result aren’t as well-known as the others. But those who DO know, know how great these guitars are and are considered by many the best of the bunch! In 1995/96, Burny would move their manufacturing over to China and these Chinese models are a bit puke so make sure to get yourself a Japanese made model. That’s the key. That’s the secret! These 70s/80s/early 90s made in japan model Les Pauls are considered truly excellent examples of a Les Paul guitar, and at a fraction of the price of some of the high-end CS Gibsons. Not only that, but the world is also still sleeping on them and I have no doubts that these guitars will soon follow Greco and be worth far more in the future than they are today, but that’s just like my opinion, man. Imagine an early era Gibson Les Paul but made to Japanese quality standards! The Japanese are hands-down the best manufacturers of pretty much anything in the world. And given that by the 70s/80s, Gibson had started to really struggle and were implementing cost-cutting manufacturing methods, the best Les Pauls you could buy were coming from Japan. These clones would gained and to this day, maintained a reputation as “Better Gibsons”. These are the guitars that would cause the “lawsuit era” for Gibson. So a few days ago, THIS BEAST kicked in my doors, ate my people and sacked my homeland! The new KING Under The Mountain was home! FLAME IN THE DARKNESS! Seriously though, this thing is nothing short of stunning! Both in looks, feel and tone. My god, these pickups are soooooooo smooth, creamy and a nice crunch on 10 to the sparkly top end. It’s actually kind of mind blowing how good this thing is. I’ll put up some videos on it soon! My recent wrist pain is getting better so I’m not far off being able to play properly again. Not a moment too soon either! And for the record, none of this was planned, the whole LOTR story thing. Im just winging it The guitar, trading my Gibson a week after I got it, discovering Burny/MIJ guitars and getting this one. I knew it needed a name as we must respect our elders. And even though it technically a tobacco burst, this doesn’t feel like tobacco to me! This is all Blood Red Fire! This makes me think of a flame in the darkness. Being a huge history/lore buff and loving long deep stories like LOTRs, and coincidentally naming my first thread “An Unexpected Journey”, I have decided to name this guitar after the greatest Dragon of the 3rd age! Chiefest and greatest of calamities: Smaug!