1968 Gibson Byrdland

This beautiful Gibson Byrdland is almost 40 years old and has managed to remain virtually unchanged from its original state. This guitar plays and sounds as smooth and creamy as butter . The 23 1/2 scale makes even the most daunting finger stretches a piece of cake. The humbucker pickups actually have a closer pole-piece spacing then the standard Les Paul humbuckers. The string spread remains fairly parallel due to the shorter scale neck and so closer spacing were required. This guitar features all of the adornments of an Gibson L5 included solid carved front, back and sides. The thinner body depth and shorter scale make for a really comfortable fit though and were very deliberate details from Billy Byrd and Hank Garland. Both are attributed to the design of this model and the name Byrdland is derived from combining their names. The Byrdland was Gibson's first thin-line model and was quite the innovation in 1957 and originally had a Venetian cutaway. In 1961 and through 1968 the Byrdland cutaway was changed to the sharp Florentine cutaway that this guitar sports. Additionally and unique to the Byrdland model is the triple-loop tubular tailpiece with "Byrdland" engraved on the crosspiece. Also the fretboard has the usual dot markers on both sides suggesting that left handed necks were mildly retooled right handed necks. It is hard to see in the picture below but the pickguard is tortoise grained with binding not the usual black three ply plastic. Cool.

The front view of the Headstock shows the same flaming chalice inlay as the Gibson L-5. This Byrdland truss rod cover clearly indicates that not all parts were made in a left handed version. Hence the upside down "Byrdland" engraving. The Kluson Sealfast tuners on this Byrdland are the same tuners featured on the original Byrdland when it debut in 1957.



2003 Gibson Custom Historic ES-135

This beautiful factory left handed ES-135 is the only lefty 135 I have ever seen. I bought this at Elderly Instruments website after being tipped off by a friend. While it was priced higher than the many right handed models for sale, there were some things to consider. First it being a lefty (which I'm) makes this model very hard to find. Secondly it is not a factory run but rather is hand built by Gibson's Custom, Art & Historic Division (aka Custom shop). It came with a signed Gibson certificate stating so. Lastly, even the right-handed models are rarely seen with factory Bigsby and P90 pickups let alone the bound neck this beauty sports. There is of course the Gibson SwingMaster which in my humble opinion is a bit over the top. With the goofy factory pin-up decal (actually a real photo of a woman rather than a cool pinup artist's rendition) and gaudy headstock "SwingMaster" tag, even if a left-handed SwingMaster could be found it wouldn't be my bag. Also while the ES-135 is not a carved top there is something to be said about the beautiful tiger grain of this guitar though the SwingMasters do come in some very cool colors. Anyway be sure to scroll all the way down for info on my two failed attempts at actually ordering a custom shop Gibson and why this sweetheart will do just fine.


2004 Gibson Les Paul Custom

 This is a Gibson Custom Shop Left handed Les Paul I bought "pre-owned". It is a dream and there isn't much more to add.


1974 Gibson SG Special

The cool thing about this factory axe is the stock Gibson vibrato, in lefty! (see insert). Also cool and unique to my collection is the stock Gibson mini-humbuckers. Brighter and more biting than their full sized siblings these mini humbucker pickups have a very cool and useful tone.


1968 Gibson ES-330TD

Earlier versions of the ES-330 had the neck meet the body at the 15th fret. This one has the full length ES-335 style neck joining the body at 19th fret. Unlike the ES-335 this guitar is truly a hollow body. The P90 pickups really sound great.


On the left is the 1968 ES-330TD.  To the right again is the 1974 SG Special.


How to Order a Custom Gibson Guitar....NOT!

I like Gibson guitars and have attempted on a number of occasions (with no success) to order a Custom guitar from Gibson through their authorized dealers. Here's what Gibson's website says about "Ordering your Custom guitar" and I quote:

"Want an all black Explorer with triple-ply binding and your name on the fingerboard? How about a metallic blue Les Paul with racing stripes, open coil humbuckers, and a pearl flag on the headstock? All of that and much, much more is available to you by custom ordering your guitar.

Just about anything you can dream up can be built by the master craftsmen in our Pro Shop; here's how to order the guitar of your dreams.

First, visit your local Authorized Gibson Custom dealer. Your dealer will work with you to nail down the exact details of your custom guitar and then relay that information to the Custom Shop. From there, Custom will write up a spec sheet and quote with ETA for the guitar and return that to the dealer. If everything is meets your approval, the dealer will sign off on the order and fax the spec sheet back to the Custom Shop and work will begin on your instrument. Finally, when the guitar has been completed, it will ship to your dealer where you can pick it up.

So what are you waiting for? That special, one-of-a-kind guitar you've always wanted is within your reach by placing your custom order today!"

Well that sounded easy. So off I went to the local Guitar Center (on the authorized list of course!) to order a custom left handed Chet Atkins Country Gentleman (below left). They seemed very interested and agreed to call me later in the week. After a number of follow-up calls they never got back to me. Then I called Jimmy at South Paw Guitars and asked him what he thought. He told me flat out that Gibson just won't do it. He couldn't tell me why. Then I thought maybe I was being too ambitious with the Country Gent. I saw the new ES-137 Custom (sans the Bigsby and righty of course) at Rudy's in NYC and thought maybe Gibson would consider making the ES-137 in a left handed version. I took the liberty of mocking one up in Adobe to depict exactly how I wanted it. While out in Colorado I met some nice guys at a Guitar shop called Guitars etc. They mentioned that they were in pretty well with Gibson and would gladly try to order me a guitar. I emailed them my ES137 Custom mock-up photo (center). They seemed very interested and agreed to get back to me. Months later.... nothing. How is it that Gibson just doesn't want my money?

Country Gent strike 1.........       ES-137 strike 2............       ES-135 Home Run !


Virtual Chet Atkins Country Gentleman          Virtual ES137 Custom                            ES135 as pictured for sale at Elderly

Ok so I never got my Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, nor did Gibson agree to build my cool Bigsby equipped ES-137 Custom "mock-up" but somebody, somewhere got Gibson to make this Historic Collection, natural finish, flamed top and back, bound rosewood fretboard, dot inlays, 2 P-90 pickups, Bigsby equipped left handed ES-135 (right picture above). This is said to be one of two lefty 135s built at the Gibson Custom shop in 2003. It is also the only lefty ES-135 I've ever seen. No wonder the price was considerably higher than any right handed ES-135 I've come across at shows, stores or on the web. The bound fretboard, lefty factory Bigsby, P-90's and nicely flamed finish set this apart from the run of the mill stock P-100 equipped right handed ES-135. Add to that the fact that it is left handed and I was willing to take the plunge.


See the Gibson J-100 on the Acoustic Guitars page !