This original 1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop was completely destroyed by the 2013 Washington, Illinois tornado. It was in quite a sorry state when it was rescued and gifted to Jared James Nichols. After Nichols took ownership of the guitar in April 2021, he tasked master luthier Joel Wilkins with repairing it. The historic instrument has now finally been restored back to its former glory.
The Story of Dorothy
This original 1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop was one of the first Les Paul models to come off the finish line. Unfortunately, it met a horrible fate in 2013, where it was practically destroyed by a tornado.
An original ’52 Goldtop
Since this guitar may have been one of the first 100 Les Pauls to be made, it definitely deserved being saved. Luckily, Jared James Nichols was gifted what was left of the guitar by TJ Duckwiler, who found it among the aftermath of the tornado.
Given the instrument’s history, it was christened Dorothy by Nichols, after the lead character from The Wizard of Oz, who also had a life-changing account with a tornado .
On 17 November 2013 one of the biggest recorded tornadoes tore through Washington, Illinois killing and destroying everything in its path. This guitar was found in the front yard of a home in the rubble. It has not been touched since, there is still mud on it!
The original owner was found (it was her grandpa’s guitar who has long passed) and she gave her blessing to my new friend who has kept the guitar since then. – Jared James Nichols via Instagram
Joel Wilkins of JW Restoration was tasked with the daunting restoration of Dorothy, and the work he has done to this water-damaged and muddy wreck is just insane. He built a new neck with a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. He has also added red rubies into a tornado-like formation on the rear of the headstock. It’s a nice little tribute to mark its survival of a tornado.
Apparently, Joe Bonamassa donated some genuine 1952 parts to the restoration as well. The overall restoration is really excellent. This old ’52 Goldtop now looks as good as ever. You can hear Jared playing this resurrected beauty in the Instagram video below.
Old Gold Glory
Jared is famous for his love of Les Paul models, especially ones loaded with P90 pickups. Check out his Epiphone Gold Glory model, which is a single pickup model, and perfect for his no-plectrum fingerpicking playing style. Can we now expect a Gibson Murphy Labs limited run of this unique ’52 Goldtop? It would certainly make the headlines if they decided to replicate all that tornado damage and restoration work!
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