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This Guitar Doesn’t Exist

How cool is this? A 59 ES-345 in RED. According to "The Gibson ES-335" by Adrian Ingram, this guitar doesn't exist. I think it does.

According to the only book dedicated to the ES 335 and its siblings, there were no red ES-345s made in 1959. Tom H. has one on his website and now I have one. I’m in good company since the only other one I know of is the venerable “Red Dog” which belongs to Elvin Bishop .  This thing is so close to mint, I’m thinking about dumping bourbon on it and making juleps. The finish is perfect. Not a mark on it. The gold has a bit of wear-it was owned by a professional jazz player, so it was played but cared for. I bought it from the nephew of the original owner. It’s mind blowing, it’s so clean. You can see that the tuner buttons have shrunk which happens a lot to 59’s in particular which have been in their cases for long periods of time. This one sat undisturbed for more than 20 years. It always astounds me when something that’s nearly as old as I am survives the slings and arrows for so long. How do you play a guitar for 20 years and not smack into a cymbal or a mike stand. I guess because jazzers usually sit when they play, they don’t knock into stuff as much. I’m not sure what

The red finish in 59 was a bit more orange than in later years. Early 355s are usually this shade.

I’m going to do with this one. I’m certainly going to play it.  It’s too nice to take out of the house but it’s a great player for home. I’m always a little scared of guitars in this kind of condition. Even the case is in great shape. One of the great joys of collecting, buying and selling guitars is that you meet so many interesting people. I almost always drive when I pick up a guitar that’s within 8 hours of home. I spent 8 hours in the car today and was fully prepared to turn around empty handed if it didn’t check out.  I drove 6 hours to New Hampshire to look at a ’60 blonde 345 that turned out to be refinished. I walked. This guitar was sold the moment I saw it. As long as it wasn’t broken, I was going to own it. And this points out a very important element of buying vintage ES-335s/345s and 355s. If you can, go see it before you commit to it. Make an offer and make it contingent on it being everything the seller says it is. It limits your range, unless you have a private jet or loads of flyer miles, but it can pay off in so many ways. While there are very few bad pre 1969 ES guitars, it is still very hard to ascertain condition from photos. This one looked like an 8.0 from the photos. The finish was dull and looked to be faded. When it turned out to be a 9.5+, I was pleasantly surprised and since I had already made my offer, I was even more pleased. But had something been wrong-a cracked headstock? Changed pickups? There are a hundred things to look for and it just isn’t possible to check everything out from a photo. I’ve certainly done that dozens of times but I’ve had my share of surprises-including a cracked headstock that didn’t show in the photos that the seller insisted must have happened in shipping (right and did the glue get into the crack while it was in the hold of a 747)?  Then there’s playability. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about “sustains for days” and “screaming PAFs” and “Clapton tone” and who knows what else. It may have all those things but you won’t know it until it’s in your house if you buy it without playing it first.  It’s nice that many dealers-including me-offer you a period of time to check the guitar out and play with the option of returning it.  But you still have to pay for the shipping-both ways if you return it.  So, go out and buy yourself a new old guitar. It can make your week and you might even meet some nice people while you’re at it. And see new places, too. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the guitar of your dreams.

Can you say "figured maple"? OK, it's plywood but it's still maple and figured.

Nice case too

4 Responses to “This Guitar Doesn’t Exist”

  1. Mike says:

    …I could be wrong, but I believe Elvin Bishop’s old “Red Dog” is a red 1959 ES-345.

  2. OKguitars says:

    Yes, it is. I thought it was a ’60 but I just checked and you’re right. So that makes 3 I know of. Red Dog has the gold Varitone ring as does the one at ES-335.net. Mine is the only black ring red 59 I’ve seen.

  3. Mike says:

    Gibson?…consistent?….lol.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    What was I thinking.

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