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Paul Rodgers, Jimmy Page, The Firm, and Number One • Part Two

If you missed Part One. Click here.

Let's take a look at the electronics and bridge pickup in Number One. But before we do, listen to her in the hands of her master.

Turn it up loud!

In this video, Jimmy didn't have any wheels under his pickguard, and his pots didn't push or pull. And if you watch closely, his bridge pickup had a cover on it! He loved to play the shell game with the bridge pickup cover. At that point, the harness was still original, and the bridge pickup hiding under the cover was a T-Top. We're sure about the pickup in the video because it was filmed in 1973. More about that later. Now back to the Gibson reissues and all these electronic mods.

You know what happened? In 1984 Jimmy hooked up with Paul Rodgers and they formed The Firm. Think about it for a minute. It's 1984. Van Halen is kicking ass, Kiss just took off their makeup, and Bon Jovi is about two years away from nearly putting them all out of business. I was there. I was 21 years old and I watched every minute of it. It was glorious!

The Firm needed a hit, and Jimmy wanted more tonal range from his Les Pauls. He started with Number Two. He took it to a luthier who got creative. He installed two roller wheels under the pickguard, and changed the pickups and pots. I get the impression today that Jimmy never fully bonded with all the changes. Thank goodness it didn't get carved out for a Floyd Rose!  But he did find one thing that was useful: a tone control that threw the pickups out of phase. It made him think of Peter Green. So he replaced the T-Top in Number One with a Seymour Duncan with four-conductor wiring, and it sits that way to this day. And that's what Gibson reissued a decade ago. It's a completely different guitar than what Jimmy played in Led Zeppelin.

Rewind to 1971.

Did you see that killer photo at the top of this post? That's pretty sweet, isn't it? Jimmy's just smoking. And look! He pulled the bridge cover off and showed us his double white!

You've seen him bang on the guitar with that big bow, and those old PAFs weren't built to take that kind of punishment—so that double white died early in 1972.

Now, this was way before original PAFs were worth ten grand a set—but he loved those pickups, so he made one attempt to save the bridge on tour in Australia in February of 1972. 

Merv Cargill and his son have a workshop in Seaford, Victoria, Australia and they've been working on guitars since the '60s. Merv is now retired, but he still potters around the workshop while his son runs the business. When Jimmy's bridge pickup failed for the first time on the Australian tour of '72, it was sent to Merv for repair. It's been debated over the years whether Merv swapped out the PAF for a T Top, but he did not. He repaired the pickup. This photo, taken on that tour in February of 1972 is evidence.

Unfortunately, it failed again the next year. Enough! He found a new Les Paul, ripped the pickup out of it, and stuck it in Number One. Early 70s Gibson humbuckers are known as T-Tops, and they're all double black. So the cover went back on.

Led Zeppelin IV was released on November 8, 1971.

Jimmy recorded this absolutely amazing album with the original double-white. So instead of the black pickup from the 80s that Gibson installed, we're going with our double-white A3 Deluxe PAF at the bridge. It's been a long time, been a long time...

One more thing: the jack plate.

You're used to seeing this.

That's solid steel and it gets the job done. But it's not going to be on this guitar because that didn't happen until later on.

In 1971–72, for whatever reason, Jimmy and his techs we're doing their best to make the cream plastic plate work; to the point that they literally turned it and drilled new holes. It looks like a diamond!

And that's what we made for the CreamTone ZEP•IV Ultimate Number One—a perfect replica of the diamond!

We'll bring it all together in Part Three. And we owe a debt of gratitude to James Barclay for his invaluable assistance. Thank you, sir!

Continue to Part Three

Or if you missed Part One: 

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