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					Gibson Guitar Corporation

The Gibson Guitar Corporation, of Nashville, Tennessee, USA, is a
manufacturer of acoustic and electric guitars. Gibson also owns and makes
guitars under such brands as Epiphone, Kramer, Valley Arts, Tobias,
Steinberger and Kalamazoo. In addition to guitars, the company makes
pianos through its Baldwin unit, Slingerland drums, as well as many accessory
items. Company founder Orville Gibson, made mandolins in Kalamazoo,
Michigan, in the late 1890s. He invented archtop guitars by using the same
type of carved, arched tops in guitars. By the 1930s, the company was also
making flattop acoustic guitars, as well as the first commercially available
hollow-body electric guitars, which were used and popularized by Charlie
Christian. In the early 1950s, Gibson introduced its first solid-body electric
guitar and its most popular guitar to date – the Les Paul. After being bought
by the Norlin corporation in the late 1960s Gibson quality and fortunes took a
steep decline until early 1986, when the company was rescued by its present
owners. Gibson Guitar is a private held corporation (company stock is not
publicly traded on a stock exchange), owned by chief executive officer Henry
Juszkiewicz and president David H. (Dave) Berryman.

Orville Gibson (born 1856, Chateaugay, New York) started making mandolins in
Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States. The mandolins were distinctive in that
they featured a carved, arched solid wood top and back and bent wood sides.
Prior to this mandolins had a flat solid wood top and a bowl-like back (similar
to a lute) made multipe strips of wood. These bowl-back mandolins were very
fragile and unstable. Disdainful of the shape, Orville Gibson characterized them
as ”potato bugs”. Gibsons innovation made a better-sounding mandolin that
was immensely easier to manufacture. Oeville Gibsons mandolin design, with
its single-pieced carved sides and a single-pieced neck, was patented in 1898;
it would be the only innovation he patented. Orville Gibson died in 1918.


In 1902, the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co, Ltd was incorporated to
market the instruments. Initially, the company produced only Orville Gibsons
original designs. Gibson soon became the leading manufacturer of archtop
guitars, particularly the L-5 model.
In the 1930s, Gibson began exploring the concept of an electric guitar. In 1936
they introduced their first ”Electric Spanish” model, the ES-150. Other
companies were producing electric guitars but the Gibson is generally
recognized as the first commercially successful electric guitar. Other
instruments were also ”electrified”; such as steel guitars, banjos and

During the World War II Gibson did war production due to shortages of wood
and metal. In 1949 the Gibson ES-175 was introduced. The model has seen
some variations over the years but it is still in production.
Gibson and Ted McCarty

In 1948, Gibson hired music industry veteran, Ted McCarty. He was promoted
to company president in 1950. During his tenure (1950-1966), Gibson greatly
expanded and diversified its line of instruments. The first notable addition was
the ”Les Paul” guitar. McCarty was well aware of the strong sales of the
Fender Telecaster. In 1950, Gibson decided to make a solid-body guitar of
its own according to its own design philosophy. This despite the fact many
other guitar manufacturers were contemptuous of the concept of a solid-body
guitar. Although guitarist Les Paul was one of the pioneers of solid-body electric
guitar technology, the guitar that became known as the ”Les Paul” was
developed with very little input from its namesake. After the guitar was
designed, Les Paul was asked to sign a contract to endorse the guitar to be
named after him. At that point he asked that the tail piece be changed, and
that was his only contribution. The ”Les Paul” was released in 1952. (Ironically,
this tailpiece was changed in 1954). The ”Les Paul” was offered in several
models, including the Custom, the Standard, the Special and the Junior.

In the mid 50s, the Thinline series was produced. Many guitaists did not like
the bulk of a full size archtop and wanted a thinner guitar. The first to be
produced was the Byrdland. The first Byrdlands were slim, custom built, L-5
models for guitaists Billy Byrd and Hank Garland. Later, a shorter neck was
added. Other guitaists who tried Gibson samples liked the idea and the model
went into production. Other models such as the ES-350T and the ES-225T
were introduced as less costly alternatives.

In 1958, Gibson introduced the ES-335T model. Similar in size to the hollow
body Thinlines, the ES-335 family had a solid center giving the string tone a
longer sustain. Gibson also produced two new designs; the eccentrically-
shaped Explorer and Flying V. Suprisingly, these modernistic guitars did not
sell initially. It was only in the late 60s and early 70s were the two guitars
reintroduced to the market where they sold very well. The Firebird, in the
early 60s, was a reprose of the modernistic idea; though less extreme.
In the 1950s, Gibson also produced the Tune-o-matic bridge system and its
version of the humbucking pickup.

In 1961 the body design of the Les Paul was changed, due to the demand for a
double-cutaway body design. Les Paul himself did not care for the new body
style and let his endorsement lapse, and the new body design then became
known as the SG (for ”solid guitar”). The Les Paul guitar returned to the
Gibson catalogue in 1968 due to the influence of players such as Keith Richads,
Eric Cpalton, Peter Green and many other guitaists. Both the Les Paul and the
SG later became very popular with hard rock and heavy metal guitaists.
The 70s to today

Between 1974 and 1984 production of Gibson guitars was shifted from
Kalamazoo to Nashville, Tennessee. The Gibson Guitar Corp. was within three
weeks of going out of business before it was bought by Henry E. Juszkiewicz,
David H. Berryman and Gary A. Zebrowski in January 1986. The survival and
success of Gibson today is largely attributed to this change in ownership.
Currently, Juszkiewicz stands as CEO and Barryman as president of the
company. More recently new production plants have been opened in Southern
and rural areas, such as Memphis, Tennessee as well as Bozeman,
Montana. The Memphis facility is used for semi-hollow and custom shop
instruments, while the Bozeman facility is dedicated to acoustic instruments.

Today, one model of Gibson guitars (Robot Guitar) can tune itself in less than
10 seconds using robotic technology developed by Gibson and Tronical Gmbh.
While the product was advertised in the American – United States – popular
press as a ”worlds first” similar – some external – systems have been in use
for decades for example to tune guitars by Fender Musical Instruments
Corporation and Washburn Guitars.

Authorized copies

On May 10, 1957 Gibson purchased the Epiphone guitar company which at
the time was one of their main competitors. The original plan was to continue
selling Epiphones successful upright bass, but soon after Gibson realized they
could satisfy requests from music stores by producing Epiphone branded
guitars. From the early 1970s the Epiphone brand name has been increasingly
used by Gibson for lower priced guitars manufactured in countries other than
the United States. Epiphone guitars have been made in the US, Japan, Korea,
Indonesia and China. Orville by Gibson was another Gibson authorized brand
of guitars that were made and sold in Japan.

Unauthorized copies

In multiple occasions, Gibson has sought legal action against other guitar
manufacturers who implement similar body styles in their designs. The first
such action was against Ibanez and their copy of the Les Paul headstock
shape. More recently, Gibson sued PRS Guitars, forcing them to stop making
their Singlecut model. Aside from the above mentioned companies, there have
been counless others producing unofficial Les Paul copies, including among
others Tokai, Stellar and new-comer Myaxe, a company based in Changle,
Forgeries can generally be identified quite easily upon close inspection. The
most prominent identifier pertaining to Chinese Gibson Les Paul forgeries is in
the truss rod cover being affixed to the headstock of the forged guitar with
three screws whereas an authentic Gibson guitar employs two.
Gibson serial numbers

In 1975, Gibson standardized the serial number system that is still in use
today. An eight digit (or 9 digit after July 2005) number on the back shows the
date on which the instrument was produced, where it was produced and its
order of production that day (e.g. first instrument stamped that day, second,
third, fourth etc.). The serial numbers are deciphered using the following


YY is the production year.
DDD is the day of the year the guitar was stamped.
RRR is the production order/plant designation number.

Production order/plant designation numbers are as follows:

001-499   Kalamazoo, Michigan (1975-1984)
500-999   Nashville, Tennessee (1975-1990)
001-299   Bozeman, Montana (after 1989)
300-999   Nashville, Tennessee (after 1990)

For example, the serial number 90992487 means that the instrument was
produced on the 99th day of 1992 (Wednesday 8 April) in Nashville and that it
was the 487th instrument stamped that day.

In July 2005 Gibson introduced a 9 digit serial number system. The system is
largely the same as the 8 digit system used before, however the 6th digit now
represents the batch number. The first 5 and last 3 digits remain the same.

An exception is the year 1994, Gibson Centennial Year: Many 1994 serial
numbers start with ”94”, followed by a 6-digit production number.

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