As mentioned in the Gibson Flying V section, by late 1974 Larry Harris had secured what amounted to a sponsorship (rather than an endorsement deal) that allowed the band to avail themselves of Gibson guitars in exchange for playing them live (almost) exlusively. Although this would allow the band to procure new instruments it doesn't appear as if they always chose to do so. Case in point is this Les Paul that was used as a backup in 1975 and made its most auspicious appearance in Ace's hands on the cover of Alive! The guitar is a modified Les Paul Deluxe as evidenced by the lack of binding on the back of the body, no headstock inlay or binding, and the truss rod cover (see this picture
from the shooting of the promo videos on May 15). It only shows up in Paul's hands on one occasion in Milwaukee on May 6 and there might be a single pic of Ace playing it in Fayetteville in April. (It can also be seen standing on the side of the stage in Pittsburgh, PA on April 15.) For such an iconic guitar, gracing the cover of the band's best-selling album, it enjoyed a surprisingly short stay in the band's arsenal.
There is the outside chance that this guitar might have been a special order Les Paul. Between 1972-75 Gibson offered the option to special order a Les Paul Deluxe with full-size humbuckers and a truss rod cover inscribed with the word "Standard". (The real Les Paul Standard wasn't brought back until 1976 after being on hiatus since 1960 when the original was changed into the SG. The Standard that turned up in the 1968 catalog was more or less a precursor to the Deluxe.) As seen in the pic of Ace above the truss rod cover probably says Deluxe and although Ace doesn't specify what model Les Paul it was, the modifications were apparently his. "The guitar on the cover of Alive!, I painted black. I bought it used, I can't remember what color it was before, but I painted it black, put cream DiMarzios on it and added the center pickup." (Guitars that Rule the World in Metal Edge Presents KISS Alive 1996
) It might seem like an unlikely modification but it was far from unusual to swap out the mini-humbuckers for full-size ones in the early 70's when the Standard wasn't available as a catalog item. (One only has to recall the heavily modified Les Paul Deluxes that Pete Townsend used to play.) If the paint job really was Ace's work, and the finish appears slightly more matte than usual for the time, it is really a nice job. The masking of the binding alone has to have been very meticulously done.