There is simply nothing more iconic in the world of electric guitars than the ’59 Les Paul. In the world of vintage Gibson finishes, though, nothing is more misunderstood than their “TV” yellow finish. First introduced in 1954, theories on its origin abound.
The common story is that regular white finishes appeared too bright when broadcasted on black and white televisions, so Gibson devised a more muted yellow finish that wouldn’t wash out. There are a few issues with this narrative. Firstly, 1954 also saw the introduction of the first commercially available color televisons, so why would Gibson create this new finish for a technology that was clearly on its way out? Secondly, if it were all about visibility on television, why limit this new color to the brand’s lower-end models? Surely most professional musicians notable enough to play on TV would be sporting Standards and Customs. Another theory is that the TV Les Pauls were an attempt to emulate Fender’s Telecaster, both in simplicity as well as finish. In this case “TV” stood for “Telecaster version.” I seriously doubt Gibson would have been so brazen in citing their influence. The real story, I’m afraid, is much less dramatic. Gibson’s new color was simply a very common finish for television cabinets at the time, usually referred to as limed mahogany. It became so ubiquitous on these cabinets that the color was widely referred to as “TV yellow.” Gibson simply adopted this informal term and the TV model was born.
This particular double cut is extremely clean, 100% original, and totally free of any repairs or damage. Complete with its original brown Lifton case, this package is exactly what 50s Les Pauls are all about. It’s pictured here with a very special 1965 Deluxe Reverb. We acquired this amp directly from the personal doctor and close friend of legendary Trainwreck Amps founder Ken Fischer. He too was a connoisseur of tone, and had Ken modify his original Deluxe, also adding an extra gain stage. This amp has all the magic that Fischer-era Trainwrecks are revered for, at a fraction of the price.
There aren’t many first-year Strats out there. Unmolested examples are even more scarce. But finding a ’54 straight from the family of the original owner? There can’t be more than a few still left on earth, so you can imagine how surprised we were to come across this June ’54 Stratocaster right in our own back yard.
It was purchased brand new from Talcott Music in Yakima, just a couple hours east of Seattle, and has spent its entire life in the Puget Sound region. This one has all the pre-production quirks you love to see, from the hand-shaped contours to the painted over truss rod plug. (A feature unique to June of ’54.) A Tadio Gomez signed neck and Virginia signed cavity tape represent the most revered duo from the era. Strats from the summer of ’54 are truly the last ever Fender instruments that were made by hand, one at a time. Once in production, the batches increased in size and individual attention dwindled. Even current Masterbuilt Fenders from the Custom Shop rely heavily on CNC manufacturing. They just don’t make them like this anymore, and haven’t for almost 70 years.
Germany’s enduring legacy in 20th century pop culture will rest firmly on two pillars: the guitar musings of Rudolf Schenker, and the invention of cutoff jean shorts so small that the pockets flap out the bottom of the legs. If you have trouble telling the difference between Rudolf and his brother Michael, we sure can’t help you. They are both German heavy metal guitarists who play Flying Vs that are painted half black and half white.
The only distinction as far as we know is that Rudolf (of the Scorpions) has a Gibson signature model, and Michael (of UFO) has a Dean endorsement. But wasn’t the Gibson Custom Shop founded in 1993? How can this be a Custom Shop guitar from 1985? Well, because Gibson’s rich history of disorganization may be even more illustrious than its catalog of instruments. As early as 1982, Gibson started applying headstock decals bearing the term “custom shop” in one form or another. Some were limited runs, some were artist models, and some were simply custom ordered one-offs. It’s our understanding that guitars emblazoned with the “Custom Shop Originals” decal were single custom orders, not a part of any sort of batch. From a manufacturing standpoint this sounds like a huge headache, but it’s evident that these one-off instruments received at least a little more attention than the standard models. This V is everything you’d want in a 80s metal machine, and not just because of the bipolar paint job. Extremely fast playability and a Kahler you can wang into low-earth orbit ensure that this thing can handle anything you throw its way.
Another amazing one-owner instrument from the Seattle area! Often overshadowed by its big brother, the Jazz Bass is laden with a number of interesting features. The symmetrical simplicity of the P-Bass was cast aside for a more sophisticated offset body shape, falling in line with Fender’s highest-end guitars of the time.
While the nut width was slightly reduced, the neck overall remained extremely comfortable and navigable. A new pickup design also stirred the pot tonally. A pair of single coils were used in favor of the classic split-pickup design, which tend to yield a more complete range of response that focuses on pronounced mids. This particular example is 100% original and untouched, complete with an assortment of case candy. If the J-Bass is versatile enough to be used by Bootsy Collins, Geddy Lee, and Mark Hoppus, surely you can find a use for one.
It’s no secret that the crew here at ECG regularly fly all over the world in order to find the coolest vintage guitars out there. Every once in a while, though, one of those cool guitars walks without notice right through our front door, as was the case with this beautiful one-owner 1968 ES-335.
The gentleman who brought it in had purchased the guitar new in ’68 and has absolutely babied the instrument its entire life. Apart from a replaced bridge, it is completely original down to the hardshell case. A pair of patent number humbuckers bring the quintessential 60s Gibson tone that adorned virtually every important record of the era. The pearloid block inlays are reminiscent of Clapton’s famous 335, in fact the entire guitar is just a stop-tailpiece away from being an uncanny replica. A subtle figuring on the guitar’s maple top make it visually interesting and completely unique. The process of uncovering these increasingly elusive one-owner guitars and telling their stories is one of the great joys of being in this business. Another great joy? Shepherding these wonderful pieces safely into the next chapter of their remarkable lives.