Fifty Years


Here's a fifty year old 335. Modding a vintage 335 doesn't happen much these days. Most of the what you see was done years and years ago before they were worth anything. If you're going to put a stoptail on your Bigsby only '63, for the love of god, put it in the right location. Unless you're Larry Carlton, this just looks wrong. This, by the way was a killer player. Lives in Kansas now.

Seems like a long time, doesn’t it? A fifty year marriage is positively revered in our culture. Fifty years on the job still gets you a pat on the back (it used to get you a gold watch). But a lot can happen in fifty years and it doesn’t take much to alter the course of things over that span of time. One moment of poor judgment probably won’t ruin your career or your marriage. Marriages can survive thousands of moments of bad judgment. If I got fired every time my boss didn’t like something I did at work, I would have wound up asking if you want fries with that but then I have a problem with authority figures which explains why I’ve been my own boss since 1983. Do you think democracy has lasted 240 years in the USA without some seriously bad judgment?  The Bay of Pigs comes to mind. Or Prohibition. Or the 70’s. Now consider your ES 335. Fifty years is a long time. It only takes one moment to mess up what, fifty years later, would have been a no issue collector’s piece worth all kinds of money. Just as in a marriage, there’s a pretty big range of poor choices you can make-some much more destructive than others. Having an affair with your secretary is not on a par with forgetting to take out the garbage before you go away for the weekend. Similarly, putting a set of Grovers on your guitar is not on a par with painting it purple sparkle and then cutting an access panel in the back. The really bad part, when it comes to the guitars, anyway, is that you probably had nothing to do with it. Some guy back in 1975 decided the guitar would be so much cooler if the pickup covers were off. It probably took the 70’s guy less than ten minutes to do the damage but it’s done and it stays done. A no issue guitar can only be a no issue guitar if that moment never occurs. And fifty years is long time. Granted, there are plenty of changes made to guitars that are reversible without a trace. I’ve said before that there is no way that anyone can tell if a vintage correct part was on the guitar the day it left the factory. Now, with so many of the original owners being pretty old, the “original owner” guitar isn’t even totally reliable. But that won’t really affect the value of a “no issue” example. When I inspect a guitar, if the parts are vintage correct and the wear patterns are consistent, I have no problem making the small leap that says its original. On the other hand, if I swap out an incorrect part for a vintage correct one, you may not know it but I will and that gets disclosed. Here’s a simple truth: The fewer of these guitars that are available out in the market place, the more they are going to cost.  As the guitar of your dreams starts receding into the distance because it’s just too much money, you need to start deciding what issues you will accept. It would be nice to be able to construct a big chart that says clearly what each type of mod will deduct from the value of a “no issue” ES-335. But it doesn’t really work that way. The “deductions” are not necessarily additive. Otherwise, you’d have to pay me to take a guitar with a refinish, broken headstock, Bigsby holes, changed tuners, open pickups and the wrong harness. Yes, people do some pretty destructive things over fifty years but, somehow, the thing survives.  It seems that if anything is going to last fifty years or more in this world, it will need to endure some level of compromise. Just ask your congressman. Or your wife.

3 Responses to “Fifty Years”

  1. RAB says:

    ACK! This guy wasn’t even close in placing (rather misplacing) the stop tailpiece…what, musta been off by a couple inches?

  2. rob says:

    I bet the string tension is a bit lighter with that extra space. Maybe that’s what Carlton likes.

  3. OK Guitars says:

    The “luthier” (maybe the owner accidentally took it to a Lutheran) probably placed it where the tension bar of the Bigsby was.

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