Some of the most iconic Gibson guitars ever
Since the very beginning back in 1902, Gibson Brands has been unarguably one of the guitar world’s greatest innovators. Producing one of the first solid-body guitar models, and the first humbucking pickups among countless other innovations, iconic Gibson guitars have managed to fuse pioneering innovations with incredible playability and instrument design. As a result, an army of the most respected musicians throughout history has chosen Gibson to help them create.
There are innumerable Gibson guitars that could be considered iconic, but here are five that we consider to have made the biggest impact on the musical world…
The most famous of all Gibson guitars, the Les Paul needs no introduction. First introduced in 1952, the Les Paul has graced so many classic recordings that it is impossible to measure its impact on the musical world. Constructed with a solid mahogany body and a maple cap, with a mahogany set neck, the original Gold Top models featured a pair of P90 pickups. In 1957, Gibson developed the legendary PAF humbucking pickups, and the Les Paul was duly equipped with them from that point onwards. This is, perhaps, the moment the modern, iconic Les Paul was born.
The Gibson SG has a reputation as being something of the ‘troublemaker’ in the history of Gibson guitars. The possible reasons are numerous, but – arguably – it began as early as the guitar’s launch in 1961. Initially, the SG started life as the evolution of the Les Paul model. Les Paul sales had fallen, and Gibson decided that an update would reinvigorate sales. The SG, being a flat-topped, all mahogany design, was also a lot cheaper to produce. Les Paul did not like it, however, and soon after its launch asked that his name was removed from it. Troublemaker? Hmmm…
The SG’s appearance also seems to stoke the flames regarding its image as an ‘upstart’, with twin cutaway bouts often referred to as ‘devil horns’. The players that have used the SG cement this reputation, with Angus Young, Tony Iommi, Frank Zappa, Pete Townshend and many other ‘hell-raisers’ choosing to ply their trade with it. And, with a remarkably wide range of tones available from its twin humbuckers (or twin P90s), along with a fast, highly playable neck, why wouldn’t they?
Following the development of its solid body guitars, Gibson tried to find a balance between the archtop models, upon which it had built its reputation, and the new solid bodied models. The result was the ES-335, known as the ‘Dot’. This, again, demonstrated Gibson Guitars ‘ appetite for innovation.
The 335 was one of the first Thinline models the brand produced, with a semisolid build, and hollow-body style F-holes. Constructed from laminated maple, a solid maple block ran through the centre of the guitar, the ‘wings’ being hollow. The neck was a glued-in, mahogany type, with a rosewood fretboard, complete with the eponymous dot inlays. Pickups were two PAF humbuckers. The result was a guitar that had much of the character of archtop models, but without the feedback issues that plagued them.
The Gibson J-200 (or SJ-200 as it was originally known) was introduced in 1938, as the flagship flat-top acoustic guitar in the range. The ‘SJ’ represented ‘Super Jumbo’, on account of the guitar being pretty huge…
Originally, it was built with a red spruce top, and rosewood back and sides, but later the back and sides were switched to maple. Nowadays, however, the J-200 is in the Gibson Guitars catalogue in both varieties. Famed for huge, full-bodied tone, but with sweet top-end and clarity, married with incredible projection, it has become a favourite among rhythm guitarists, strummers and flat-pickers alike.
Like the Les Paul, the number of famous players associated with the J-200 is astonishing. Among many others, Jimmy Page, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Johnny Cash all enjoyed the charms of the J-200.
The Hummingbird was the model in the Gibson Guitars catalogue to be designed with a square-shouldered dreadnought body shape. Introduced in 1960, this was just a tier below the flagship J-200 in terms of its position within the range. Built with a solid spruce top, and mahogany back and sides with a neck carved from a single piece of quarter-sawn mahogany, and a classic rosewood fingerboard, ‘versatility’ was a bye-word for the Hummingbird.
This was as luxuriously finished with the J-200. Multi-ply body binding pairs with the instantly recognisable scratch-plate, and sunburst finish, resulting in one of the most attractive acoustic guitars available.
The range of tones available from the hummingbird has not been lost on the World’s players. Countless guitarists have fallen for the Hummingbird, most notably perhaps, Keith Richards. Capable of everything from edgy, gutsy tones, to the sweetest, soft tones, the Hummingbird is a true classic.
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