With its streamlined mahogany body and sharply pointed offset double cutaways, the SG Standard
is still a radical-looking instrument today. So just imagine how it must have appeared back in 1961 when it rolled out of the factory, originally as the entirely revised Les Paul
model. The new instrument was a bold design for Gibson back in the day, and it’s a bold performer 48 years later.
Known today and forever after as the SG Standard, the guitar that replaced Gibson’s biggest endorsement model in 1961 was a complete redrawing of the blueprint. The original Les Paul Standard
of 1958 - ’60 — with two humbucking pickups, a single cutaway and a sunburst finish on its carved maple top — is recognized as one of the all-time classic solidbody electrics today, but its sales were flagging in the late ’50s, and in fact the instrument wouldn’t be fully appreciated until a handful of British blues-rockers picked it up in the mid 1960s.
In order to revive the Les Paul, Gibson undertook a radical departure from the original form, and the new SG landed with a major splash. In each of its first three years of availability, the model (officially renamed the SG Standard in 1963) sold more than 6,000 units — swamping the total of approximately 1,700 Les Paul Standards sold between 1958 and ’60.
Given that the majority of their electronics, hardware, materials and design parameters are the same — two humbucking pickups, mahogany neck and body, tune-o-matic bridge
, 24 3/4” scale length — you might expect an SG and a single-cutaway Les Paul Standard to sound pretty darn similar. Sit down with each for a while, however, and a surprising number of differences emerge.