One of the most popular and loved guitars ever made is the Gibson guitar. It all started way back when a man by the name of Orville Gibson started making mandolins in his small workshop located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A few years later in 1902, Orville started up the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company.
Gibson sold mostly mandolins until the early 20’s when guitars started to gain in popularity. During these early stages of guitar production, Gibson came out with arch-top guitar designs and truss rod neck construction.
In 1936, Gibson introduced the ES-150 and ended up creating a sound that was never heard before. The ES-150 (the ES stands for Electric Spanish) featured magnetic pickups and an F-hole arch top design. A guitarist by the name of Charlie Christian loved the sound of this guitar and stated using it regularly. He was so well known for using this model that the guitar is still known as the Charlie Christian model to this day.
In the 40’s, Gibson came out with a couple new concepts to influence the way guitars were to be made. They introduced the first 3 pickup guitar and they also introduced the sharply pointed cutaway top.
The 50’s were a great time for Gibson as well because that was when a man by the name of Les Paul got involved with the company. Because of the popularity of the Fender guitar, Gibson decided to start producing solid-body guitars and Les Paul had been working on the solid-body concept since the 1930’s. So Les Paul was brought in to give his input and endorse these new types of guitars. In 1952 the first Les Paul was introduced and the most famous Gibson guitar was born.
Soon different models of the Les Paul were created including the Custom, Standard, Special and Junior. In 1954, the top models had tune-o-matic bridges put on them and in 1957; the famous humbucker pickup was introduced to the Gibson lineup. Also in the 50’s, the unusual designs of the Gibson Explorer and Flying V made their debut.
One of Gibson’s main competitors around this time was Epiphone Guitars. Epiphone fell on some hard times and Gibson ended up buying them with a plan to just continue selling their successful line of upright bass’s. Soon after the purchase though, Gibson realized that they could use the Epiphone name to satisfy the requests of dealers that wanted to sell Gibson products. Most of the Epiphone guitars of today are the more economical versions of the Gibson guitar models.
In 1961, Gibson changed the design of the Les Paul model to a double cutaway design. Les Paul didn’t like the way the new design looked so he told Gibson that he didn’t want his name on it. Gibson then changed the name to the new double-cutaway model to the Gibson SG.
Gibson decided to open up a factory specifically for the production of the Les Paul guitars in 1974. This new home for Gibson was named “Gibson USA” and is located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Things weren’t so bright for the company by the late 80’s and Gibson ended up in deep financial difficulty. In 1986, the company was sold to the trio of David Berryman, Henry Juszkiewicz and Gary Zebrowski. This change in ownership had a huge impact on the company and quickly restored Gibson’s reputation and profitability.
The Gibson guitar company is still as popular as ever today with professional and hobby musicians around the world. The Les Paul is my personal favorite with its beautiful tone and sexy design. Gibson has recently come out with the Slash signature model to go with the other signature models such as the Billy Joe Armstrong (Greenday), Steve Jones (The Sex Pistols), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Johnny Winter and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin). That’s a great line up of artists but it’s only a small fraction of the amount of famous guitar players that strap on a Gibson guitar. Some of the other guitarists that rock out with Gibson are Angus Young (AC/DC), Chuck Berry, Peter Frampton, Ace Frehley (Kiss), George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), B. B. King, Robby Krieger (The Doors), John Lennon, Bob Marley , Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones), Pete Townshend (The Who), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne), Frank Zappa and many MANY more!