Mods for Rockers

A group of Rockers surround (and probably harass) a lone Mod. It could get pretty ugly and the adults in the UK at the time were very worried.

If you are over the age of, say, 65, you might recall two British entities called Mods and Rockers. Apparently the youth of the UK split into two easily definable groups…Mods and Rockers. Both groups could be considered hipsters but neither thought the other was and thus they clashed. Sometimes with violent results. Mods wore the latest Carnaby Street fashions and rode around on little motor scooters. They were usually middle class. Rockers were leather jacketed greaser types who were mostly working class. The Rockers rode big Triumphs and BSAs. They thought Mods were effete snobs. The Mods thought the Rockers were low class and dirty thugs with no taste in anything. It was a moral dilemma in mid 60’s Britain but hardly touched us here in the USA. All this history just so I can have a clever title for this post which has nothing to do with Mods and Rockers. Ringo (yes, that Ringo) was asked (in Hard Day’s Night)…”are you a Mod or a Rocker?” His answer? “I’m a Mocker.” Clever, these Beatles.

I’m actually writing about modifications done to ES guitars. Mods for rockers…get it? Thought so. Most mods are ill advised, especially on vintage guitars as they almost always lower the value. Adding a mini switch for a coil tap or phase is a bad idea. In fact, just about anything that leaves visible holes in the guitar is going to diminish the value. Want to use an aftermarket bridge? Great. Use one that fits without modifying the bridge posts. If you want to add a Bigsby to your 64 stop tail 335, you are asking for a sizable decline in its value-as much as 25%. A better idea would be to sell the stop tail and buy a 335 with a Bigsby already installed. Adding a Bigsby is not a bad mod (if you use a Bigsby) but it’s bad economics. That leads me to my larger point. There are certain mods that are good for the guitar and/or the player. All of them will diminish the value but they are worth looking for.

The most popular is adding a stop tail to a trapeze tailpiece ES. It requires two big holes in the top of your guitar and leaves four holes at the end pin. That hurts the value. But if somebody else has already done the mod (and did it right), it’s worth seeking out. It will make the guitar better and it will lower the price. Everybody’s happy, right? Yes and no. If the tailpiece is installed in the wrong location, it is glaring. So make sure you get it right. Another useful (and common) mod is moving the bridge back slightly (toward the tailpiece). 50’s and 60’s ES guitars shipped with a wound G string (plain G strings didn’t even exist) and intonated just fine. Once plain G strings became the norm, ES guitars (and most other Gibsons) ran into an intonation problem. To get the G string to intonate properly, you had to reverse the saddle and move it all the way back in its slot. If you used 10’s or 11’s, that was fine but if you wanted to use lighter guage strings, you simply ran out of room and your G string was always sharp at the upper frets. The easy fix was to move the bridge posts back about 1/8″. Fortunately, the holes from the original posts were hidden under the thumbwheels. Intonation was no longer a problem but you just dropped the value of your guitar by perhaps $1000 to even $2000.

Modding a vintage 335 doesn’t happen much these days. Most of the mods you see were done years and years ago before 335’s were worth much. If you’re going to put a stoptail on your Bigsby 335, for the love of god, put it in the right location. Unless you’re Larry Carlton, this just looks wrong. This one is off by more than an inch. Even if it’s off by 1/8″, it will look odd.

So, if you want to use 9’s on your 335, flip the G saddle around and see where you are intonation wise. If you can’t get it right, you might consider finding a 335 (345 or 355) that has already had it done. That way, it’s priced in and you haven’t diminished the value of a collectible vintage guitar.

This 59 335, once owned by Mike Landau had its bridge moved back to improve intonation. Most times, folks just drill new holes. For some reason Mike’s luthier filled the original holes before drilling the new ones. Not usually necessary.

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