The ’59 Les Paul is one of the most iconic guitars in history. Everyone seems to be chasing that magical tone from ’59, featuring the original PAF humbuckers. Plenty of pickup manufacturers produce PAF reproductions with spec-correct winding and magnets—it’s almost always a cinch to swap out pickups to upgrade your tone and get closer to that vintage 50s tone… however, you’d still be missing a critical piece of the sonic puzzle.
To get as close to true 50s Les Paul tone as possible, you’ll want to do the curiously named (!) “50s Wiring” on your pickups. This wiring is also commonly referred to as “Vintage Wiring” – Gibson used to wire Les Pauls this way in the 50s but eventually stopped and changed to what we consider “standard” wiring today. However, the ’59 Les Paul made appearances on so many legendary recordings that this wiring is still a desired and sought after tweak to your modern day Les Pauls (or any dual-humbucker equipped guitar).
So—what’s the “mod” in 50s Wiring? It’s freakishly simple: you connect the tone pot to the output of the volume pot (normally, it is wired to the input). Here’s Gibson’s diagram to show you what the wiring looks like in the Vintage Wiring mod: