By Jim Fusco:
On this edition of “Jim Fusco’s Guitar Collection”, I bring you one of my newer guitars in the Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar. I got this as an amazing birthday gift- one I picked out, but had never actually seen in person. So, it was a surprise on a couple of counts!
I decided on the Epiphone for a couple of reasons. First, I found the Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro 50s tribute guitar online for a massive $2,000. The price has come down a bit since then, but man, I fell in love with that guitar. And why did I fall in love with it? Well, because of my brother Mike, of course! He’s always searching for new and exciting things that he will eventually convince me to buy. 🙂 And when he got his incredible Gibson Les Paul Supreme electric guitar (which I hope he’ll write a blog post about someday, too), I knew I had to have one.
But, I also knew I didn’t want to drop that kind of money on just one guitar. When your “wish list” of guitars is as long as mine was (is?), sometimes you have to make some compromises. So, I looked around and found this- the Epiphone Les Paul Standard. It’s the cheapest model they make, but that didn’t matter to me- it was in Pelham Blue, the same color as the Gibson Traditional Pro! It’s this kind of metallic blue color that was an old car color. Match that with some cream-colored binding and you’ve got a winning combination. Plus, it was “only” $399!
So, what makes the Epiphone different from the Gibson? They’re both owned by the same company. Well, the Gibson is made in the US. So, that doubles the price alone. Does that mean it’s made better? Personally, I think not, especially after inspecting every square millimeter of my Epi- the thing is made incredibly well. The Gibson did have a few better features- it has a Plex setup, which is a computerized way of making sure every fret is perfectly in tune. Ain’t gonna get that on a $399 guitar.
The Gibson also has better pickups- I think they were Burstbucker Pros or something like that. The Gibson has a full maple cap while the Epiphone only has a maple veneer top. But honestly, if the guitar is painted an opaque color like my Epiphone is, why pay extra for a higher grade of wood? Some may say that the tone is altered. That may be true, but just because a certain tone is slightly “different” doesn’t automatically make it slightly “better”!
So, when I finally got the Epiphone, I knew that I wanted to do some upgrades, both sonically and cosmetically. It looked great to begin with, but I didn’t like the amber volume knobs. So, I replaced them with cream colored ones to match the binding. I then added a great nameplate that my brother got me- see the photo below!
And finally, I did the biggest upgrade of all- I did a ton of research and bought Sheptone PAF clone pickups that are made to exacting “Patent Applied For” Gibson pickups that were used on the original Les Paul model guitars of the late 1950s. The output is so much higher on these pickups and the sound is airy and bright. It’s a whole different league from the stock pickups. I’m sure those weren’t bad, but I wanted to make this “Jim Fusco Custom” Epiphone as good as a Gibson. I honestly think these Sheptone pickups are better than the stock pickups on the Gibson LP Traditional Pro!
Oh, and I swapped-out all of the wiring (the wiring harness), volume, and tone pots (potentiometers). I did all the wiring myself and had a ton of fun doing it. Now everything in this guitar is in tip-top shape and sounds amazing. I’m so happy I chose this one, as it was a fun project. I now have something truly unique. You’ll be hearing me play my Epiphone Les Paul on many future songs- this is my first LP guitar, so it should offer some vastly different tones than I’ve ever had before!
Stay tuned for more Guitar Reviews from the Jim Fusco Guitar Collection coming your way on the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!
I can personally attest to how incredible this guitar sounds with the PAF, hand wired pickups. It sounds like that 1 or 2 YouTube videos of “the holy grail” ’59 Gibson les paul you hear producing that perfect tone… From smooth jazz chords to clean, gritty rock to screaming solos and fat chords. Unbelievable. I agree with jim on the price and value. My collection is small, as is my place in LA… So I’ve made it a small, exclusive collection. It’s pained me to miss on gems like the epiphone casino thin body or 335 dot that I want… But until the space comes. I visited that guitar factory at Gibson Memphis and fell so in love with the supreme, I HAD to have it. The deal, hardshell case, and sheer luck and lust made it a must have. But this pelham blue JFC LP makes me so envious. How does that happen to a 399 street price guitar when I own the same model that was 3500?? It’s literally THAT good, beautiful, and desirable.
Ps. I think you meant opaque and not opague. 😀
Thanks for commenting! I can definitely appreciate the build quality, the select materials, and the fact that your Gibson is made in Gibson’s original factory right here in America. The fact is that mine is for playing and recording- yours is for both of those things, as well, but also an heirloom collector’s piece. That’s why I didn’t feel bad “customizing” mine so much- I hope you never have to alter yours! And where mine will pretty-much stay the same value over time, yours will not only hold its value, but increase considerably, considering it was a limited one-year-only run. I hope to have my own Gibson someday and join that elite club, as well. And it’s only a matter of time before you get a Taylor or a Martin and join me in acoustic guitar royalty, too!
And, I changed the typo, Clark- thanks for noticing. 🙂