Tag Archives: gibson

This is an actual, published Gibson advert from 1986

Gibson_1986Good lord.  Here it is.  A dispatch from the absolute nadir of the Gibson musical instrument company.  This comp resembles nothing so much as this piece of graphic-design genius earlier described on this site.  Who would have guessed that this company, responsible for the best electric and acoustic guitars of the 20th century, would have fallen so low?  And even more surprising: that they bounced back in a mere 20 years, becoming the behemoth that they are today?

Gibson_1988Two years later (1988 – above), Gibson was back to running full-page ads (this one’s for you, RR…).  Note the hilarious high-school-notebook-style illustration work which attempts to position Gibson above “NoName, NoTone, Yamawho (Yamaha), Cartel (Charvel), IBenHad (Ibanez), Kromer (Kramer – ???), and Blender (again, don’t really get how this is a dig).

Gibson Guitars in the 80s


Above: The Gibson Victory MV-X model guitar c. 1982

Gibson Guitars had a tough time in the 1980s; starting the decade, quality was indifferent at best, competition from Japan was intense, and Gibson’s strength as a ‘heritage’ brand was out-of-sync with the NEW NEW NEW vibe of hair metal, slick RnB, and new wave.  The turnaround of this brand at the hands of Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman, and Gary A. Zebrowski was one of the most dramatic in the history of instrument-manufacture, and maybe even American industry in general.  From a near-zero valuation in 1986, they grew the brand into a massive enterprise and improved quality significantly.  I am perhaps a bit biased because Gibson was a generous and helpful benefactor of my brief career as a performer; and as I have noted before on these pages, I recently bought a shiny new (yup) J-45 and the I think the thing is just fantastic.  But anyhow. Here are a few images from Gibson’s darkest decade.

Gibson_Victory_bass_1982 Gibson_LesPaul_Custom_1986 Gibson_LesPaul_1981 Gibson_BB_king_1981Above: The Victory Bass (1982), The Les Paul Custom (avec ‘Ferrari’) (1986), The Les Paul (1981), and the introduction of the ‘BB KING’ ES-355 variant (1981).

The Guitar: 1964

Download a five-page scan from “A World Of Music,” Fall 1964: the subject is ‘the guitar,’ and we are treated to a visit to the Gibson guitar factory.

DOWNLOAD: A_World_Of_Music_Fall1964

AFAIK, this piece on the Gibson plant has not been reprinted anywhere… not sure if there are any actual insights here but what the hell.  Alright so…  haven’t been updating the site too often lately and it’s not for a lack of subject matter.  My lord do I ever have a big pile of new (old) stuff to upload. Just been short on time. Working hard tryin to make some dinero to pay for all the wonderful things in life…  like a new timing belt for my VW.  Love/hate cars.  OK NEways… Anyone out there playin an old Fender Jaguar?

Saw this ad in the aforementioned issue of ” A World of etc.”  I use a 1968 Jaguar (with flatwounds) pretty much everyday… it’s one of my regular electrics in my lil home writing studio.  It sounds great but my god does it ever play badly, even after two ‘PRO’ setups.  Anyone?


Misc Electric Guitar Bits circa 1980

BC Rich Bich advert 1979.  Just in case you weren’t sure what the shape of the instrument is intended to mimic.  

Doing some PD dot com housecleaning today and I came across all of these lil’ orphan-ads for random bits of circa ’80 guitar technology.  Happy Friday.

Joe Perry promotes Bill Lawrence pickups circa 1981.  This would have been during the JOE PERRY PROJECT era.  I have never heard passive pickups with more output than Bills.

Not so much an electric-guitar ad but rather an anti-electric guitar ad.  Guild Dreadnought circa 1980.

Hohner electric guitars circa 1979.  I am guessing that these are Asian-made instruments but I can’t say for sure… that Epiphone-Wilshire-esque thing on the left is pretty intriguing…

Ovation Deacon…

…and Viper circa 1979.

Gibson RD, ES, and Les Paul ‘Artist’ lineup of 1979.  These instruments had active electronics, including an on-board compressor.

Misc Electric Guitar bits c. 1966

Above: Tony Mottola with a Gibson ES -355 in 1966.

Misc Fender guitars circa 1966: a Coronado 2, an acoustic (perhaps a Villager?), a Jaguar, and the humble Musicmaster.

Above: the very rare Gretsch Fury Amp circa 1966.  This is actually a fairly unique amplifier.  There is one on eBay right now that’s about to sell and it has two output transformers: whether this is a 2-way system or perhaps an dry/effects split operation or panning tremolo I cannot tellCan anyone provide a schematic for this unit?  It does not seem to be currently available on the ‘net.

Above: The Harmony Silhouette guitar circa 1966.  I passed on an unplayed, flawless example of this thing for $175 last year and wow do i regret it.  While not a great instrument in most senses, in the right hands these Harmonys have a zing-y percussive tone that cannot be imitated.  The instrument’s personality comes across even in the iphone-audience-recording that’s i’ve inserted below.  Great Lennon-meets-Hendrix playing here.  Also btw check out how Annie Clark (or her FOH guy,,,) flips on the vox ADT effect for the choruses.  Great performance all around.

Gibson Electric Guitars and Amplifiers 1956

Download the twenty-page 1956 Gibson Electric Guitars and Amplifiers Catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Gibson_Elec_1956_cat

Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Gibson Super 400 CESN, L-5 CESN, ES-5 Switchmaster, Byrdland, ES-175, ES-175 DN, ES-350T, ES-125, ES-295, and ES-240 hollow-body electric guitars, Gibson GA-90, GA-77, GA-55 V, GA-70, GA-40 ‘Les Paul,’ GA-30, GA-20, GA-6, GA-9, and Gibsonette amplifiers; Gibson Les Paul Custom, Les Paul, Les Paul special, Les Paul Junior, and ES-225 electric guitars; Gibson J-160 E acoustic/electric, EM-150 electric mandolin, Gibson Electric Bass;  Ultratone, Century, BR-6, Console Grande, Consolette, Electraharp, and Multiharp steel guitars, plus more.

The 1956 GA-90 ‘High-Fidelity Amplifier,’ with six 8″ speakers and promised 20-20K hz frequency response (really?).

This very rare catalog is something special for fans of the electric guitar.  We see a number of trends developing – the solidbody electric guitar, ‘true vibrato’ circuits in amplifiers, high-wattage amps…  and a few notably absent: humbucking pickups and amplifier reverb.  These were right around the bend though…  Download and enjoy.

Original catalog image of the 1956 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Gibson’s 1956 ES-225T, the first of their many semi-hollow body guitars, the most iconic of which is the ES-335.   I borrowed a friend’s ES-225T for a few weeks in high school and I still have very fond memories of it… great guitars, very expensive today.

The 1956 Gibson 350T.  A slightly less-fancy Byrdland, also with a medium-scale neck.

The 1956 Gibson ES-140, their short-scale offering of the era.  An artist whom I regularly work with at Gold Coast Recorders often brings one of these to sessions, and it is a seriously fun sitting-on-the-couch guitar with a seriously noisy single-coil pickup.

The 1956 Gibson GA-6, one of their most classic amps.  Very similar to a Tweed Fender Deluxe.  Fantastic amplifier.

The 1956 Gibson Les Paul.  We have a clone of one of these (based on a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe) at Gold Coast Recorders and it sounds great.  1956 was an important year in the development of the Les Paul as it marked the appearance of the tune-a-matic bridge: it was now possible to intonate your guitar quickly and accurately, AND also customize the string feel and sustain characteristic by setting the stud to get the break angle that you want. 

Gibson Guitar Amplifers: 1966

Download a twelve-page scan of the entire guitar-amp line represented in Gibson’s 1966 catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Gibson_amps_1966

Models covered, with specs and photos, include: Gibson GSS-100, GSS-50, and PLUS-50 solid-state amplifiers; Gibson Titan, Mercury, Atlas, and Atlas Medalist (Bass) amps; Vanguard GA-77, Apollo GA-95, Multi-stereo GA-79, Ranger GA-66, and Saturn GA-45 Reverb/Tremolo amps; Lancer GA-35, Minuteman GA-20 RVT, Explorer GA-15 RVT, Recording GA-75 and GA-75L, Skylark GA-5 and GA-5T practice/studio amps.

Above is some of the most awful product-prose that I have ever encountered, taken directly from p.16 of the 1966 catalog.  ‘Butterflies, Stroking, Squeezing the full measure …..’  Were these people fucking high?  Actually, the problem is that they probably weren’t high.  Yet.  1966 seems to have been a decisive year in musical-instrument marketing; the very last year that manufacturers denied the very existence of Rock and Roll.  Most of the catalogs and advertisements from 1966 (and earlier) were very staid, grown-up, and had a romantic rather than… aquarian… sensibility.  In 1967 we start to see the bright colors, bold graphic design, and general emphasis on youth that remain in most musical-instrument marketing even today.

Above, the Gibson Atlas.  What a beautiful piece of industrial design this is.  After I came across this catalog, I looked for any examples of this unit for sale.  I could not find a single one.  While I am sure that the Gibson Atlas did not ship in nearly the same numbers as, say, a Fender Bassman, there is another reason that these 60’s Gibson amps are not too common today: reliability and build quality.  While Gibson amps of the 1940s-60s are excellent sounding in general, Leo Fender really had these midwesterners beat as far as construction quality.  Earlier this month I serviced a couple of early 60s Gibsons for a client.  Opening up a mint-condition Gibson circa ’62 student amp… I can’t recall the model, but it was a PP 6AQ5 amp with fixed-depth trem…  anyway, opened it up to find a few haphazardly placed terminal strips, and even a few multi-component junctions meeting in mid-air.  This is in sharp contract to the build of even the cheapest Fenders, all of which have carefully laid-out, serviceman-friendly terminal boards.  The same construction techniques you will find in much military and commercial hardware of the pre-PCB age.  This is not surprising when you remember that Leo Fender began his career as a radio repairman rather than as a luthier or musician.  As you (IF you) learn to design and build tube audio equipment, take some time to open up as many old pieces of hardware as you can find.  $2, $5 pieces… old test equipment, radios, organs…  check out the construction and mounting techniques, lead dress, solder joints…  you will find a huge variety of techniques used, all of which will have some useful applications in your own work.  This is all the stuff that can’t learn from schematics, and certainly not from reading (blogs) online.