It’s 1965. I’m 13. Gibson is Making Changes.

One of my favorites ever "The Mexican". Here's a 65 with an original stoptail and all of the 64 features EXCEPT the narrow bevel truss. These can be a bargain if you can find one

I didn’t own a Gibson in 1965. I was playing guitar in a garage band but a Gibson would be out of my reach until a year or two later. I did own a Fender Duo Sonic and later that year a Fender Jaguar. 65 is an interesting year in so many ways-some of which I’ve already covered. Interestingly, it represents the beginning of a slow downhill trajectory for both Gibson and Fender-not that 65 Gibson and Fenders are bad guitars-far from it. They can be great. We all know that Fender was bought by CBS in 65 and the suits took over Leo’s job. Over at Gibson, there were no internal upheavals of note until 1969 but the decline began anyway. It’s worth noting that the great Ted McCarty left in 66 and I’m sure that didn’t help matters any. But 1965 is the year that some poor choices (in hindsight, of course) were made that impacted the ES line. Most were economically motivated but that also involves efficiency and productivity. As anyone over the age of 52 knows, 65 was the first full year of the guitar boom which began the moment The Beatles turned up on Ed Sullivan. Gibson had to crank out more guitars than it was prepared to crank out. ES-335 production went from 1250 to 1750. So, big deal, another 500 guitars, right? Well, consider this: Melody Makers jumped by more than 5000 units. So, on a company wide scale, the shit was probably hitting the fan. I like 65 ES-335s and I don’t like 65 ES-335s. There are so many different varieties, it’s no wonder every time a seller has an ambiguous serial number, he chooses 65 as the year his guitar was made. It’s almost like a one year timeline of the entire history of the 335. That’s the fun part. The very first 65’s had the big 64 neck, a stoptail and all nickel parts. They were nearly identical to 64s. The 2 stops I’ve had both had narrow bevel truss rod covers and double line Klusons but I’ve had 64s with double lines as well. I’ve also had them with 3 single lines and three double lines. See? I told you 65s were fun. The change from stoptail to trapeze was clearly economics. to put in a stop, you had to drill 2 holes, insert two bushings, screw in two studs and install the tailpiece which wouldn’t stay in place until you strung the guitar. To install a trapeze, all you did was drill three holes and screw in three screws. Time is money.  The switch from nickel to chrome was gradual and totally inconsistent. It probably wasn’t economics but customer complaints that drove that change-customers didn’t, apparently, like tarnish. I’ve seen 65s with one nickel and one chrome pickup cover. I’ve seen chrome covers, a nickel bridge and a chrome trapeze. I’ve seen just about every possible combination of chrome and nickel hardware with no pattern emerging. It’s not like they ran out of nickel trapezes and then pickup covers and then bridges. It seems totally random and the probable reason is that new chrome and new nickel don’t look all that different to an untrained eye-especially under harsh factory lighting which was probably fluorescent which makes everything look green. So the assembly folks grabbed what they needed without any regard for the plating on the hardware. It was pretty early on that the headstock angle changed and the neck got thinner. By late Spring, the necks were 1 9/16″. The headstock angle seems to have changed even earlier as I’ve only seen a few with the 17 degree angle-and don’t go by serial numbers. They are pretty misleading. For example, I recently acquired 334265. I don’t have the ledger page but I don’t think it’s that early in the year. Chrome covers, chrome pickguard bracket (most unusual) nickel ABR-1. But the guitar has a full 64 size neck with the steeper headstock angle. If anybody has the ledger page, I would love to see a shipping date because that seems like a fairly late serial number. I will also point out that the latest non cut out center block I’ve ever seen was an early 65 stop tail. I’ve seen enamel wound pickups and poly wound. I’ve never seen a T-top on a 65 even though folks keep on insisting they started in 65. I think not. I’ve had a 345 and a 355 with a PAF in 65 as well. Like I said, 65 has it all. Just make sure that when you buy one, you ask all the right questions.

This is kind of unusual-no, not the "Custom Made" plaque, that was added later. What's unusual about this 65 is the fact that it has a 17 degree headstock and a big fat 64 like neck. It also has a mid 65 serial number and mostly chrome hardware. You can't predict anything at Gibson, especially in 65.


3 Responses to “It’s 1965. I’m 13. Gibson is Making Changes.”

  1. RAB says:

    The “Mexican” es muy bueno! Ay caramba!

  2. OK Guitars says:

    It was one of those “too good to be true” Ebay listings. A no feedback seller in Guadalajara doesn’t bode well and he got no bids (and he was priced in the ballpark). So, I emailed the guy and asked for his phone number. I called him and it turned out his English was pretty good and we made a deal. Then the guitar got held by Customs for Cites violations but they cleared it after a couple of weeks. The guitar shows up with no box, no packing, just a 335 in the case. It was fine and turned out to be a great player. It lives in Austria now.

  3. manny says:

    I was about to buy a guitar like that, if I was not the same, about 2004 or 2005 from hoboken guitars a 65 with large neck,, bisgby, chrome parts and plate custom finally observe that the plate custom made was not in the usual exact site and buy another 65 with big neck and bisgby!

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