Following the introduction of the Les Paul Model in 1952, Gibson released the Les Paul Custom in late 1953. Conceived as a higher end model, the Custom had a bound ebony fingerboard with large pearl block position markers, a multi-bound headstock with pearl inlay and all gold-plated hardware. The mahogany and maple body was finished in an opaque black color and was multi-bound in white and black binding. With wider fret wire filed down to a minimum height, it had a very “fast” feel to the neck and carried the moniker The Fretless Wonder in the Gibson catalogue, selling for $325.00. Today the Custom is more often referred to as the Black Beauty.
This guitar was presented to David Gilmour by guitar legend Les Paul in appreciation of his guest performance at the Les Paul Tribute Concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, on 18th August 1988, in between shows with Pink Floyd on the third North American leg of the A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour. Gilmour performed a soulful blues solo, later returning to the stage for a guitar jam with a star-studded cast of musicians including Waylon Jennings, B.B. King, Steve Miller, Eddie Van Halen and Les Paul. Meeting B.B. King for the first time that evening, Gilmour recalls that after King heard him play, he approached him with the plaudit Hey, boy, are you sure you wasn't born in Mississippi? The full show was released on VHS in 1988 as Les Paul & Friends: He Changed the Music. Gilmour kept the guitar for studio use.