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A Very Cool One Off

Rare as they come-a blonde block neck. Certainly a custom order. The fact that it has the "custom" truss rod cover actually helps authenticate it and the fact that its a lefty helps too. Who would fake a lefty? It's a stunning and important find. Too bad I'm not the one who found it.

I love the odd ones. The one of a kinds. The ones that make Gibson so unpredictable. Gibson will insist that they never made a red 345 in 1959 (they made at least 5) or a sunburst 355 (I know of at least 2) or a mono 345 (still haven’t seen one). But they made a fair number of custom guitars and one of them walked into my studio this week and dazzled. There are no blonde block necks made between 62 and 68, right? ┬áThere are 69 and later. Well, there’s one that I know of now. And it’s a lefty. It kind of makes sense in a slightly illogical way. Lefties were usually special orders and as long as you have to have your guitar made for you, why not ask for something beyond the available finishes? The guitar shown at the top has a 64 serial number, a very 64 like neck and a most un-64 like body. Those are full on Mickey Mouse ears and they aren’t generally seen past mid 63 or so. So, how did this very cool one of a kind come about? My guess is that it was special ordered by a shop for a customer in the first quarter of 64. The serial number indicates a delivery date of mid to late May. So, first off, they need a body that is either drilled as a lefty of isn’t drilled at all. It can’t be finished yet either since blonde was no longer offered as a standard finish. It’s no secret that lefties are pretty uncommon, so it isn’t out of the question that there might be a leftover 63 body that they drilled for lefty but never sold. That would explain the MM ears. The one element that struck me when I inspected the guitar was the relatively sloppy work around the neck join-it doesn’t look like a reneck but I’ve seen cleaner work. So, I figured maybe it was an employee project where perhaps a particular employee is making something “off the books” and doesn’t want too many people to know about it. So he does some work himself (perhaps off hours too) that he might not do on a regular basis-thus the slightly sloppy neck join. Again-all speculation. It could simply be somebody ordered a blonde lefty in 64 and the guy who was doing the neck glue ups that day was hungover. My first inclination was that it was reneck since the body wasn’t a 64. Renecks usually have the serial number restamped larger than normal when done at the Gibson factory. This one is deeper than usual but not larger. Again, I go back to my theory of it being an employee doing work that’s outside his usual sphere. I told the owner that I was 98% certain of its authenticity. That’s about all you’re allowed with Gibsons because you really can’t be too sure of anything they did during the era. Someone could bring me a 335 that was red on the back and sunburst on the front and I wouldn’t dismiss it. Anything is possible at Gibson in the 50s and 60s.

2 Responses to “A Very Cool One Off”

  1. Simon says:

    This look like a righty body undrilled : I haven’t see much early lefty 335/345/355, but when I did, I think that the label was always on the upper F hole, like any regular righty. It might be a clue to guess how the guitar was made.

    Anyway great blog. I might never own a vintage 335 myself, but I enjoy reading your post.

    From France,

    Simon

  2. OK Guitars says:

    That is a very astute observation. I didn’t notice it but there really is no such thing as a lefty of righty body since the guitar is totally symmetrical. I would guess that an already completed body (from a prior year, by the way) was used and they didn’t give any thought to the label being in the “lower” f-hole. The guitar appears to have been a custom order which takes it out of the usual “assembly” line for at least part of the build process.

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