Epi's Black Beauty at the Heart of Rock and Roll

With the Who and the Rolling Stones on tour, this seems like a good time to take a second look at the Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty, which possesses some of the most killer tones to be found in wood and wire. From all accounts, Keith Richards used a Black Beauty for his solo on “Sympathy For the Devil” and Pete Townshend went through a few (not to mention some SG’s) during The Who’s heavy touring days in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. And then there's that fellow from Frampton's Camel, too.

The Les Paul "Black Beauty" made its debut in 1954 after the initial success of the Les Paul Goldtop (check out Joe Bonamassa's favorite Goldtop). Mr. Les Paul thought his namesake guitar needed a new look and suggested a classy ebony finish would go well with a tuxedo on stage. But Les also knew that his “Les Paul” guitar had to keep up with the competition, so the "fretless wonder" also got an additional pickup, making the Les Paul Black Beauty one of the most striking guitars of its time. Les thought so too, and frequently performed with his Black Beauty on the Les Paul and Mary Ford weekly television show. There’s nothing else like it out there. And the fretless wonder still carries the wollup of Alnico Classic™ humbuckers, which are made just like they used to.

Here's Les with the prototype to the Black Beauty--a Custom featuring an Alnico V in the neck position. Les would add another pickup himself and encourage the Kalamazoo factory to do the same. And below watch Mick Taylor playing Keith's Black Beauty on "Gimme Shelter" for a tv audience.