1966 was as special a year in American history as it was for Gibson guitars. It’s the birth year of a wide range of celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Rob Zombie and John Cusack, The Sound of Music won an Oscar for best picture and classic rock ‘n’ roll was really starting to evolve and take shape—Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, the Rolling Stones‘ Aftermath and the Beatles‘ Revolver were just a few of the iconic records released in ’66.
Oddly enough for Gibson Guitars, 1966 was actually the end of an era. Ironically, 1966 marked the end of the tenure of Ted McCarty as President of Gibson Guitars—so ending the period known as the “Golden Years” among current day guitar collectors and historians alike. Getting your hands on a Gibson catalogue from 1966 triggers some serious nostalgia. Below are a couple of highlights, straight off a page from the ’66 catalogue, with more profiles to come, stay tuned:
The Gibson Byrdland
The Byrdland is similar in appearance to the arch-tops in the Electric Spanish line of Gibson guitars, but with a shorter scale and a thin body similar to that of an ES-335. The Byrdland was first introduced in the 50s from suggestions by guitarists Billy Byrd and Hank Garland, who were looking for a jazz box without the bulk. In 1961-1968, the Byrdland sported the sharp Florentine cutaway, “slim comfort,” and “feather-touch action,” and has since become extremely popular among vintage collectors.
Famous Artists: Billy Byrd, Hank Garland, John McLaughlin, Ted Nugent
The Gibson ES-355TD-SV
The ES-355TD-SV is essentially a fancied-up version of the iconic ES-335 semi-hollow (as many guitar cognoscenti know, ES stands for Electric Spanish guitar and TD-SV stands for Thinline Double Cutaway Stereo Varitone. The Gibson Vari-Tone control provides six preset tonalities, and the ES-355TD-SV stereo guitar can be played through a stereo amplifier, two channel amplifier or two separate amplifiers. Special stereo wiring and “Y” cable provide complete separation of tone. “355″ represented the original retail price for this instrument, $355.00) Countless musicians in just about every genre have used an ES-335 at one point or another, but the 355 carried a chicken-head knob with extra tone control in the form of preset mid-scoops, stereo electronics, and thicker inlay and binding. Though he actually named all of his guitars Lucille, (even acoustics), BB King‘s most famous “Lucille” guitar is an ES-355TD-SV, and his signature model is basically an ES-335TD-SV with no F-holes, a feature he had removed and painted on instead in order to block some feedback.
Famous Artists: BB King, Alex Lifeson, Keith Richards, Noel Gallagher, Chuck Berry