Vintage Guitar File – 1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom

1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom

The Fretless Wonder

Polaris White with Triple PAF Gold Humbuckers

This 1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom provides collectors an opportunity to own an original part of Les Paul history with one of the standout pieces of the 1960’s.

The Custom model was known as the ‘Fretless Wonder’ due to the small frets. Les Paul would ask in 1963 that his name be removed from the guitar, and it was subsequently named the SG (“Spanish Guitar“).

  1. Origin
  2. Gibson Les Paul Custom Advertisment
  3. Sound
  4. Features

1. Origin

This Gibson Les Paul Custom was, according to the serial number, the 13th guitar made by Gibson in 1963. As such it shares a lot of 1962 components including the sideways vibrola which is in good working condition.

1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Figure 1 – 1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom


This particular piece also features three high output ‘PAF’ (Patent Applied For) pickups which are noticeable for their distinctive tone, a three screw scratch plate, a feature of 1961 and 1962 Customs. Hence it is most likely this piece was made in 1962 and remained in the factory before a serial was placed on it in the first production line of January 1963.

1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom Polaris White

Figure 2 – 1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom


2. Gibson Les Paul Custom Advertisment

Taken from a 1962 original magazine advertisement from Gibson:
“Players call it the ‘Fretless Wonder’ for its extremely low frets and fast action. Now it’s more wonderful than ever with new body design and new features. Ultra thin, hand countoured, delicately balanced, it adjusts into a natural comfortable playing position for any guitarist, with or without strap.

With three humbucking adjustable pickups, Tune-O-Matic bridge, and new Vibrato TM …with increased power, greater sustain, and a clear, resonant sparkling tone, the ‘Custom’ provides the widest range of tonal colorings and effects. Three-way toggle switch provides a unique method of tune mixing:

  • top position selects top pickup for rhythm;
  • center position activates center and lower pickups simultaneously for extreme highs and special effects;
  • lower position operates lower pickup for playing lead.

Finished in gleaming white for smart contrast with gold-plated metal parts.

Advertisement - Gibson Les Paul Custom
Figure 3 – Gibson Les Paul Custom Advertisement


Deluxe padded leather strap included.

  • Ultra thin, hand countoured, double cutaway body
  • New extra slim, fast, low-action neck – with exclusive extra low frets – joins body at 22nd fret
  • One-piece mahogany neck with adjustable truss rod
  • Ebony fingerboard, deluxe pearl inlays
  • Adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge
  • Three powerful, humbucking pickups with unique wiring arrangement
  • Two sets of tone and volume controls
  • Three-way specially wired toggle switch
  • New Gibson Vibrato – operates in direction of pick-stroke: swings out of way for rhythm playing

12 1/4″ wide, 16″ long, 1 5/16th” thin…
24 3/4″ scale, 22 frets

3. Sound

When plugged in, the guitar produces a remarkably full tone, one that is a pleasure to experience. Whether playing Jazz, Rock, Blues or more contemporary music, this guitar does surprise, and it’s build quality and subsequent impressive tone were well above my expectations when I first acquired the guitar.

1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom 1963 Fender Princeton

Figure 4 – Gibson Les Paul Custom with 1963 Fender Princeton

With small frets, you will need to adjust your playing technique somewhat as it plays lighter and faster than most other vintage guitars I have played. But the time invested in learning this guitar produces some remarkably impressive results, both with chords, harmonic sets and single note playing.

1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom in Faultless Gold Lined Case

Figure 5 – Gibson Les Paul Custom in Faultless gold plush-lined case

The central pickup position is wired such that the guitar produces a very thin, almost tinny sound made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The bridge and neck positions have that typical full Gibson tone with ample feedback at higher gains from most strings.

With higher gain Marshall amplifiers, string muting will be necessary as this guitar wants to enter an infinite feedback loop on most fretted notes. Controlling the feedback on these pickups is an art within itself.
The higher energy ‘PAF’ pickups are untouched.

4. Features

The hand contoured body in original Polaris White finish is in good condition The gold coated nickel components have oxidised heavily. Original Grover “Patent Pending” tuners are in excellent working order, untouched and have never left the guitar.

1963 Gibson Les Paul Custom Rear of Guitar

Figure 6 – Gibson Les Paul Custom Rear of Guitar

The single piece mahogany neck with ebony fretboard is a joy to play with 22 small vintage frets still in original condition.

This is a great investment that the new owner can admire and enjoy playing for many years to come. This vintage classic arrives at your door with it’s original “Faultless” gold-lined case.

4. Price

Les Paul Custom

In 1963, according to the catalogue, the Les Paul Custom was sold with the following price list:

  • White finish: $425.00
  • 0537 Faultless gold plush-lined case: $47.50
  • ZC-CLP Deluxe zipper case cover: $30.00


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1963 Les Paul Custom "Fretless Wonder" with a hand contoured double cutaway body with original Polaris White finish. One-Piece Mahogany Neck with fully adjustable truss rod. Patent Pending Grover Tuners. Ebony Fingerboard, Deluxe Pearl Inlays. Adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge. Three powerful, humbucking PAF "Patent Applied For" Pickups with untouched electronics. Two sets of tone and volume controls. Three way switch. Patented "Sideways" Vibrola. Original Faultless gold plush-lined case. #gibsoncustom #guitarist #perth #guitars #gibson #westernaustralia #rosettatharpe #guitarplayer #lespaul #guitarsdaily #geartalk #guitarsofinstagram #knowyourtone #instaguitar #guitargear #gibsonlespaul #guitarworld #guitarspotter #vintagelespaul #customlespaul #guitarshop #guitarphotography #vintageguitars #rockstarguitar #gibsonsofinstagram #guitarposts #vintagegibson #guitarnerds #lespaulcustom

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