Mention popular guitars brands, and no doubt Gibson will be one of the first to roll off the tongue. What you may not know, is that the famous guitar maker was originally started in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1902 by Orville Gibson, a mandolin maker who pioneered a unique single-piece side and neck design that was cheaper to make and sounded better than what was already on the mandolin market. While Gibson and his company haven’t abandoned those roots and is still a force in the bluegrass market, in the 1920s he spent much of his time creating innovative arch top acoustic guitars, and entered the electric guitar market with the Electric Spanish model (the ES-150) in 1936. Known as the Charlie Christian model after the jazz virtuoso who adopted the guitar as his main baby, it featured a pickup that is still considered one of the best jazz pickups of all time. Speaking of pickups, following World War II, Gibson’s famed P-90 was first introduced, replacing the bar pickup of the ES-150, and providing players with more tonal versatility and power.
In 1949, the company created two revolutionary guitars, the ES-5, featuring a 3-way pickup system with 3 knobs (one for each pickup and one for master tone), and the ES-175, which introduced their popular Tune-O-Matic bridge. Though it’s one of the most famous jazz guitars in history, it’s also popular amongst a variety of artists from Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore, Yes’ Steve Howe, and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.
They soon ventured into making solidbody electrics; the first of which featured a carved gold top, and in 1952 was endorsed by one of the most popular names ever in guitar history, Mr. Les Paul. It still one of the most coveted models of all time for it’s classic look and sound. In 1957, they introduced the world’s second humbucker guitar pickup, the PAF, a double-coil design that eliminated the hum evident in the single-coil models of the time.
Over the years Gibson has continued to be on the cutting-edge and influence the look and sound of the guitar world. From the uniquely shaped Flying V, Explorer, and Moderne models to the solidbody double-cutaway SG and reverse-body Firebirds to the acoustic-electrics, like the Dove, SJ-200, J-160E, the Songwriter, the Blues King, and Hummingbird. And that doesn’t even include the bass guitars, like the Gibson SG, Les Paul and Thunderbird, which have been in popular music for years.
The list of famous artists who’ve used Gibsons is like a “Who’s Who” of great musicians and spans all genres, from Bill Monroe the “Father of Bluegrass” and Duane Eddy “The King of Twang Guitar” to Randy Rhoads and Mick Jones. Other notables include Chuck Berry, Maybelle Carter, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Neil Young, John Entwhistle, Al Di Meola, Carlos Santana, B.B. King, Alex Lifeson, Angus Young, Slash, Jimmy Page, Ian MacKaye, Tak Masumoto, T-Bone Walker Earl Scruggs, Eddie Van Halen, Muddy Waters, and Frank Zappa, and many more. Now it’s time to put your name on that list.