Out of the Blue - The 1960 "Barn Burst" Les Paul Standard


by Gary Bohannon

A few weeks ago, we listed a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard. It was an incredible burst. Long story short… that guitar sold a matter of hours after we listed it!

Out of the blue, the day after that first ’60 burst sold, another 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard showed up at the shop. I am not entirely sure what the odds are of that happening, but I’ll venture to say the odds would have to be incredibly low.

This second 1960 burst is cool on so many levels. The guitar came to us via the original owner’s family. It is a literal “barn find.” The original owner kept the guitar in it’s original case in a barn. In collector’s parlance, the guitar is “Uncirculated”.

There are around 1,800+ sunburst Les Paul Standards made from mid 1958 until mid 1960. There are databases at Gibson and online cataloging these guitars. Quite a few bursts have been cataloged and many of the them are quite famous guitars, with names and player's names associated with them: Clapton’s “Beano” burst, named so because Eric is pictured reading a copy of “The Beano”, a ’60’s English comic book, on the cover of the John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers record that features EC, Duane Allman’s incredible sunburst, “Hot‘lanta”, that was found for him by Kurt Linhof, Mike Bloomfield traded a goldtop to Dan Erlewine for a gorgeous ’59 guitar, The “Summer’s burst”, named for Andy Summers of The Police. The “Ya-Ya’s” burst that Charlie Watts is carrying on the cover of the classic Rolling Stone’s live record from the late ’60’s, Billy Gibbons’ “Pearly Gates”, Jimmy Page’s “Number 1”, Paul Kossoff’s “All Right Now” burst with the stripped top, Joe Bonamassa has “Spot” and a bunch of other named bursts. My old friend, JD Simo, used to play a burst named "Candy", loaned to him by the unknown burst collector. A collector friend of mine has a rather famous, and gorgeous, burst named, “Nicky.”

If you are into old Les Paul’s, then you probably know about the litany of bursts, by their nicknames, as they appear online at places like, “The Les Paul Forum” and “My Les Paul.” Regarding the guitar we just took in, as Mick Jagger sings in “Midnight Rambler”, “It’s not one of those”. As far as the guitar universe goes, this one’s unknown. And that ups the cool factor… big time.

The first thing to notice about this one is the color. The top has the best, “Ice Tea” fade I have seen in a long while. The color of this guitar is insanely cool. If I was going to ask Gibson to make me a custom burst replica, this is the color I would try and have them replicate. It is literally perfect. A little later in 1960, Les Paul production at Gibson changed their red color supply to a more stable, and fade resistant, color that some people find rather unattractive. Yes, it didn’t fade like the earlier ones, but it did give rise to a not so very complimentary term, “Clown burst.” Ouch. No Bozos here!

Next, the back and sides of this recent guitar are deep red and not too faded at all. Very unusual to see a burst with this much color left on the mahogany. I couldn’t help but compare and contrast this recent burst with the one before it, which had all the red almost completely faded away.

This latest burst is also a contrast in build specs. The previous one had a big neck and the heel of the neck was also quite large; very much like a 1958 Les Paul. According to author Yasuhiko Iwanade in his excellent book, “Beauty of the ‘Burst”, Gibson made a few early 1960 guitars with specs that closely resembled mid 1958 models. This latest sunburst arrival has the features that we would normally associate with a ’60 burst, luckily, except for the paint. Our Barn Burst has a small heel and a thin neck shape. Back in the day, players used to call early ’60’s Gibson necks, “Speed” necks. The thin shape of the neck was looked at as something that facilitated faster playing. When I think back to famous players and their bursts with thin necks, two names come to mind: Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

I began to wonder how close this guitar might be to Clapton’s Beano guitar after I picked it up and felt the neck. The Beano burst had the earlier spec (circa ’59) paint on the top, like the one at Carter right now, and a thin neck. There is an old interview with Peter Green lamenting how much better he liked Eric’s sunburst because it had that thin neck. He found it much easier to play than his guitar, which had a much larger neck. The Beano guitar’s neck pickup had double white bobbins. I also wonder what the pickup in the CVG guitar was before a repairman changed it out for a T-top in the late ‘70s. Our guitar also has the earlier knobs, like Clapton’s famous guitar he used on the Mayall record. If I were a gambling man, I’d say that our guitar and Eric’s were from the same run of Les Paul’s made in early 1960. Unfortunately, Clapton’s Beano guitar was stolen at the first rehearsal for Eric’s new band, “Cream" and we don’t know the serial number of that guitar.

I have yet to plug in our latest burst. That is going to really be fun and educational and I bet it sounds great. I have a theory about Gibson guitars with the thin necks from ’60 and ’61… I think that those guitars with the thinner necks, model for model, sound the best. I will definitely write something about that theory one day soon.

In the meantime, come on down to the store and check out this latest in a series of iconic instruments that have shown up at Carter lately. If you’re into old sunburst Les Pauls, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Update: It has been a few days since I started writing this article and I finally had a moment with our new sunburst. So far, my theory about the thin neck guitars is holding up… tone for days. I’ve mentioned before, a little aphorism that an old friend of mine has about hearing things: “You have to be careful about what you listen to because you can’t un-hear things.” I now have another killer Les Paul Sunburst tone in my mind, thanks to our “Barn Burst.” It sounds like records.

Gary Bohannon is Senior Authenticator and Acquisitions for Carter Vintage. If you have a vintage instrument you'd like to sell through CVG, reach out to [email protected]