Bein’ with Bacon

Tony Bacon has written more guitar books than I can count. There must be at least 50.

Tony Bacon has written more guitar books than I can count. There must be at least 50.


Tony Bacon has written so many guitar books that I’ve lost count. Dozens for sure. The very first guitar book I ever bought was his “Ultimate Guitar Book” back in the early 90’s. He has written about just about every guitar there is. Gibsons, Fenders, Gretsches, Rickenbackers, Ibanez and plenty of general books about guitar history. He has written about specific guitars like the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Les Paul. No other writer has published anywhere near the number of guitar books and they are generally very well conceived and executed. I received an email from Tony a few weeks ago asking me to share some of my knowledge of the semi hollow ES models (335, 345, 355) for his next book.

Why another ES-335 book? I’d like to take a little credit for being the head cheerleader for the model over the past decade or so. They have never been more popular than they are today. The only 335 book on the shelves today is Adrian Ingram’s “The Gibson ES-335: It’s History and It’s Players”. I don’t know Mr. Ingram and I don’t know the circumstances behind the writing and publishing of the book. My opinion about it is somewhat mixed. I thought it looked cheap and rushed. The photography was horrendous and amateurish in many cases. But, on the positive side, he covered a lot of ground and I give him credit for getting into some very arcane details. While Tony Bacon’s books are usually extremely well photographed and well written, he usually doesn’t dig deeply into the really small stuff. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Ingram did. Perhaps not to the extent that I have in my blog but I’ve never tried to cover the entire history of the model. I don’t think I’ve ever written about 335’s from the late 80’s and 90’s at all. I don’t write much about the Norlin era either (other than the 81-85’s). So, to answer my own question, another 335 book-with great photos and a comprehensive history would be a welcome addition to the guitar enthusiasts library. Is that what Tony Bacon is doing? I hope so and,  based on his bibliography and the fact that he is reaching out to me,  I’m optimistic that it will be excellent.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. “Why aren’t you writing the book?”  Pretty simple, really. The only book I could write is a book about the “Golden Era” of 335’s. My expertise is based almost entirely on my hands on experience with the guitars. I’ve owned somewhere around 500 ES 335’s, 345’s and 355’s built between 1958 and 1965. Add in a few dozen from 66-68 and from 81-85 and I probably approach 600 or so. I’ve taken every single one apart. So, I know what parts showed up when and I know what changes were made and when they made them. But ask me what changed between 1974 and 1975 and I’ll have to change the subject. I just don’t know because I haven’t seen that many.

I have had two long phone conversations with Tony and a few emails to clarify some of the more arcane stuff. You know I love the small stuff. In fact, the very first thing Tony and I discussed was why I became “obsessed” with the 335 (his word, not mine). I explained that it was the guitar I really coveted as a teenager that I could never afford (I played a 62 ES-330 as a kid). When I finally decided to buy one (in the early 90’s), I started reading about 335’s online. The internet was pretty new and search engines weren’t too highly developed but I found Clay Harrel’s very comprehensive and informative Vintage Guitar Info site. I probably learned as much from him as I did from taking 600 guitars apart. But there was a hitch and that hitch set me on the path to learning everything I could about 335’s. I wanted a 335 with a wide nut and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money either. I had a young son and a mortgage and a brand new business and money was pretty tight. I learned from that site that the nut width went to 1 9/16″ in 65 and widened back out to 1 11/16″ in 1968. 64’s were pretty expensive, so I figured I would acquire a 68. After looking at about a dozen of them, I concluded that the information was erroneous. 68’s don’t have a wide nut. So, I knew that there was more information to be learned and I set out to do so. I still write posts about new stuff I’ve learned and I continue to learn.

I don’t expect to be writing a book any time soon, so talking to Tony was a good thing. I appreciate when someone of his stature in the guitar community acknowledges that he doesn’t know everything (nor do I) and his reaching out to me shows that he is serious about writing an accurate and comprehensive book about 335’s. I hope it turns out great and sells a zillion copies (and no, I don’t get a percentage-just a mention and a link).

11 Responses to “Bein’ with Bacon”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, we love our guitar books and fine informational websites like yours! Both cater to our insatiable appetite for guitar info and, yes, minute trivia! And we keep a drool rag handy to avoid spoiling the full color photographs!

  2. Michael Minnis says:

    Very cool, Charlie. I’m glad Mr. Bacon reached out to you. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

  3. davess23 says:

    Glad you’re contributing your expertise to the book, Charlie. I’ll buy a copy.

  4. RAB says:

    You and I had discussed the idea of having a place on your forum where readers could post pictures of their ES guitars, creating a virtual book! Is that a possibility?

  5. Steve Newman says:

    Agree with RAB, a reader’s guitar gallery would be a great way to collect and present visual evidence of the various changes and evolution of the 335 timeline. You could go a step further and have a section for reader’s to post anomalies (non standard parts or specs from the factory; not owner modifications) that deviate from the typical factory specifications of a particular year.

  6. cgelber says:

    Try the page called Readers’ Gallery. I just put it up and it seems to work. Just leave a short description and attach a photo (one only for now)

  7. RAB says:

    Thanks Charlie!

  8. Frank says:

    I would appreciate the list of 3xx Guitars with FON and Serial numbers Charly is working on as an appendix!

  9. Olleandro says:

    Hopefully the book will be worth a read. That Ingram book is pretty badly put together, and padded out with junk. I’ll give it a go when it comes out but I think this site is still the ultimate reference.

  10. Simon says:

    Bacon’s 335 book is already listed on Amazon with a release date of 4th October 2016, 160 pages.

  11. James says:

    Charlie, I really do hope you change your mind and write a book. “The Golden Era of the Gibson ES-335” would be a great title and let’s face it, everyone that loves these guitars also loves to learn about the early ones. I think there’s a lot of people who crave all the nitty gritty details and anomalies. As for Tony Bacon’s book, with 160 pages and excellent photography, I will be buying once the book it out.

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