Letters From The Tonal Edge – Two “Babes” Get A Makeover

My friend Pete and I just had two Gibson CC#3 Les Pauls made over by Historic Makeovers – in very different ways – here’s our email exchange, with a little Tele love thrown in (Pete traded me a “69” Masterbuilt Paisley Tele with a real ’68 neck that he had installed)…

Two Babes on a bench!

Two Babes on a bench!

Hey Hugh,  A quick review….

Plugged into the Medvick modded Keil.

Looks and finish…..perfect. Nothing much more to say than perfect. This is exactly what I wanted. And it’s got that greenish tinge in person.

Playability……like an old glove…superb !!!! Very similar neck to the Rigby burst but slightly larger…maybe more like the 56′ conversion in size but the carve is the R-B. The action is low and completely even with no buzzing anywhere. It’s so easy to play.

Definitely a big change to the original feel. Not that I didn’t like the original, I just prefer this.

Sound…. Here’s the best part….they don’t sound like Throbak’s. They don’t have that grainy-ness that I’ve heard before. These Throbak/richards pickups are complex. I definitely do not have a set like them. While the readings are 8.0 and 8.3, they sound lower output than that. They have a more low 7’s sort of vibe. And they have their own thing going on. Which is something I like when pickups have a definitive/original signature sound. Their low output allows for sweet chording. And for soloing, they are right on the edge with the Keil turned up to 12 o’clock. You can hear their microphonic nature which allows you to sustain just about any note but, they didn’t squeal. Really nice.

Here’s the rub…..after playing the LP for a while, I plugged in the Lonnie V….I had not plugged it in since getting it back. I was completely bowled over. Why did I ever sell that guitar before ?!?!?! Still has the Sheptone BK’s in it.

Then I plugged the historic Explorer…..I was maybe even MORE knocked out.

So those pickups may not last long in there. I’ll use it (along with the V) tonight and maybe think about alternatives.

Interesting to note the original pickups from the Babe have no markings at all on the bottom. But their propaganda on the Gibson site says they are custom buckers….

“Gibson Custom has accurately recorded the specs of the original PAF humbucking pickups on ‘The Babe,’ and used them to recreate a pair of Custom Buckers used on Collector’s Choice™ #3 1960 Les Paul ‘The Babe’ “.

“Made with Alnico III magnets and accurate numbers of turns of period-correct coil wire, these pickups meticulously recreate the specifications, look, and—most importantly—the tone of the original late-’59 PAF pickups, offering all the characteristic warmth, depth, edge and clarity of some of the greatest pickups ever created.”

Pete's Babe with Horseshoe Bigsby

Pete’s Babe with Horseshoe Bigsby

Here’s my response:

Hey Pete,

Thanks for the review… Here’s mine…

Well, the first thing I have to say is that I can’t put the Paisley Masterbuilt with the real ’68 neck down! The choice of 6100 frets was definitely the way to go! And Russ has created an uber playable neck! I was a little hesitant to put the Duncan Tapped ’53 in the bridge position of the Paisley, but it was definitely the right move! The 5.53k Abby wound pickup had a great Tele twang, but now I have the 6k and 9k bridge – which would sound stellar even with one sound – it’s the Shiznitz! Jeff Beck used that pickup on Guitar Shop – so there’s an endorsement!

The Abby neck pickup is clear and yet punchy, and it works well with the Tapped ’53 – plus it was in phase! Bonus! No work necessary at the pickup wires.

The RS kit with POI cap and great pots gives a nice gradual tone spectrum – a no brainer. Why do they use a crappy ceramic “on/off” sounding cap and a treble bleed cap originally in a very expensive Masterbuilt guitar? But I digress… This is supposed to be about CC#3 “The Babe”.


As you can tell, due to my Tele interest, it’s been tough for me to get to the Historic Makeovers “Babe” RDS Les Paul.

Like your Babe, Pete, the neck on mine really has a silky playability. I did not have the neck carve altered, so it’s the original fatty neck carve – with shoulders – and I love it! – supposedly an accurate repro of the original – so they did make a few fatties for the late 50s Lesters!

The finish and aging are spot on – I’m still fresh from assessing my pal’s REAL ’59 Les Paul, and comparing the two, they have similar vibes. Nice to see an original “in the flesh”. It’s been a while!

I find the Custom Buckers that Gibson put in this Babe to be superb. Of course, I’d heard them prior to sending my guitar to HM, and they seem even more percussive and clear in the newly made over Babe. Like the “Beast” there’s something about the bridge pickup that will do Tele tones, and yet nasty and aggressive ZZish sounds are all there too. Great pickups!

I absolutely love the guitar – Kim and the boys at HM keep up-leveling their game – but you know that!

Since we’ve completely modded these guitars, I figured I’d add a 5 latch repro Caligirl brown case – with the lovely faded pink lining – and I’ll sell the 6 latch custom shop brown case with the hot pink lining!

I have a second Caligirl case for you, Pete, if you want to flip me your custom shop case?

Hugh's finished Babe

Hugh’s finished Babe


Detail 1

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 2

Detail 3

Detail 3

Detail 4

Detail 4

That’s all folks… a tale of 2 Babes!