Mark knopfler 1958 les paul

Guitarist - - Front Page - Words Neville Marten Pho­tog­ra­phy Neil God­win

When Gib­son Cus­tom and Mark Knopfler got to­gether to recre­ate his leg­endary ’58, they chose to of­fer just 250 in­stru­ments: 150 in VOS fin­ish, 100 aged and 50 signed by the man him­self. Here’s one of those rare aged and signed ones – now sadly all sold.

In what Gib­son calls ‘Knopfler Burst’, it’s a sub­tle fade but with plenty of cherry re­main­ing. The age­ing is su­perb, with all the dings and lac­quer check­ing you’d ex­pect from a gui­tar that’s done decades on the road. And all the var­i­ous ma­jor ‘events’ that have be­fallen it, too – a deep scratch across the back of the head­stock, a dou­ble gouge in­side the cut­away, and, of course, the usual buckle wear.

The tim­bers are clas­sic Les Paul: ma­hogany back and neck, rose­wood fin­ger­board and sub­tlely fig­ured maple top. True His­toric specs have been up­rated to be his­tor­i­cally more ac­cu­rate here and in­clude: Cus­tom Bucker pick­ups with truer shaped cov­ers; plas­tics that are closer in colour and com­po­si­tion; dou­ble top and neck carve to bet­ter evoke the ‘dish­ing’ ef­fect and pro­file; and ‘bro­ken’ head­stock edges and ‘rolled’ bind­ing edges.

Medium jumbo frets re­ally suit this neck here, and the 303.8mm (12-inch) ra­dius im­parts a glo­ri­ously fa­mil­iar feel – if you have the chops, the Knopfler will go with you all the way. Plug­ging into our Blues Ju­nior test amp, the tones range from the sub­tle to the bru­tal, bright, sweet and airy in the top but balls aplenty when needed.

While most Cus­tom Shop gui­tars are amaz­ing recre­ations of for­mer Gib­son glo­ries, those built for artists seem to be im­bued with that little bit more ‘love’. Knopfler has said of his reis­sue,“I was ex­pect­ing it to be ‘okay’, but as soon as I picked it up I re­alised that, not only did it look great, it ‘was’ great.”

We can only agree. But with in­stru­ments such as this, ob­jec­tiv­ity goes out of the win­dow some­what, and we have to go with what our hearts and guts tell us. The truth is, there’s never been a new Les Paul come through these doors that’s re­ceived quite so much adu­la­tion. Deputy edi­tor (and Mark Knopfler fan) David Mead is play­ing the gui­tar at the ad­ja­cent desk as your re­viewer writes this. Let’s leave the fi­nal com­ment to him. David: “It looks fan­tas­tic, the neck is amaz­ing – even acous­ti­cally it sus­tains for­ever. It’s the per­fect Les Paul.” www.gib­son.com

1 Due to the slightly deeper neck, the ‘bell’ truss rod cover was of­ten a mite fur­ther from the nut than on ’59s. Also, note the ‘bro­ken’ head­stock edges, aged tuners and tinted lac­quer over the pearl Gib­son logo A rich, al­most glow­ing ‘Knopfler Burst’ fin­ish, cor­rect colour plas­tics and not too rad­i­cally fig­ured top make the gui­tar look eerily ‘real’ Although the heavy cast ‘True His­toric’ tog­gle switch cover plate is fit­ted as stan­dard, a clas­sic brown plas­tic one can be found in the Lifton-style case’s bits and bobs com­part­ment We’d love to know how Mark’s orig­i­nal gui­tar got this cu­ri­ous – and pretty deep – scar be­tween the first- and sixth-string tuners. Two sim­i­lar ones ap­pear in the cut­away Lac­quer check­ing on the Knopfler is ex­cep­tional. It cov­ers the maple top, the holly head­stock fas­cia, and also the area be­hind the nut – just where you find it on most orig­i­nal Gib­sons 1. 3. 4. 2. 5.

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