Jimmy Page’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘Number One’ is one of the most iconic guitars in history. Dressed in the black dragon suit, cigarette dangling from the edge of his lips with ‘Number One’ slung low across his pelvis, chugging on the E7 chord riff to Whole Lotta Love is what most people think of when they think of Jimmy Page.
Page bought ‘Number One’ from guitarist Joe Walsh in mid-April 1969 for $1,200 and debuted it at the San Francisco shows at the end of the month. It soon took the place of the 1959 Fender Telecaster as his primary guitar on stage. In addition, Page used Number One in recording Led Zeppelin II. When Page received the guitar, the neck had been shaved to an elliptical profile (by Virgil Lay of Lay’s Guitars for Joe Walsh) and had already had several repairs, including the headstock, which made the serial number go missing.
The original Kluson machine tuners were replaced with gold Grovers on August 9, 1969, shortly before that night’s performance in Anaheim, California. By October 24, 1969, the white selector switch tip had gone missing and it had been temporarily fixed by November 4, 1969 by adding some gaffers tape. Also, around that time the chrome pickup cover had come off the bridge pickup, revealing a double-white PAF. By March 1971, a new pickup selector switch tip had replaced the gaffers tape. In November 1971, the jackplate had been rotated 45 degrees to resemble a diamond. Perhaps the output jack had been replaced.
Sometime after the 1972 Australian tour, the bridge pickup got replaced with a chrome-covered T-Top. By May 1973, the jackplate had been put back into the proper configuration. In 1975, the jackplate is broken again and gets held to the guitar body by sticky tape and is eventually fixed. On the 1977 tour, the jackplate once again is damaged and a piece of metal is crafted into a jackplate by laser operator, Steve Jander. This jackplate stayed on ‘Number One’ until 1985. In the early 1980s, the bridge pickup cover was removed, revealing a Seymour Duncan pickup. During The Firm’s first tour in 1984, Page experiments a new look by taking the pickguard off but returned it by 1985. By 1988, an aged pickup selector switch tip replaced the white one and (1) push-pull pot had replaced an original pot to allow for in-out phasing of the pickups. Since then, ‘Number One’ has remained untouched.
Asked in the late 70’s if much had been done to the guitar, when it was still being regularly gigged, Page said: “Yeah, it’s been resprayed, but that’s all gone now, it’s all chipped off.”Before Joe Walsh had sold the Les Paul to Page, he had already had it refinished
Although throughout the different decades, Page has relied on other guitars for different phases, such as the 1953 Fender Telecaster during the 1980s Roy Harper/Firm period and the Paul Reed Smith Custom 22 in the 1990s in the Page/Plant tours, he had returned to ‘Number One’. In a April 1998 Guitar Magazine interview, Page said, “An awful lot of Walking in Clarksdale was played on this guitar” (including Burning Up) Page used ‘Number One’ with a Digitech WH-1 Whammy Pedal for the second guitar solo in the title track Walking Into Clarksdale. Most recently, it had been used for nearly half of their set at the O2 Reunion Concert on December 10, 2007 and the encore performance with John Paul Jones at the Foo Fighters’ Wembley Stadium performance on June 7, 2008.