Ben…Mr McGuire…Ben…Mr McGuire…

Here's a sunburst dot neck from Tom H.'s site showing the typical gold bonnet knob-the one everybody associates with the Les Paul 'burst.

OK, another reference to “The Graduate”. The next line? “I’ve got one word…plastics.” So, when last we examined the wonderful world of ES-335/345/355 plastics, I didn’t get to the knobs. They aren’t a very good indicator of anything because they’re so easy to change but, what the heck. I’m gonna run out of stuff to write about eventually so I might as well cover everything before the reruns start. There are bonnets, top hats and witch hats. There are also speed knobs but they weren’t standard on any 335 until the late 70’s and then on oddball iterations like the CRR or the ES-347.  In 1958, most Gibson guitars came with the familiar bonnet knob. You know the one…gold or black plastic with the numbers 1-10 and no shiny insert in the top. Generally, it was gold knobs for the sunburst and naturals and black for the red ones. Since the 355 mostly came in red, they nearly always had the black knobs. However, I know the guy who owns the very first ES 355 ever shipped-a 58-and his has gold bonnets. I think I’ve said this before-at Gibson, anything is possible. In the early months of 1960, apparently the nice folks at Gibson thought that musicians were too dumb to tell the volume control from the tone control. Or maybe they decided that musicians were smart enough to read-I’m not sure which. In any case, they changed the knobs in 1960 wo what are usually referred to as top hats-so named because of the tall straight sides. The top hat knob had a chrome insert in the top that read “volume” or “tone”. Frankly I’m surprised they did this because it probably takes a split second longer to put the knobs on a guitar when you have to make sure you have them in the right positions. Before, it didn’t matter. Over the course of a zillion or so guitars that could add up to, I don’t know…minutes!  Once again, they followed the gold for sunburst and black for red finished guitars. There always seem to be exceptions to the rules but, as I mentioned, it’s pretty easy to swap out a knob. My first ES 345 was a sunburst 1960 with a Bigsby that I got for a song (with the GA 79RVT amp!) and it had black knobs. In true Gibsonian style, the folks there must have decided that Fender was getting too popular so they decided to “borrow” the knobs from their very popular amps and put them on Gibson guitars. I don’t know what they were thinking. Maybe that people would see that the knobs on the Gibson guitar matched the knobs on everybody’s amps (I’m guessing Fender amps outsold Gibson amps by 100 to 1) and perhaps think that the amp was made by Gibson?  Never try to get too deeply into the mind of a corporate big wig-you might not find your way back (it’s big, empty and scary in there). So, late in 1966, they began the transition to the “witch hat” knob, so named because…oh, you get it. OK.  It looks like a big old Halloween…OK, like I said, you get it. They aren’t terribly attractive but they are always black. Sunburst, cherryburst, red, it didn’t matter-they were all black. No more rummaging around the parts bin looking for gold ones. They retained the “volume” and “tone” designations however. As a dating technique, you can bet the ranch that if the guitar has witch hats, it’s a late 66 or later. the reverse is not true though. I can’t imagine anyone putting witch hats on an earlier guitar but plenty of folks take the witch hats off and replace them with bonnets or top hats. They look like amp knobs and they don’t look all that great on a guitar.

In 1960, the top hat knob was introduced and hung around until late 1966. Note that they have writing on them so you know what knob you're turning.

This knob belongs on a Fender amp, not on a Gibson guitar but I don't make the rules. These were in use from late 1966 until well into the 70's.

Gold bonnets on a red guitar, oh my. This is the very first ES 355 ever shipped. It's a 58 and if the owner says the gold knobs are original, I'm inclined to believe him. How cool is this???

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