A giant of the guitar world and an American icon. Orville Gibson started his company in 1902 manufacturing mandolins. Gibson was a pioneer in employing the violin-style archtop front and back in guitar design creating a stable body structure whilst improving the volume and tone of the instrument. Gibson’s archtop and flattop acoustic guitars gained popularity in the proceeding decades.
In the years following World War II, the electric guitar really came of age and Gibson entered its golden age of innovation. With the introduction of the P-90 pickup in 1946, guitarists suddenly had more versatility and power at their disposal and it quickly became a hugely popular pickup. By 1949, Gibson had released the ES-5, the first guitar to feature three pickups, and the ES-175 which was the first guitar to have a sharp, pointed cutaway allowing for better access to the top frets.
1952 was arguably the year of Gibson’s finest creation, the Les Paul model, named after the famous innovator and jazz guitarist. An instant classic, the Gibson Les Paul soon evolved into four different models placed at different price points: the Les Paul Junior and Les Paul Special designed for the student market, and the Les Paul Standard and Les Paul Custom at the mid- to high-end. The top of the line Gibson Les Paul Customs were fitted with the ‘Tune-o-Matic‘ bridge in 1954, a design by then Gibson President Ted McCarty which is now a standard feature on most Gibson electric guitars. This bridge solved previous issues of tuning stability and intonation with the introduction of individually adjustable saddles.
The Gibson Les Paul would go through several design changes in the 1950s, most notably in 1957 with the introduction of the Seth Lover designed ‘Humbucker‘ pickup. This pickup not only generated a warmer, richer sound than a P-90, but the design actually cancelled out the humming sound normally heard through the amplifier, hence the name ‘hum-bucker’. In 1958, the Les Paul Custom got the humbucker treatment and was fitted with not two, but three pickups! This guitar – with its gloss black finish, multi-layered binding, gold hardware and large inlays – would forever be referred to as the ‘Black Beauty‘ and was an instant classic. 1958 also saw Gibson drop the standard Goldtop finish in favour of a newer Cherry Sunburst which ushered in the dawn of the first ‘Burst‘ Les Pauls. The transparent finish led to more attention being paid to the quality and appearance of the maple top and specially selected figured maple became the new standard. Original Gibson ‘Burst’ guitars from 1958-1960 are some of the most sought after guitars in the world with many selling for six figures or more!
Due to waning sales in 1961, Gibson decided that the Les Paul was in need of a face lift and so completely redesigned the shape of the guitar. The Les Paul now had two sharp cutaways and a much thinner Mahogany body, without the maple cap, resulting in a much lighter and in theory, easier guitar to play. This design was to be short lived as a ‘Les Paul’ however, because Les Paul himself disapproved of the design and subsequently had his name removed from it in 1963. Gibson continued to sell the newer design though under the new name ‘SG‘ (which stands for Solid Guitar). The original Les Paul design would not be made again until 1968. Other classic solid-body designs came out of the late-fifties-sixties period including the Flying V, Explorer, Firebird and Melody Maker.
Gibson now have four separate division in facilities across North America with each one specialising in different models from the Gibson range:
Throughout their careers, some guitarists become synonymous with certain guitars and Gibson has been at the heart of this for over 60 years. When you think of a Gibson Les Paul you think of Slash, Duane Allman, Zakk Wylde, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore and Jimmy Page to name but a few. When you think of a Gibson SG you think of Angus Young, Derek Trucks, Robby Krieger and Tony Iommi. The same goes for the Gibson ES; Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Larry Carlton, Dave Grohl. The Gibson name is so ubiquitous it is without doubt a true American icon.
Gibson has always been at the forefront of innovation, design and most importantly, tone, for many decades now and will forever be remembered for the impact it made on the world of guitars and music in general. Gibson today, continues to produce fine guitars with an emphasis on looks, playability and great sound which is why they continue to be some of the most desirable guitars in the world.
Our Gibson guitar range: