I just returned from a time killing trip to Sam Ash. I have been toying with getting a Les Paul so I decided to start there. I played several Les Paul Classics (all used). Great sound but not so great playability. On a whim I decided to try out an Epiphone Les Paul Standard to see how much "better" the Gibson was than the Epi. Holy shnikees!! The Epi played a LOT better than all 3 Gibsons that I played. Granted the pickups in the Epi were not quite as "thick" as the Gibson but I figure a pickup change can take care of that. Just to make sure this wasn't a fluke I picked up another Epi and gave it a test run. Once again, much better playability than the Gibby. Now I'm convinced that if I buy one of the Epis and put some WCR Darkbursts or some '57 pickups in it I will have a great guitar for gigs and I won't need to worry about it getting banged up. Granted the resale value of the Epi will be nothing like the Gibby but that's OK, I will just plan on keeping it. There's a lesson here. Don't write off a certain brand of guitar because you perceive them to be of "less quality" than another brand. Now I have to pick a color.