Gibson vintage guitars have their roots in Kalamazoo, Michigan where, in 1894, an eccentric, self-taught luthier named Orville H. Gibson began making stringed instruments using the archtop design of violins as his guide. Although he began by making both guitars and mandolins, his first and only patent was granted in 1898 for a mandolin design.
Orville Gibson sold his company in 1902 and died in 1918, but his early affinity for mandolins presaged the first major success for the company that bore his name. In 1922, a Gibson engineer named Lloyd Loar designed the F5 mandolin, which featured an elevated fretboard over the instrument’s body and decorative f-holes.
Banjos would dominate the mid-1920s to mid-1930s for Gibson, but all along the company continued to make guitars. It was not recognized as a leader in this field until the 1930s when the guitar enjoyed a rise in popularity.
As with the Loar mandolin, these new 1930s Gibson guitars were archtops, usually with a trapeze tailpiece below the bridge to secure the strings and pickguards that seemed to float above the instrument’s body. The L4s of this period, which are not especially collectible despite their age, had round soundholes. The L5s, which are far more collectible, had f-holes. Other models of the day are the L7, L10, and L12, none of which were as desirable then — or as collectible today — as the L5.
The 1930s was also the decade when Gibson introduced its first electric guitars. Jazz guitarist Charlie Christian made the 1936 ES-150 famous — today, that guitar’s pickup is actually known as a Charlie Christian. After World War II, during which the company halted production due to a lack of supplies, Gibson introduced its first solid body electric guitar, the Les Paul.
There is some debate about who actually designed the Les Paul, which was introduced as a Goldtop in 1952. To hear guitarist Les Paul tell it, he is the man responsible for his namesake, but guitar author and collector George Gruhn believes the great musician may have had little do to with its design, and historians generally give Gibson president Ted McCarty most of the credit.
The collectibility of Les Pauls varies greatly depending on their vintage. Of the original, Standard models, the first Sunbursts are considered the Mother Lode of Les Pauls and e...
Another Gibson line that has proved very collectible are semi-hollow body ES 335s from 1958-1964, although the presence of a Bigsy vibrato on the guitar (a so-called whammy bar) makes it less valuable.
Key terms for Gibson Vintage Guitars:
Archtop: A stringed musical instrument whose top is rounded, either by carving a solid piece of wood or subjecting a laminated sheet to heat so it can be molded into the desired shape.
Sunburst: A finish for musical instruments that is light in the center and darker around the edges. Two of the most common sunbursts are cherry (yellow in the center fading to reddish on the outside) and three-color (yellow in the center, then reddish, then black at the edges).
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Jackson Browne's vintage guitar has a Reading connection.Reading Eagle, October 3rd
Nowadays, celebrity endorsements of various guitar models are much more commonplace, but in the early part of the 20th century, the Gibson company in Kalamazoo, Mich., sought the endorsement of only two musicians, jazz guitarist Nick Lucas in the ...Read more
Vintage Vault: 1948 Gibson L-5 Premiere NaturalPremier Guitar, September 28th
Sources for this article include The Gibson L-5: Its History and Its Players by Adrian Ingram, The Gibson Super 400: Art of the Fine Guitar by Thomas A. Van Hoose, Gibson Shipment Totals 1937-1979 by Larry Meiners, and Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an ...Read more
Viewer helps find local rocker's stolen guitars; police hope surveillance ...Q13 FOX, September 28th
That was Jarrod Medrano's first reaction when he saw his beloved Silver Burst Gibson guitar. “I would kiss it if I knew where it had been,” he said. Four of his guitars were stolen from the storage unit he rents for his small band 'Iron Islands' at the...Read more
CRIME BLOTTER: Vintage Gibson Guitar Stolen from Van on Bedford AvenueDNAinfo, September 25th
Robbers made off with a man's $3,500 vintage guitar stolen from his van parked overnight in the neighborhood last week, police said. The 1967 Gibson guitar along with a keyboard and two guitar pedals were inside a Ford van parked on the corner of Union ...Read more
Heritage Guitar Inc. co-founder J.P. Moats diesMLive.com, September 21st
When Gibson announced plans to close its Kalamazoo location after re-establishing its headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., Moats and two Gibson contemporaries decided to remain in Kalamazoo to form Heritage Guitar Inc. They started in a garage and later ...Read more
Guitar Geek's Guide to Gibson Flying Vs and ExplorersGibson, September 18th
Gibson launched the Flying V and Explorer models in 1958, as part of the company's Modernist range. Fifty-seven years on, the two remain stunning examples of guitar design. They are “rock'n'roll meets The Jetsons” (thanks for that soundbite, Mr Billy F...Read more
Gibson Guitars at Americana AwardsGibson, September 17th
The umbrella roots music genre called Americana celebrated its best and brightest with the 14th Annual Americana Honors & Awards Celebration on Wednesday, September 16, on stage at the historic Ryman Auditorium. And Gibson guitars played a vital role ...Read more
The 10 Weirdest Gibson Guitar Models Ever Created — VideoGuitar World Magazine, September 10th
We tend to think of the Gibson brand as pretty traditional. But amid all the Les Pauls, SGs and ES models the company has turned out over the years, it's easy to forget that the guitarmaker has also created numerous oddities. A while back, our friends...Read more