1981 Gibson Les Paul Standard Reject, Iron Mike Norton

Guitars That Got Away: 1981 Gibson Les Paul “REJECT”

Ever let a guitar go and immediately regretted it? I have...in fact I've done it so many times, I am going to make a series out of it here on my blog.  We'll start with a super oddball 1981 Gibson Les Paul Standard.

I bought this guitar somewhere around 2001-2003. I got it cheap because it was in rough shape.  I think I paid $370 for it.

What made the guitar so odd, is that it was a "reject".  Many guitarists have heard stories about how close Gibson kept track of reject guitars.  The tale I always heard was that they would stamp REJECT into the headstock, then saw the headstock or neck in half, and the guitars would get tossed into a pile to be disposed of.  Taking one of these guitars out of the factory was a HUGE no-no and if you got caught, you'd be fired. and possibly prosecuted. (Since then I've heard Gibson immediately destroys any rejected guitars, so as to eliminate the risk wayward rejects popping up in pawn shops around the great state of Tennessee)

For years I heard rumors that a few "reject" Gibsons, found their way out of the factory, and are out there floating around.  This Les Paul fit the bill.  The photo above is the only photograph I have left of it and it was taken about a week after I bought the guitar.  It was stained a dark walnut color and had cream binding, pickups and pickup rings.

The neck is where things get interesting.  The headstock had a serial number which indicated it was a 1981 Les Paul Standard.  It was also stamped "REJECT", and the headstock had been cut in half and subsequently repaired.  All the exact things I had heard were done to rejects in the old days.

The neck had no binding, which seemed weird, and dot inlays.  The finish was not the usual high gloss nitro finish, but seemed stained and then oiled.  I'm not the biggest expert on Gibson guitars, but I don't think they made Gibsons this way. It led me to surmise that this guitar was probably scrapped prior to being finished and having the fretboard installed.  Those things were likely done at home, but whomever pilfered the guitar.  Again...this is all speculation.

The tuners were not stock Gibson, but rather some cheap crappy tuners that look like they came off a cheap acoustic.  The pickups were also not Gibson and had no maker's mark.

I replaced the tuners (with Schallers, I think), and put a Rio Grande Bastard in the neck, and a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates in the bridge.

Man, that guitar smoked with that setup. Lemme tell ya something, Rio Grande pickups are a little pricey, but buddy, they are worth it. Of curse everyone knows about the long term love affair I've had with Seymour Duncan's Pearly Gates pickups; they are my favorite PAF-style humbucker in the known universe.  That guitar screamed like a banshee when you put a slide to it.

Over all, I had that guitar about two months.  I never got a recording with it.  Both things I regret dearly, but not as much as my next bone head move: I sold it, and a 1984 Gibson Flying V, so I could buy a USA Jackson Soloist.

I know, I know...I went through a period in the late 90's and early 2000's where I couldn't seem to settle on a guitar.  I did stupid things like this more than twice, or even a dozen times.

So, last I heard, my "reject" Les Paul was up in the northwest somewhere; Washington or Oregon, I think. Of course that was 15 years ago, so who knows where its at now.

Two things to take away from this post:

  1. Don't sell your guitars unless its an emergency.  Someday you'll wish you had them back.
  2. If you have my reject Les Paul, ignore rule number one and drop me an email;  I WANT IT BACK.

Iron Mike Norton

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