b. 1856, Chataugay, New York, USA. Together with Leo Fender, Orville Gibson’s name is carried on the most famous of all electric guitars. The company was founded in Kalamazoo in 1903 and shortly afterwards became established as a market leader with a series of beautiful arch-top acoustic guitars that found immediate favour. The O Style was their flagship, which later was replaced by the equally revered L4 and L5. These guitars, although unamplified, projected a loud sound that was clearly heard in large bands. Their range of acoustic flat top instruments was also a success with the famous J series producing a number of models second only to Martin guitars. The range included the inexpensive J45, the J160E (regularly used by John Lennon and George Harrison in the mid-60s), the Hummingbird, the Dove and the beautiful, big and booming J200. Although dozens of famous country, rock and folk artists have used Gibson Jumbos (including Elvis Presley), no act has become more inextricably linked than the Everly Brothers, with their trademark black guitars. Gibson manufactured a special model carrying their name between 1962 and 1973.
The company entered the electric-acoustic market in the late 40s, producing instruments favoured by jazz players such as Joe Pass. The mellow tone of the ES175, ES5 and the ES350 is still acclaimed and used. They electrified the L5 in 1951 and moved into the rock ‘n’ roll world with the 400CES during the late 50s and introduced the thin line jazz-style Byrdland around the same time. The now legendary ES335 started production in 1958. It combined a harder solid guitar sound within a slim line hollow body. The instrument has continued to be a consistent favourite with pure rock and blues guitarists as it minimises feedback. B.B. King has endorsed the guitar and has his own specially made gold-plated model known as ‘Lucille’. Following the success of the solid body Fender guitar, Gibson worked with Les Paul to produce what is now one of the most famous guitars of all time. This unusually small, solid bodied, single cutaway instrument is deceptively heavy, yet has been the undisputed joint leader with the Fender Stratocaster for rock guitarists since the late 60s. The Gibson Les Paul range includes the Gold Top, the Special, the Junior, the Deluxe, the Standard, and the Custom. Another successful variation was the double cutaway SG series. Additionally, Gibson has produced some unusual shaped electric guitars with varying degrees of success the most notable being the Explorer, the Firebird and the Flying V, but it is with the ‘industry standard’ Les Paul that Gibson will continue to become a household name.