Gibson Guitars have been a very influential component of the Guitar Industry now for well over 50 years. Orville Gibson was the first name by the major guitar label. In 1890 he was known as a mandolin maker who specialized in making carved archtop instruments.
Gibson used these same skills in the first archtop acoustic guitars of the 1920s. 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.
Another development of Gibson Guitars is the original shape "f" holes that we still see today in semi-acoustic guitars. Gibson also began using the floating pick guard. These two items gave a definite look to the first, (and following), big bodied archtop guitars. In the 1930s, Gibson began to experiment with electrifying and amplifying the sound of the guitar. The initial ES range of electric acoustic archtop guitar was a big leap forward. The ES stood for Electric Spanish.
The term Spanish was simply to distinguish it from the popular lap Hawaiian guitars of the time. 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 stlye 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 Guitars had a good deal of success with the ES 175, electric guitar although it was still a hollow bodied archtop. The market however was excited about Fender's 1950 Telecaster guitar so Gibson had to start some more development work of their own. In 1950 they released their first solid body in the form of the Gibson Les Paul Standard electric guitar. In the early 1950s, it was not only Fender and Gibson Guitars who were putting research into the concept of the solid body guitar.
Bibsby guitars were also carrying out some work as were Rickenbacker and National. In the 1940s and 1950s, Les Paul had his own radio program and was a very popular guitarist. He dabbled with his own inventive work on amplification and developed his own solid body guitar, called the "log". Paul took this concept to Gibson Guitars who unfortunately were not interested.
It was only after 1950 when Gibson Guitars saw how popular the Fender solid body was that Gibson reapproached Les Paul looking for his assistance. 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. In response to Fender's early success in the solid body acoustic market, Gibson Guitars put out the Les Paul Standard in 1952 for the price of $210.
Les Paul agreed to use, promote and have input so he signed a 5 year contract in return for %5 of sales. One year stands out for Gibson Guitars and that is 1958. In this year Gibson altered the shape of the Les Paul Special and Junior by adding a second cutaway. This eventually led to the SG model, (stands for Solid Guitar). They also have the original Les Paul a cherry sunburst appearance and this remains to today a beautiful guitar. 1958 was the year that also saw Gibson Guitars respond to the guitar world's growing interest with the look of guitars where previously they had been more interested in how it sounded and what it was like to play.
Gibson introduced the radical shaped Flying V and the Gibson Explorer. Gibson Guitars have enabled themselves to remain a player in the music industry over many years and many of its models are now regarded as Classics.
Author: Terry Booth has always been keen on Gibson Guitars since being given his first instrument, (a Japanese Les Paul imitation) as a 10 year old. Visit his website GuitarPlayersWorld.com