A year after buying Xingxiao, I saw this Epiphone Les Paul Custom Black Beauty at Sounds Live (again). I actually wanted to buy some guitar picks. Well, £349 later, I had myself some free picks! It was a chance to own the next best thing to an actual ’57 Gibson LP Custom Black Beauty. As I was so into Pearl Jam, Trabye conveniently reminded me then (on the phone in Malaysia) that a certain Mike McCready uses this baby.

I can’t reiterate more that I’m such a sucker.

Unlike the Gibson, this Epiphone LP Custom is Korean-made and is made of three pieces of mahogany (including the arched top), together with a mahogany neck. The fingerboard block inlays are not pearloid and has a dullish sheen. The serial number indicates that it was built in 1996 at the Unsung factory. As I didn’t have anything in the region of a thousand squids in the bank, these differences didn’t really matter.

Tone-wise, the stock Epi pickups were way too microphonic at high gain as I found out when gigging with my first ever covers band, Stomach Of Chaos, at Warwick and London the year after in 1998. This was then my first electric that underwent the obligatory pickup hotrodding (the Epi KrikH-7 and Xingxiao were hotrodded much later) at Musical Exchanges in Birmingham. A Seymour Duncan JB SH-4 at the bridge and a ’59 (SH-1) for the neck positions did the trick. When i played my first Pearl Jam tribute set with Mookie at the Loughborough gig in 1998, the guitar sounded divine. It wasn’t until about 2000 that I had the middle pickup hotrodded to another ’59, this time in Newcastle. I hadn’t then gigged with the LP then but she was played by my Rattlehead bandmate, Louis Ling, during the first GIG@Sheffield. It’s fair to say that from this point onwards, every time she was played at a gig, she’ll be played by a bandmate!

The pickups were bare for a number of years. I later retained the guitar’s original appearance and re-installed gold plated pickup covers from Seymour Duncan in 2004.

The guitar was only gigged once after this cover re-installation (by my bandmate Kere when we were playing in Ah Lian Hot Pants in ’06 at the GIG@Sheffield), but we didn’t notice any problems then.

It was only in 2012 that I noted the re-appearance of the microphonic squeals at high gain again when played through my Orange AD-5 valve combo. I was told by Steve Robinson that the self-installed gold plated covers needed soldering and the pups potted in wax, and it received just that. On top of that, Steve also rewired the middle pup out of phase with the bridge pup, which is how the original ’57 LP Custom Black Beauty was wired. Apparently, this out-of-phase tone is that of Robert Fripp, Peter Frampton and Cream-era Eric Clapton!

The above shitty soundbite and the following vids show りょうこ in her current glory.

It only took 17 years for her to be named.

BODY Maple/alder top, Mahogany/alder back
NECK Mahogany
FINGERBOARD Rosewood with block inlays
SCALE 24.75″
PICKUPS (Neck & Middle) Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 / (Bridge) Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB
CONTROLS Neck Volume, Bridge Volume, Neck Tone, Bridge Tone, Toggle PU Selector

[Post updated June 2020]