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Any "Fretless Wonder" fans?

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
I just purchased a 1972 Les Paul Custom, one of the last of the original factory "Fretless Wonder" guitars. It sounds awesome through the Axe Fx II, and is shockingly 100% original right down to those frets (you can tell by the neck binding work of the day). I started playing professionally on a 72 SG so I have always had a soft spot for that script Gibson embossed on the pickup covers. Beautiful guitar, good memories.

This is the first LP Custom I have had (though far from the first Les Paul), and I know they started using more "normal" frets shortly after this one was made. Honestly, it is a little hard to get along with after decades of more standard Gibson, Fender, and PRS frets. I liked the guitar so much I knew I could refret it if I wanted, but have found this fret(less) setup makes me play cleaner and won't tolerate sloppy fretting so it has become my "workout" guitar at the moment. I really have to pay attention to play it cleanly.

I wondered if anyone was a fan of the "Fretless Wonder" setup, or if the oddness of it's feel is why you don't see it any more. As a Norlin era guitar, the 70's models don't hold the value of the 50's and 60's models so a refret wouldn't be like spray painting a Monet, so I knew going in I could always change it later. Like I said, it's and awesome guitar in great shape. The fretting just seems bizarre to me!

For those who have played the real (prior to about 74 or so) Fretless Wonders: love them, hate them, tips on technique or fave settings with the Axe Fx II?

View attachment 20946
 
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Rotti

Fractal Fanatic
I really dig FW setups... I can't say that I do anything different with the AFX because of it though. Nice guitar! I know about some of the consistency issues, but 70's LPs are badass and highly underrated IMO.
 

Crandles

Member
You might be able to find a bit more love over at Unfretted - Fretless Guitar Resource. (although maybe not as Axe-FX related). Awhile back I converted a Dean Vendetta into a fretless after I saw David Fiuczynski play one but it's been so long since I've touched it and I haven't tried it with the Axe yet. How long was the "Fretless Wonder" in production? It seems there were a few companies that sort of experimented with the fretless world for a bit in the 70s but never stuck with it so it's become kind of an oddity as far as I can tell.
 

merlin17

Power User
Crandles, the "fretless wonder" is not fretless, but the height of the frets is so small that they are called FW.
 

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
I'm not great resource on them, but I believe Gibson fretted the Customs this way from the mid-50s to approximately 74 or 75. That's totally from memory, so it might be a few years either way. As there wasn't a Les Paul made in many of those middle years, it's probably about a 10 "real year" production period. I, like many guitarists, remember the guitars that were most popular when I was starting and Gibsons ruled the roost for rockers in the 1970s. I always thought the Customs were beautiful guitars.

Clarky is correct, it's not truly fretless. It just has very low and flat frets that you hardly feel, hence the moniker. What I notice most is my fingertips dragging the fretboard, something I am not accustomed to feeling. So far, it just seems a guitar that requires a lot of articulation. Knowing it is an easy fix to change makes me want to leave it a while and experiment. So I'm going to play this one like it is for a bit and see what I think later. It'll find it's place, I'm sure.
 

BBN

Fractal Fanatic
I've got two fretless wonders.....love them.
Give it some time, you'll get used to them....and eventually I suspect you'll find the guitar very easy to play.
 

Rex

Legend!
I tried a fretless wonder around 1970. Never really cottoned to it. They're nice for chording and playing straight runs, and they stay in tune pretty well if you're a player who really squeezes the neck hard. But they're not so fun for bends, and intonation can be iffy when the frets aren't crowned. Some folks love 'em, though.
 

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
Pretty guitar, Big Dog. I think the Norlin era guitars have their own beauty, and it is funny how "demand" develops. I've played some 50s Les Pauls that were absolute dogs, but worth a fortune, and some 70s guitars of limited value that ripped. As soon as production moved to Nashville, the Kalamazoo guitars became desirable. The market is a fickle place, but it works out for me that these haven't yet gone through the roof. Who knows what will happen once they top the 50 year mark? Many of us recall the 50s LPs not being very expensive in the 70s, and now I'd have to mortgage the house! Right now an investment in enjoyment and personal history. Maybe more later, but I am enjoying it now.
 
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dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
I've always loved the Norlin era of guitars.

They certainly play/sound better on average than some of the recently made Henry J-era $2,000-$5,000 models you can find brand new at Guitar Crater or Slam Trash.
 

Wild Bill

Member
I just purchased a 1972 Les Paul Custom, one of the last of the original factory "Fretless Wonder" guitars. It sounds awesome through the Axe Fx II, and is shockingly 100% original right down to those frets (you can tell by the neck binding work of the day). I started playing professionally on a 72 SG so I have always had a soft spot for that script Gibson embossed on the pickup covers. Beautiful guitar, good memories.

This is the first LP Custom I have had (though far from the first Les Paul), and I know they started using more "normal" frets shortly after this one was made. Honestly, it is a little hard to get along with after decades of more standard Gibson, Fender, and PRS frets. I liked the guitar so much I knew I could refret it if I wanted, but have found this fret(less) setup makes me play cleaner and won't tolerate sloppy fretting so it has become my "workout" guitar at the moment. I really have to pay attention to play it cleanly.

I wondered if anyone was a fan of the "Fretless Wonder" setup, or if the oddness of it's feel is why you don't see it any more. As a Norlin era guitar, the 70's models don't hold the value of the 50's and 60's models so a refret wouldn't be like spray painting a Monet, so I knew going in I could always change it later. Like I said, it's and awesome guitar in great shape. The fretting just seems bizarre to me!

For those who have played the real (prior to about 74 or so) Fretless Wonders: love them, hate them, tips on technique or fave settings with the Axe Fx II?

View attachment 20946

When you mentioned the Fretless Wonder guitars I thought you were talking about the Black Beauty. I owned a 1972 black beauty and it was a reissue of the earlier originals from the 1950s, like the one Neil Young owns. Mine looked like it had been played in every bar in Los Angeles with chunks of wood missing out of it from abuse over the years! How much does your weigh? Mine was very, very heavy. Someone had put those huge "Invader" pickups in it and I think it ruined the tone of the guitar.

I never got along with the weight of the guitar or the thin neck and small flat frets on it. My 1989 American Standard Strat has those flat top frets too. Even though they are taller frets, they are harder to maintain intonation and buzz very easy. That guitar puts a cramp in the center of my hand when I play that guitar.

I didn't own another Gibson after that experience until I got to try out the 1958 and 1959 historic Les Paul Reissues in 2007. I purchased a 1958 Gibson Les Paul reissue that had the large tall, square shoulders on the neck and my hand didn't feel right playing it. So I returned the 1958 reissue and later purchased a 1959 Les Paul reissue and loved the light weight (8lbs,14oz). The large neck but with rounded shoulders fit my hand perfectly. Of course the 59's frets are taller, with a more rounded, pointed crown like a pick shape instead of being flat like the 72' black beauty.:)
 

Robert Burke

New Member
I just purchased a 1972 Les Paul Custom, one of the last of the original factory "Fretless Wonder" guitars. It sounds awesome through the Axe Fx II, and is shockingly 100% original right down to those frets (you can tell by the neck binding work of the day). I started playing professionally on a 72 SG so I have always had a soft spot for that script Gibson embossed on the pickup covers. Beautiful guitar, good memories.

This is the first LP Custom I have had (though far from the first Les Paul), and I know they started using more "normal" frets shortly after this one was made. Honestly, it is a little hard to get along with after decades of more standard Gibson, Fender, and PRS frets. I liked the guitar so much I knew I could refret it if I wanted, but have found this fret(less) setup makes me play cleaner and won't tolerate sloppy fretting so it has become my "workout" guitar at the moment. I really have to pay attention to play it cleanly.

I wondered if anyone was a fan of the "Fretless Wonder" setup, or if the oddness of it's feel is why you don't see it any more. As a Norlin era guitar, the 70's models don't hold the value of the 50's and 60's models so a refret wouldn't be like spray painting a Monet, so I knew going in I could always change it later. Like I said, it's and awesome guitar in great shape. The fretting just seems bizarre to me!

For those who have played the real (prior to about 74 or so) Fretless Wonders: love them, hate them, tips on technique or fave settings with the Axe Fx II?

View attachment 20946
I was just looking up posts on the les Paul fret less wonder black beauties and logged onto your post. I purchased one of these fantastic guitars in '72, and it is still in use today. At the time I was looking for a Gibson with humbuckers, but the actions seemed too high compared to my '60 fender jazzmaster. Then the owner of the music store brought out a les Paul fret less wonder, and I fell in love with this easy playing, beautiful sounding guitar. I wasn't aware of the history of the les Paul, I only knew that this was going to be my guitar, and I'm still playing it in a band today. Whenever I play out with it, I get comments on it's tone and looks. I have to admit, after using my other guitars with standard fretting, it takes a set or two to really get back in the groove with the low frets, but once I do, I'm back in the groove with it. The more you play one of these the more you enjoy it. I use 009's for easier bending and have no trouble with full note bends. I hope you still have your fretlees wonder and are playing it, and enjoying it.
 

TG3K

Power User
Congrats on the new guitar! My high school graduation present in 1976 was a '67 Les Paul Custom...Black Beauty/Fretless Wonder. (Although I've had someone claim it had to be a '68, but he was a know-it-all asshat whose opinion I don't hold very high.) I loved that guitar and for me, it played like a dream. Unfortunately it was stolen from me a few years later. Since then, I've gotten more accustomed to bigger frets, so when I do pick up a FW these days, I find i have trouble getting "under" the strings to bend them.
 

Robert Burke

New Member
Congrats on the new guitar! My high school graduation present in 1976 was a '67 Les Paul Custom...Black Beauty/Fretless Wonder. (Although I've had someone claim it had to be a '68, but he was a know-it-all asshat whose opinion I don't hold very high.) I loved that guitar and for me, it played like a dream. Unfortunately it was stolen from me a few years later. Since then, I've gotten more accustomed to bigger frets, so when I do pick up a FW these days, I find i have trouble getting "under" the strings to bend them.
 

Robert Burke

New Member
Yeah, I know what you mean about the low frets. Back in '72 it wasn't a difficult transition from my Fender Jazzmaster, now if I don't practice for awhile with it I have a little diffuculty getting used to it, but it comes around rather quickly, and it's worth the effort.
 

selta

Power User
Man, I kind of got excited when I saw this thread...


Then I realized you weren't talking fretless... just small frets :(
 
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