Archive for April, 2010

What’s so Cool about the 58s?

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Well, other than being the first year the 335 existed, there are a few elements that haven’t been seen since.  The early ones have an unbound neck. It wasn’t long before Gibson must have decided that neck binding looked a little classier than having the fret ends showing, so shortly after its introduction, the unbound neck 335 went away forever. I, for one, think they look very cool.  58’s are unique in a few other ways. No one ever mentions this but a player who came to my home with a friend to pick up a 62 block neck from me brought along a 58. He made a point of showing me that the plywood top only had 2 plies instead of 3. I don’t know whether this adds a bit of resonance or not but when I played this particular 58, it just sang. Great neck profile too. Not quite the baseball bat of an early 50s Les Paul but very big and comfortable. It is perhaps the nicest 335 I’ve ever played. Better than any I’ve owned anyway. It had a beautiful dark sunburst finish and was well cared for. He said it was $60K at the time but I think these have dropped a good bit since. I saw a nice one last week up in Vancouver for $32K. Owner was a nice guy too. Another interesting element is the body shape. While it has the well known “Mickey Mouse Ears”, they seem ever so slightly narrower and pointier than those on the 59-63s. They came in Sunburst and Natural and had the well loved dot markers. No red ones yet. Shipping totals for the 58: 267 Sunburst and 50 Naturals. Here’s one from my friend Tom Hollyers ES-335 website HERE . It is an unbound example with just a hint of flame in the top. Holy crap.

Why Do I Dump on the 70’s?

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Well, if you were there for the 70’s, you know how badly they sucked. The 70’s didn’t really start right away. It’s not like after New Years Eve 1969, everything immediately sucked. It took some time-like almost 3 years. Rock and Roll got generic-everybody seemed to sound like Thin Lizzy which was, in fact founded in Dublin in December of 69, so the sucking was up and running just in time. Then there was disco. But this blog is about guitars, so I’ll cut the rant short and get to the goods. Gibson, by 1970 had been sold to a company called the Norlin Corp. who, among other things was a beer distributor which they should have stuck with. While Norlin showed up in December of 68, their cost cutting and corner cutting didn’t take hold right away. The Great American Guitar Boom peaked in 1967 and, it seemed, that everyone who wanted a guitar had bought one because in 1968, the wheels started coming off the industry. That’s the year Fender nearly dropped the venerable Stratocaster from its line. Sales of 335s went from nearly 6000 in 67 to around 3500 in 68 to only around 2000 in 1969. So, what did Norlin do? Well, they took the dot off the “i” in Gibson. That must have saved them a ton of money but at least it didn’t affect the tone. Plastic (fiberboard) headstock overlays replaced holly, the maple center block was cut down, the necks went from one piece to 3 piece. Finishes got pretty crappy too. And then there was the volute-that bump of wood behind the headstock that’s supposed to make it stronger. It doesn’t really affect tone in any significant way but everybody seems to hate it-including me. But, by the early 70’s, sales had picked up again and profitability was the Norlin rallying cry. But the guitars, by 70 had started their big decline. There are some very good early 70s examples, although you have to look a lot harder to find one. I’ve never and I mean NEVER played a 58-64 ES 335 that wasn’t good. They aren’t all wonderful but they are all good. The deeper you get into the 70’s, the worse they get. Fit and finish by 76 was crap. They changed the body shape in 76 or so and it was awful. They added electronic gimmickry like coil taps and even active electronics in the “Artist” series. Hardware got cheaper, the ABR-1 bridge was discontinued and the wider “harmonica” bridge and the “Nashville” bridge were utilized-presumably for their wider adjustability so the “luthiers” could be more lax about things like scale length. The story goes on but the larger point is that there would never had been a vintage guitar movement if the available guitars hadn’t gotten so bad in the 70’s. It caused many players to look backwards to the “Golden Era” and buy the great guitars of the 50s and 60s. So, if you’re a player with a very limited budget, look at the 70-73 ES 335 but play it before you buy it. Also, the prices on these have run up big time, so don’t spend $4000 on a 70’s ES 335. If you’ve got that kind of scratch, buy a Historic. They are just better guitars. I have a 2009 block neck Historic and I love it. There’s much more to say about the early ones, so we’ll leave the 70’s behind for now and concentrate on the good stuff.

Here’s a Rare One

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I just acquired one of the great ES 335 rarities. I haven’t received it yet but I should have it by the middle of the week. It’s a Pelham Blue Trini Lopez Standard which, to those who aren’t old enough to remember Trini, is one of the first artist editions Gibson ever made. They began shipping in late 1964 and were in production until 1971. It’s essentially an ES 335 with a special tailpiece, a Firebird style neck and headstock and diamond shaped F-holes. There is a full hollow body model as well. There were around 1700 of these shipped and, according to folklore, there are only 12 blue ones. They are mostly red and there were a number of burgundy ones as well. You can see an example (in red) in the photo at the top of the blog (until I change it)

Welcome to the Gibson ES 335/345/355 Blog

Monday, April 12th, 2010

This would be post number one, I guess. I probably know about as much about the ES series of guitars from Gibson as anyone on the planet. They have been a passion for more than 40 years. I’ve owned  every year from 1959 though 1968-never a 1958, though. I’ve had a few from the 80’s as well. The current models are beginning to approach the “Golden Era” guitars and that’s a good thing. The Historic line of 335s (the dot and the block) are extremely pricey but very well made and they sound almost as good as one from the 50s or 60s.  As a collector, I’m always interested in acquiring these guitars and as anexpert, I’m happy to share my knowledge of them.  If you have one to sell, let me know and if you post a photo or email it to me, I’ll should be able to tell you what year it is and approximately what it might bring on the open market. I’m  not going to post a chart of what these are worth because the range is huge and the prices change on just about a weekly basis.  I will make a few general points though. A 335 is nearly always going to be worth more than a comparable 345 or 355 because of demand. A natural finish will be worth more than others since they are rarer. This goes only for vintage. Guitars from the 50’s through 1964 are worth more than any other in this model. Mid to late 60’s examples can be great guitars and pretty valuable. I would avoid 70’s guitars unnless you have a limited budget and you’re a player. They are not particularly well made. This improved in 1981 with the “dot reissue”. These can be terrific players and, I believe, are a collectible of the future. The ones with a one piece neck are the ones to look for. The 3 piece can be just as nice-I just don’t like 3 piece necks.  No reason given. I don’t need one. My blog.  The dot reissue continued through the sale of Gibson to Henry Juskiewicz in 1986. Mr. J has made considerable improvements to the model and reintroduced the 345 and 355 as Custom Shop models. Along with his improvements came much higher prices. More later