Gibson Guitars are an icon of the guitar industry. Gibson is currently a major player in both the electric guitar and acoustic guitar market. The company was originally named after Orville Gibson who made mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the end of the 19th century. Gibson used the same method to initially make the big body archtop acoustic guitars.
Gibson Guitars were one of the first to come up with the adjustable truss rod inside the neck of the guitar to give it strength. This remains in use today to also allow guitarists to impact on the neck relief.
Even today, just about every guitar has an adjustable truss-rod that runs through the neck of the guitar. This was developed by Gibson Guitars in the early days to give strength to the neck. The floating pick guard is also an innovation of Gibson.
After doing much experimenting with the amplification of the sound from the guitar in the 1930s, Gibson released the ES range of semi-acoustic guitars. The ES initials stands for “Electric Spanish”. This is not a reference to the nylon string classical guitars that we know today. The term Spanish is used to separate the guitar from the Hawaiian guitars that were lap style guitars.
With the increasing popularity of electric or amplified guitars, the top end of the finger board could now be heard. Gibson Guitars had the idea to introduce the cut away style in the body shape. This was to be forever used in future electric guitars and many acoustic guitars and led to the world of the lead guitar hero.
Gibson’s first majorly successful electric guitar was the es-175. It was also slightly different in that it had a pointed cut away. In 1950, with Fender’s new Broadcaster guitar, Gibson was under pressure to produce it’s first solid body guitar. This resulted in the issue of the Les Paul Standard electric guitar.
Gibson and Fender were not the only ones developing the solid body electric guitar. At the same time, development work was also being undertaken by Rickenbacker, National and Bigsby were also involved in testing.
Les Paul was one of the foremost guitarists of the time. His real first name was Lester. Paul had himself been tinkering with the idea of solid body guitars. His first concept model was referred to as the log guitar. He approached Gibson Guitars with his ideas in the 1940s but was rejected outright. Once Fender released the Telecaster, Gibson went back to Les Paul and asked him to work with them.
The original attraction of solid body electric guitars to Gibson and other makers was because of a number of issues. Firstly, ease of construction. Secondly, while the shape of the body of the guitar did not alter the sound, the solid body greatly increased the sustain of the natural sound. And lastly, electrifying hollow body guitars had always caused a great problem with feedback. This was virtually eliminated with the production of the solid body electric guitar.
The first Les Paul Standard guitar was released in 1952. Les Paul received an endorsement contract for a 5 year period which was worth 5% of retail sales. The first Gibson Les Paul cost $210 and was referred to as the Gold Top.
1958 was a big year for Gibson Guitars. In this year they gave the Les Paul a new cherry sunburst finish which is extremely popular among collectors today. Gibson changed the shape of the Les Paul Junior and Les Paul Special to now have a double cut away. The new style later became the SG which stands simply for Solid Guitar.
The same year Gibson Guitars also began getting radical with their body shape. They bought out the first double neck guitar. They also introduced the Flying V shape and the Explorer shape. This was a response to guitar players placing more emphasis on the look of their guitars as well as the sound and playability. Gibson Guitars were able to stamp their mark on the guitar industry for many years.