Did Gibson steal the Les Paul design? Well, it certainly looks as though they were influenced by O W Appleton and his original guitar design from 1943, 9 whole years before the Les Paul came to market in 1952.
Did Gibson steal the Les Paul design?
Well, allegedly the little-known luthier named O.W. Appleton claimed that in 1943 he brought a solid body, single cutaway, electric Spanish style guitar he had made to show Gibson Guitars to try and get them interested in making it. Gibson said it would never take off and told him they were not interested in Appleton’s design.
Appleton had actually designed the guitar back in 1941 and had attempted to patent his instrument, but as a musician from the small town of Burlington, Iowa, he didn’t have access to a patent attorney.
Forward to 1952 and Appleton received a letter from a friend at Gibson guitars –
“Well, App, you see our competition [Fender] has finally forced us to come out with your solid guitar. Sure wish we had listened to you back in 1943.”
Then in 1952 Gibson releases the Les Paul solid body model in conjunction with Les Paul and using input from the guitarist/inventor, based around his infamous The Log prototype. Les Paul’s Log was built using a solid centre and used both Gibson and Epiphone parts, priced together in the Epiphone New York factory back in 1940 and went on to become the Gibson Les Paul model in 1952.
Ted McCarty and his team at Gibson were the people behind the Les Paul design, with some input from Les Paul himself, but you can obviously draw a line from O W Appleton’s original model that he showed Gibson back in 1943.
So if Gibson is now trying to get us all to Play Authentic and taking smaller guitar builders, like Dean to court over their alleged trademarks. The fact that they ‘borrowed’ a lot of their Les Paul design from Mr Appleton will make a lot of people think twice about how authentic Gibson’s designs really are.
You can read more about O W Appleton below by following the link to the family’s website and I would also advise that you watch the The Guitologist YouTube video below as well.