Slash, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, Bob Marley, Billy Joe Armstrong and Steve Jones. Each a household name, each a player of legendary status. They all have one thing in common, they all play Gibson guitars.
To say Gibson’s are the most iconic guitars in the world would be an understatement. Gibson guitars have made their way into the hands of more legendary musicians than any other competitor can even dream of. Even the ‘god’ of guitar himself would eventually wield a ‘Flying V’ in favour of his usual suspect whilst performing at a certain Isle of Wight festival back in 1970.
The Gibson story officially started at the start of the 20th century, designing acoustic guitars, mandolins and ultimately the first electric guitar, the ES-150. From this point on the electric guitar and Gibson become nearly inseparable, with their reputation cemented in the 50's when Les Paul designed his famous signature guitar. It's a testament to the great man's original design that Gibson follow exact specifications of '57 and '59 models for many of their current production guitars. The introduction of the SG as a "cut down" version of the Les Paul, thus creating two separate strands of humbucking tone. With the LP offering epic sustain and power while the SG was leaner and mean. It's hard to imagine hard rock and electric blues developing their sheer tonal variety without these iconic axes.
The story of these great instruments dates way back to the late 1800’s and begins with one man. Orville Gibson. Orville was a one-man workshop with a serious passion for the guitar. He invented the worlds first archtop guitar during the 1890’s with the oldest existing Orville Gibson guitar found documented back to 1897.
Orville was a master woodwork builder and more often than not, carved an entire guitar out of a single piece of wood. This was an astonishing feat then and it still is now, especially considering the manufacturing process was completed by hand and all done by just one man. Orville continued to produce his guitars and mandolins in a tiny workshop in Kalamazoo Michigan USA until demand became too high. Reputation of Orville’s amazing guitars began to spread.
The high demand for Orville Gibson’s guitars led to him selling the Gibson name to a consortium of music store owners and lawyers.
Gibson’s archtop guitars remained the most popular in the world amongst Spanish and dance bands. Towards the late 1910’s, rival manufacturers began releasing their own guitar models with the flat top acoustic being a favourable choice. It was about this time that Gibson introduced their own flat top acoustic guitars in order to stay ahead of the game. The first official Gibson flat top guitar was known as the ‘Army Navy’ and aimed to provide a guitar for troops to take away to barracks during the outbreak of WWI. The flattop revolution had begun.
In 1926 Gibson released the L-1 flat top acoustic guitar which remained a hit with enthusiasts until reaching its epitome in 1933. In 1936 Gibson release two guitars to replace the now ageing L-1, the J-35 and Super Jumbo models. These were also the first models to offer rosewood back and sides, giving these guitars as much tone as they had volume
The start of WWII marked a slow period of sales for Gibson. As the depression set in, more and more manufacturers began to struggle to meet the sales figures needed to keep their business’s alive. This didn’t stop Gibson however from introducing two of the company’s most successful models ever. The J-45 and J-50.
As well as their fabled history of Electric Guitars, you can find an array of Gibson Acoustic guitars available at our stores. From the affordable J-15 and J35 models, all the way up to the Bob Dylan signed Signature Jumbo, we've got a Gibson acoustic to suit your style and budget.
The post war years at Gibson are marked by major innovations. Under the leadership of Ted McCarty, who serves as company president from 1950 to 1966. Gibson understood the demand for louder guitars in bands and hence set to work in developing the P-90 pickup. In 1949 Gibson released the ES-5 featuring 3 P-90 pickups. The Electric Revolution had begun.
In 1952 Gibson approached the world’s most successful recording artist Les Paul. Les had previously been laughed out of Gibson when he showed up with a plank of wood sporting strings and a pickup. Apparently, the idea would never take off with Gibson stating that players wanted a conventional amplifier guitar. Les felt that solid body guitars would prove to be more rugged, easier to build and less prone to feedback and interference. This was the man who invented and pioneered wireless audio technology, multi-track recording and would eventually be known for the guitar which changed the world.
Gibson caught wind of their main rivals Fender developing the first solid-body guitars and re-approached Les Paul to hear what he had to say. There may have been something to this solid-body idea, thus the Gibson Electric Guitar was conceived!
In late 1952 and after many mock-ups, Gibson finally release their first solid-body electric guitar. They decided to name it the Gibson Les Paul. Little did the company know at the time that this instrument would go on to become one of, if not the most successful musical instrument of all time.
In 1957 Gibson perfected the humbucking pickup and began to introduce even more guitar models such as the ES-330 and ES-335. Each model carrying immense popularity in their own rights. Very shortly after this Gibson release the Flying V and Explorer. It’s hard to believe to this day that the Flying V and Explorer were released in the late 50’s due to how ahead of their time these models were,
1959 marks what could be the most important year ever for Gibson. The 59’ Gibson Les Paul Standard got everything right. These Les Paul sunbursts or ‘Bursts’ as they became known as, are regarded as the most collectable guitars in the world today. Although Gibson didn’t produce many Burst in 59, all of them came out perfect and each carrying a distinctive flamed maple wood pattern acting as the instruments unique fingerprint. A good example of a Les Paul 59’ Burst today (2016) will fetch a whopping $1,000,000!
It would be crazy to overlook the original ES, offering a totally unique sound and embodying the hollow body tone for many. If you don't have the ES-335 then you don't have BB King's beloved Lucille or The Beatles Casino semi acoustics. Modern Gibson guitars seek to continue with the innovative vision of Les Paul and Ted McCarty in the 50's. With automatic tuning systems, adjustable nut designs and built in electronics to go with the original Tune-O-Matic bridges and that famous sweet humbucking sound.
They have also continued their legacy of producing fine Gibson bass guitars since 1953. Some of Gibson's most iconic guitar designs have been converted into bass tone monsters, including the SG, Les Paul, Firebird and Explorer, as well as the EB series basses. Perhaps the most stand-out model from the line-up is the Thunderbird, adapted from the original Firebird electric guitars.
Gibson continue to innovate today releasing updated models of their existing range while incorporating new designs, technologies and striving for excellence. Here at PMT we offer the UK’s largest range of Gibson Guitars, all available on 0% Finance and buy now pay later schemes. We believe at PMT that everybody has the right to own one of these incredible guitars, be it a traditional acoustic or an iconic Gibson electric guitar.
As one of the UK's largest authorised Gibson dealers we have an incredible selection of their finest guitars for sale including Custom Shop, Memphis and Limited Edition models.
PMT have stores around the country, our wide selection and expert staff will help you get the perfect Gibson. When it comes to straps, strings and all the other essential accessories we've got you covered too, plus a perfect setup and help with any technical queries you might have. If you've got your eye on something special then drop us a line or pop into the store and we can get it for you!