She Comes in Colors

Talk about rare. This is called Argentine Grey, although it's neither Argentine nor is it grey. This one's from Gruhn Guitars site and I would buy it tomorrow if I had the money available. I think it's uber cool (where's the umlaut when you need it)..

It’s always a lot of fun to compare the variations in Gibson’s color palette especially when it comes to sunbursts (we’re such nerds) and it occurred to me that I’ve never done a post about the various finishes that Gibson used over the years. I’m still concentrating on the “Golden Era” of 1958 to 1969 but will eventually get to the more modern versions of the ES-335. There are just so many different models and colors, it’s going to take me a long time to gather the information on them.  In 1958, when the ES-335 was introduced, there were 2 finishes available: natural and sunburst. The standard issue sunburst has undergone some interesting changes over the years and probably merits its own post but it’s pretty arcane stuff. Take a spin over Tom H’s ES-335 site to get a look at how these subtle differences manifested themselves. He loves this stuff.  In 1960, I believe, a different sunburst called Argentine Grey appeared-I’ve seen 2 of them. It’s a very interesting color but wasn’t popular and may have been a custom order. I believe it is mentioned in an early brochure, however. The ES-355 was available in red from its very beginnings and I know the gentleman who owns the very first one. It is not the typical red but a more orangey red which could be a result of fading or a different dye (the red is an aniline dye thats rubbed into the wood, not a paint or stain). The red 335s and 345s were officially introduced in early 1960 although there are rumors of some manufactured in 1959 and at least one is documented as a custom order. I thought I owned one of them for awhile but later identified it as probably a 61. In fact my screen name on some of the guitar forums (fora?) in red59dot. I believe there is even a late 58 in red. Gibson discontinued the natural finish when red was officially introduced and with only 2 years of manufacture, there’s a good reason why the naturals are worth so much-there aren’t a whole lot of them. Good examples of natural dot necks  approached the $100,000 level at the peak of the market and asking prices still routinely hit the $80K level. Whether any of them actually sell at those numbers is information that I’m not privy to. As the 60’s moved toward the great guitar boom years, the red ES-335 became the most mainstream, selling in larger numbers than any other. And who can deny that there’s nothing quite like a big ol’ red ES-335 up there in the lights hanging off the lead player. It’s a cultural icon-almost. Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop (345) and a lot of other well known players in the 60’s played red ES’s. In 1965, as far as I can tell, Gibson introduced a cherryburst version. My most recent guitar “The Mexican” is a stop tail version of this color-the only one I’ve ever seen and probably one of the earliest in existence. The color became much more popular by the late 60’s. In fact, the very first ES 335 that I ever played was this color. That was in 1966 when I was 14 and I couldn’t afford one. During the period between 1958 and 1969 some interesting custom builds start to appear. On Tom H’s 335 site, there’s an EB2 (ES bodied bass) in black from 1958 and I’m sure there are others in black that have been custom ordered over the years but it has always been a custom order color. Pelham blue appeared sometime in 1966 as a custom option and a few have emerged. My 67 Trini Lopez is an example. A color called Sparkling Burgundy was a Gibson option (not a custom) from 1967 (I think) until perhaps the early 70’s. It wasn’t terribly popular and it tends to fade badly, winding up a kind of bronze color. For some reason, people still don’t like the color-including me. I’ve never seen a white ES from the 60’s but there are probably some out there. Certainly Alex Lifeson’s (Rush) 355 is a well known example even though it is a 70’s guitar. So I think that about covers it. If anyone knows of another ES 335/345/355 color that I missed, post a comment and I’ll add it.

Here's a really rare on-a 12 string ES-335 in (mostly) unfaded Sparkling Burgundy from the Rumble Seat Music site

Pelham Blue-The ol' Blue Trini. there are PB 335s as well but not a lot of them.

How cool is this? A factory black EB-2 from 1958. From

2 Responses to “She Comes in Colors”

  1. tgee says:

    I don’t know when Gibson started using Argentine Grey on guitars, but I’ve seen it on some high-end banjos from the 1920s (in particular the 6-series). A friend has a late 20s RB-6 banjo with this finish over beautifully flamed maple. Just gorgeous!

  2. OKguitars says:

    That’s great information. It has a very antique look to it and a simplicity that isn’t like Gibson. I’ve never seen the finish in person so I don’t even know how accurate the photo is. The mahogany of the neck looks right though so, judging by the difference in color between the neck finish and the body, this is a kind of yellow into black 2 color sunburst but not like the old Fender 2 color which was more black to brown. There is virtually no red or the illusion of red in the burst. A very strange and eye catching finish.

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