Some Gibson Mythology

Here's a pretty shot of a 65 Byrdland that I snagged from the "Just Jazz Guitars" collection. Yep, some of these had a PAF in them. It's also pretty likely that it was made earlier than 1965.

I often wonder how George Gruhn and a few others can be experts in all vintage guitars.  By keeping my focus narrow-too narrow some say-I’m able to concentrate on the smallest and seemingly most insignificant elements of them. If I had to become an expert in, say, Telecasters, I’d have to own a few from each year, study them intently and write about them. That’s a couple years of work right there to get to the point I’ve gotten to over 20 years with 335s and their brethren. I could read everything there is to know about them but then I’d be just rehashing the same stuff everybody knows including the urban myths that seem to follow so many guitars around. It’s like the “GIbson went back to 1 11/16″ nuts in 1968” myth or the “68 Les Pauls were made from leftover bodies” myth. There are quite a few of these and they get repeated over and over again. Recently, I received an email from a potential buyer who really wanted a 64 ES-345. He loved the neck shape-as I do- and he loved the pointier cutaways that showed up after Gibson retooled the 335 template in mid to late ’63. “I want you to find me one with PAFs. I know that the gold hardware Gibsons had PAFs as late as 1967.” Everybody says this and, somehow, of the 40 or 50 ’64 (not even ’67) ES-345s that I’ve inspected or seen photos of, I’ve yet to come across a single PAF. They made around 400 of them in 64, so I’ve only seen around 12% of them, so I could still be wrong but I don’t think so. Here’s where I believe the information comes from: The big archtop guitars often had a narrow spaced neck pickup (and some had both pickups narrow spaced). These were low volume instruments and they sold very few of them. In fact, by ’64, a lot of the big hollow bodies with gold hardware had gone out of production.  The ES-350 was gone by ’63. The Switchmaster was gone. The ES-295 was gone. The were only 42 Super 400’s, 76 Byrdlands and 52 L-5CES’s. The rest of the big hollow bodies had nickel parts, I believe (Kessel, Farlow). My contention? The only guitars you will see with gold PAFs after 1963 are these low volume instruments that were likely built before 1964 and got their PAFs in 63 or earlier and sat at the factory until some  music store somewhere got an order for one. I also know, from speaking to a former Gibson employee that the manufacturing floor at Gibson in 65, 66 and 67 was chaos. They had so many orders, especially for lower end guitars that it was hard for them to keep up so when you see these minuscule numbers of archtops during the period, it makes more sense that they weren’t spending their time building the high end stuff because they weren’t what was selling. As I mentioned, there were 400 or so ES-345s built in 64. By ’67, there would be 1144. ES 335s are even more dramatic -about 1240 in 64 up to 5700 or so in 67. So, it’s clear that they kept on building the gold hardware 345s in large numbers but saw an actual decrease in L5CES’s, Byrdlands and S-400’s. I don’t have the shipping totals through 67 on these but the fact that the numbers of the big archtops dropped from 64 to 65 which marks the start of the “guitar boom” that followed closely on the heels of the British Invasion shows that the PAFs that do show up in were either narrow spaced or perhaps mounted in previous years models that were carried over past ’63 when nickel covered PAFs are known to have run out. So, is there a ’64-’67 345 with gold PAFs? I don’t think there is. Are there high end hollow bodies with them past ’64? I would say yes as there is documentation that they exist. If someone out there has a 64 or later ES 345 with a PAF in it that is original, send me a photo. I will eat my words (as long as I can eat them with a scoop of ice cream).

Here's a very nice ES-345 that I had for a very short time (these don't last). It had 2 patent number pickups. Just like all the 345's after 63 that I've seen. PAFs in a post 63 ES-345? Go ahead, find one. I dare ya.

5 Responses to “Some Gibson Mythology”

  1. Plantier says:

    Hi , i’m french guitar lover. I have just fallen on your post… Know You Where Is This guitar At present and if it is for sale? Is the one of my dreams!
    Sorry for m’y bad english and thank’s for your answer!

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Yes. I have it.

  3. Plantier says:

    Do you sell it

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Long gone, mon frere. I get lots of 345s. Keep watching my Gbase page, that’s always the most up to date.

  5. Plantier says:

    I’m damned!

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