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Top Five Guitarist To Play Gibson Les Paul Guitars

Updated on August 1, 2017
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

First there was the Telecaster - the first very popular solid body electric guitar, and second there was Gibson's Les Paul guitar. The Les Paul guitar was perfect for Gibson, and Gibson has always been in the very tough position of trying to compete with C.F. Martin & Company in the acoustic guitar market, and Leo Fender's Fender Guitar Company in the electric guitar market - and Gibson continues to do this to this day, and it does quite nicely at it. The Les Paul couldn't have been much more different than the Fender Telecaster, and that is exactly how Gibson Guitars do things as a company, they see their competition, and then produce something very different yet equally attractive in every way.

Les Paul the guitarist did not design the Gibson Les Paul guitar, but he did play a role in the design through collaboration with Gibson president Ted McCarty. Les Paul did design the very first solid body electric guitar that was not a solid lap steel guitar, but the Les Paul design known as "the log" was rejected by Gibson, and with the outstanding success that Fender was having with it's Telecaster, Gibson Guitars had to get a move on, and make a name for themselves in the booming electric guitar market.

There is quite a lot of design and specifications in various models of Les Paul Guitar - far too many to go into here, where I wish to deal not so much with the guitar, but rather, the musicians that made it so successful. The Les Paul Guitar is so special because it's NOT a Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster, and both of those Fender guitars are outstanding guitars as well, but the Les Paul Guitar has a very different sound, and the sound of the thing is what I wish to celebrate here.

Mr. Les Paul With His Gibson Les Paul Guitar!


Les Paul and Marry Ford - "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise."

Les Paul - The Guitarist

Lester William Polsfuss lived from 1915 up until 2009, and in his prime years was a splendid showman and jazz guitarist who also played in the fusion realm of country music influenced by jazz. Though Les Paul was not the first person to use over dubbing in a studio, he brought attention to the technique with his own extensive experimentation of it, and then continued innovations in studio recording magic with tape delay, phasing effects, and multi track recording.

"Rhubarb Red" was a Les Paul alter ego in the 1930s, and he used that for "hillbilly music," but soon Les Paul was playing jazz

Les Paul had been a huge admirer of Django Reinhardt, the French Roma Gypsy guitarist, and he sought out and got to meet Django. Django Reinhardt died suddenly and young in 1953, and it's said that Les Paul worked on Django's headstone for his grave. That bit of trivia is tough to prove, but in any case, Django's widow gave Les Paul one of his prize possessions, a Selmer Maccaferri acoustic guitar that had belonged to the late and great one.

Les Paul spent the thirties and forties in America playing Gibson acoustic electric guitars, and he found them all to be less than what he wanted from a guitar. One neat story that I'd not known was that the great Chet Atkins got the first professional quality guitar that he'd ever owned from his brother Jim Atkins, who was playing with Les Paul, and got it from him.

The highlights of Les Paul's career were during the time he was married to Lovely Mary Ford, and together they twenty eight hits with capital records. Mary Ford was a guitarist too, and besides that, she did the new thing of harmonizing with herself in the studio whilst Les played some flashy guitar..

Les Paul was semi retired from music by the 1960s, but would hit the studio now and again, he left us all behind here in 2009, but is survived on Earth by four children. He'd played a concert just a few weeks prior to his death. The following paragraph is from Wikipedia:

Upon learning of his death many artists and popular musicians paid tribute by publicly expressing their sorrow. After learning of Paul's death, former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash called him "vibrant and full of positive energy.", while Richie Sambora, lead guitarist of Bon Jovi, referred to him as "revolutionary in the music business". U2 guitarist The Edge said, "His legacy as a musician and inventor will live on and his influence on rock and roll will never be forgotten."

Jimmy Page With His 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, A Gift From Joe Walsh

Led Zeppelin, "Dazed And Confused"

Jimmy Page - The Single Most Famous Les Paul Guitar Player

I'll make no bones about this here, Jimmy Page is maybe my favourite guitarist. No I don't personally even own an electric guitar any more - that's not the point, the point is music, and the music that I enjoy, and for me, nobody inspired me like James Patrick Page.

Listen, during the 1970s, and even before then in the very late 60's, Led Zeppelin had something going for it that nobody ever had before, and nobody has ever had since the death of John Bonham ended it all. Led Zeppelin was hated by music critics, and so thoroughly loved by fans that nobody much cared. Robert Plant to this day carries an enthusiasm and charisma that can't be learned, and his improvisational vocal style, Golden God looks, and that absolutely chaotic and cathartic CRUNCH of Page, Jones, and Bonham made Led Zeppelin the single greatest Rock and Roll stage show in the history of music.

Jimmy Page brought heavy blues to white audiences in a way that Clapton and Hendrix could not - Page focused on guitar playing,and studio production; he left the singing and primping to a very adequate Robert Plant. By NOT trying to bring all the focus of attention on himself like Clapton or Hendrix, Jimmy Page prospered with the help of his friends, all superb showmen and musicians! From British Folk, to exciting new fusions of world musical elements, page innovated and shinned like a candle in the darkness all along the way, and most of the time he did so playing his Gibson Les Paul Guitars.

Randy Rhoads With His Gibson Off White 1974 Les Paul Custom


The Amazing Randy Rhoads

Randall William Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982) Despite his relatively short career, Rhoads is a major influence on neo-classical metal, is cited as an influence by many guitarists and is included in several "Greatest Guitarist" lists. Randy Rhoads was to me one of the guys that would just make you wish you'd never even bothered with the guitar. He was a classically trained musician who showed so much talent that he was excused from public school at a young that he could pursue his music, how often do you hear THAT story?

That story is NOTHING! Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 had guitarist the world over salivating for the position as his new six string gunslinger, but he passed out drunk before Rhoads even got finished warming up for the audition, Ozzy had interrupted him to say, "you've got the job," and later described the thing as "God entering my life."

Well we all know that Ozzy Osbourne was probably a bit nuts at the time, but he surely knew greatness in musicians when he saw it, and he went on with Rhoads and the band to create three timeless albums - the first heavy metal albums to have such masterful elements of classical guitar mixed in with the riff metal crunch and thud that Osbourne had been used to with Black Sabbath.

Randy Rhoads could literally burn up a fret board and do so while creating music of great beauty, his death was tragic, and stupid beyond all reason; the plane crash that killed him took one of the finest guitar players this world had ever known away from us all far too soon.

Dickey Betts and one of his Gibson Les Paul guitars

Dickey Betts

Forrest Richard "Dickey" Betts (born December 12, 1943) was one of the two outstanding lead guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, and he was also one of the two outstanding singers for that same band. Dickey Betts sang at least half of the most recognizable and memorable songs in the canon of music by the Allman Brothers Band, and his soaring melodic lead guitar solos, to me, were more enjoyable than the seemingly more famous, and very dead Duane Allman.

I don't with to diminish or minimize the great Duane Allman, but I've always felt that Dickey Betts was very under rated, and less than appreciated for his contributions to that fine icon of Southern Rock, The Allman Brothers Band. Dickey Betts is still living, but I'm speaking of The Allman Brothers in the past tense because it appears that there's too much bad blood between Greg Allman and Dickey Betts for them to ever record together again, and in any case both of them and the rest of the original band, are all getting up in years.

The Allman Brothers Band - "Blue Sky." Dickey Betts Sings Lead, and Takes The Second Guitar Solo

Jeff Beck With His 1954 Les Paul!


Jeff Beck - The Master Of Electric Guitar

I've already stated how my personal preferences often land squarely on the music of Jimmy Page's Led Zeppelin, but one can't even much talk about page without a discussion of his long time friend Jeff Beck coming up somewhere. Jeff Beck actually created the prototype band for Led Zeppelin, and then Page's Led Zeppelin even went on to record some of the same songs on their debut album as Beck had recorded with his band's album, Truth. So Jimmy Page took the concept of Beck's original band, and made it his own; do you think Jeff Beck cared?

No, Jeff Beck isn't one to stick to one style of music - he is a genre transcending master of the electric guitar who can't sit still, and gets bored easily with the same types of things. I'm not saying that Jimmy Page isn't creative, I'm only saying that Jeff Beck explored a wider range of musical styles than Page has, and with the 1974 recording Blow By Blow, Jeff Beck showed the world what a creative jazz improvisational genius he can be whenever he desires to be.

No bones about it here, and I'm far from the only person who would tell you all this; Blow By Blow was and is an absolutely ground breaking masterpiece not just of electric guitar jazz fusion, but of a group of virtuoso genius musicians working together and creating something that humanity itself should be proud of.

Jeff Beck played his Les Paul Guitar throughout Blow By Blow, and boy does it sound awesome!

Zakk Wylde, and His Gibson Les Paul Custom!

Brian Carroll - or Buckethead, and His Gibson Les Paul Guitar!


Slash Always Plays A Gibson Les Paul - He Collects Them Too!


Ace Frehley - And A Gibson Les Paul


Gibson Les Paul Standard Desert Burst

One Million Runners Up In This - The Conclusion.

Just like with the Fender Stratocaster, there are so many fine guitar players that play that instrument, it's impossible to list them all in any sort of "fair" manner. I had to limit my article on Stratocaster players to Rock Music and the 1970s. I've not done that here with the Gibson Les Paul and the guitarists that play it, instead here I just picked my personal favourites that are also players/musicians that truly made the Gibson Les Paul noticeable and respected in the way that it should be. I also went all out in trying to diversify the music - but the Gibson Les Paul, due to it's humbucker pickups and sound - has always lent itself more favourably to guitarist that operate within the genres of rock, metal, and jazz.

So far as this article is concerned, Les Paul and Jeff Beck, neither of those fall into "rock music," and despite the fact that Jeff Beck has most certainly in his time created some heavy blues rock, and even some metal. No doubt about it though, Les Paul was a "country jazz" musician, and the Jeff Beck cut that I've featured here is purely jazz fusion.

Jimmy Page is quite a guitarist, or rather, he's a guitar alchemist. Page fuses genres together as well as beck does, but page id also a genius of a producer, and Beck wasn't that so much as he was more a technical guitarist. Page and Beck are near equals in my mind so far as musical output goes - and I prefer Page's music to Beck's, but all the while I also know that Beck is a superior guitarist. Music has so many layers of a subjective onion to peel!

The tragedy of the death of Randy Rhoads is a major thing to factor into all of this - he died young, and he died leaving three albums of guitar virtuosity that any three other guitarist would love to have to represent the best of their entire life's work. Yes, classical music had been fused into metal guitar before, but never so thoroughly or so well as Randy did it. Oh yeah, sure, Yngwie Malmstein - sure, he's cool, but he's not half so tasteful as was Randy Rhoads, and he's never played Gibson Les Paul guitars much, and he's never worked with a front line personal, song writer, and performer as Ozzy Osbourne either!

...and that leads us to Zakk Wylde, another fine Les Paul slinging head banging axe weilder that played and still plays with Ozzy Osbourne. When you're Ozzy, you just get the pick of the litter! I'm going to make the weirdest comparison ever here: Ozzy Osbourne is to heavy metal what Ricky Skaggs is to bluegrass. Those two front men get their pick of the guitarist in this world, and they always have the best available that can work with them, and represent what they are about.

What about Buckethead????????????

Well, let me tell you about Brian Carrol! He's a genius. He's very weird, but his music is virtuoso level without compare. Buckethead is mostly someone that only guitarist or otherwise very tasteful music aficionados know about - he's not well known, but he's mostly associated with the Gibson Les Paul, and besides that, I'm a music lover above all else in regards to these subjects, and so I've also included here my favourite piece featuring Buckethead, and it's by the super group Praxis. If you've enjoyed anything in this particular webpage, then I think that you'll also enjoy the Praxis piece featuring Buckethead that I've got for your below.

Slash and Ace? Well, both of those guys were forever playing the Gibson Les Paul guitar, and both of them were involved in very popular no account throw away popular music producing bands that were major players in the mass media promotion game. Neither Ace or Slash will ever be escapable unless you decide to go all unibomber on us and piss on the grid, if you know what I mean. In any case, I hope that this has been somewhat to very enjoyable for you, and please feel free to leave any feedback, be it rabid and threatening, to complimentary, or otherwise helpful - in the comments.

Praxis - Seven Laws of Woo - With Buckethead


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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      22 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey thanks! I've been thinking about re-writing this thing anyway. :)

    • profile image

      Thom Allen 

      22 months ago

      Well done, but.....take a listen to the late Luther Allison. Then you just may want to revise your list.

    • profile image

      Timothy W. Plonk 

      2 years ago

      I'm surprised you didn't feature one Billy F. Gibbons. His trusty LES PAUL," Pearly Gates", has reportedly been played on EVERY ZZ Top track to date. For tone,timing,feel,and song structure, B.G is THE best player,hands down.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      2 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Phil, Jeff recorded most of his amazing 'Blow By Blow' album with the LP. It is one of my favorite albums of any kind of music. Of course I know he switched, seemingly permanently, to the strat.

      Of course I know of the great Gary Moore! He's simply not one of my most favorite players, and it would be odd indeed to not have Les himself listed first!

      TLStahling, Keith can be seen playing Les Paul guitars in lots of images on the web, but the Tele was always his 'go to guitar' after he got his first one. What he started out with in the Stones is an interesting historical question, but I'm thinking it wasn't the Les Paul.

    • TLStahling profile image

      TL Stahling 

      3 years ago from US

      Didn't Keith Richards start off with a Les Paul. I remember reading somewhere he was the first "star" in Europe to use it. Also, Jimi Hendrix - did he ever play one?

    • profile image

      Phill Allder 

      3 years ago

      Two points. Firstly Jeff Beck is really a strat man, not a LP man. Secondly, and more seriously... have you never heard of Gary Moore? IMHO Gary should be at the very top of your list.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      ...Buckethead is about a thousand levels ahead of Steve Clark, Mr. President.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      They forgot Steve Clark of Def Leppard! How could you forget another great guitar player and instead put in some bucket head guy that looks like he's a member of the KKK!!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks very much, noiseyfly , I'm really an acoustic only player myself, but if I ever did decide to go electric again, then the Les Paul would be my electric guitar of choice, I just prefer its sound to all others!

    • noiseyfly profile image

      Craig Bruebaker 

      5 years ago from Spokane Washington

      I have five guitars and I like my Les Paul the best. Good Hub lot's of info.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey nuffsaidstan, I'm really an acoustic player only these days, but of course I still love my classic rock, etc. I used to own a Strat, and I thought it suited me better...but then again, I've never owned or got the opportunity to spend much time with a Les Paul.

    • nuffsaidstan profile image


      5 years ago

      Some great players there, love the sound of the Les Paul, although i have owned a strat and a tele i always go back to my Les Paul, you can't beat it for power, i own a Les Paul Custom.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Bockshiner, thanks very much! Yeah! I like Government Mule myself, kickass stuff that is too good for the middling minds of today's youth, I guess. Never mind me though, I'm enjoying a cold beer, and some music here now - which is the thing I like most about any old page...mine typically have music I like to revisit! :)

      I'm really more of a D-28 or a D-18 guy, but its all the same in the end - the tunes!!!!!!!

      Thanks Glimmer Twin Fan, I bet I know just what that moniker means too!!!! :) Yeah, absolutely, I love the late Duane, but I really think Dicky Betts is way underrated in it all!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      I'm so glad bockshiner shared this. Awesome hub and I have to go pull out some cds now. Nothing beats an Allman Brothers free form jam.

    • bockshiner profile image


      6 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Great hub. I'm a Les Paul guy myself. I've never heard the Allman Brothers but I'm a fan of Warren Haynes from Gov't Mule, who takes the first solo in the video you linked to. He plays a Les Paul even though he's playing a strat in this video.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks Austinstar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Austinstar profile image


      6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      I forgot to mention that this was an excellent hub! I do love Jeff Beck and the rest of the guitarists mentioned here. You did a great job on this one.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      TheHeavyReview - Thanks! I should probably edit my text to show Slash in a more favourable light. I just lumped him in with Ace, but Slash is really a lot better than that.

      I don't think Slash is very original at all, but I do enjoy the old G N' R stuff a lot!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      iamaudraleigh - Thank You!!!!!!!!!

      I've found that is the only way to be successful here - providing information! It's easy when you already love the subject!!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      must65gt - Thanks For the Comment! My musical playing style would probably cause me to be more inclined to hear more about that banjo and mandolin you've got! I've got some dulcimers around here as well, strangely enough, but I don't know how to make any musical sounds from those - they're inherited!

    • TheHeavyReview profile image


      6 years ago

      Great and very detailed hub! If I had to pick two, my favorites here would be Slash and Jimmy Page. I've always loved both of these guitarists. Jimmy Page is one of the all time greats, and I really like Slash's bluesy hard rock style (particularly on Appetite For Destruction). I like Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wilde too. Great hub!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You definitely took your time and did the research for this hub...well done!

    • must65gt profile image


      6 years ago

      Great hub, I have played a Les Paul, and own a Jimmy Page 1241. Owning 7 guitars a banjo, mandolin, a Kamaka ukelele, and a 5-string applewood Dulcimer, I have more than I can play at one time. I enjoy a Strat as well. but I have a classic Peavey t-60 solid body. It has both sets of pick-ups but resembles the Strat, however, it can sound like ether the Strat or the Les Paul. Tanks for the hub and the memories...

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Austinstar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

      Will be there!!!!!!!

      I've also seen via "my stream" that you've recently published something very different from this that I'm also VERY interested in reading....don't worry, I'm going to get there...I'm just so into production that I'm never near to being "caught up" on my reading.

    • Austinstar profile image


      6 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      Interestingly enough, my husband Bob, also plays a Gibson Les Paul. I think he is every bit as good as the guitarists you mention here. Check out the video of him playing with the band, Nardo.


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