Vintage Instruments: Gibson Guitars

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1953 Gibson ES-5

Gibson’s ES-5 was introduced in 1949 as the electric counterpart to Gibson’s L-5 Premier. Prior it its release, the ES-350 was the company’s flagship electric guitar. Relative to the ES-350, by 1953 the ES-5 featured a fancier L-5 fingerboard with 5 ply binding, block inlays and a point at the end; an extra P-90 pickup in the middle position and unique master tone wiring with individual volume controls, bound F holes, and more expensive Kluson ‘Waffleback’ tuners.

At 17” wide, and with numerous tonal options and a long 25.4”scale, the ES-5 was designed for pro musicians, priced high, and built in very limited numbers. A couple of years later, Gibson would introduce its L5CES and Super 400CES models which, a decade later, rendered the ES-5 Switchmaster obsolete.

This example, built in 1952/3, was recently purchased from its original owner. It is in remarkable condition and 100% original. No modifications or repairs other than a tailpiece hinge repair, and the guitar plays beautifully. Wired without a selector switch, each pickup is controlled by its own volume control, and the single master tone knob on the upper bout affects all three. You’ll likely end up parking the guitar in the neck pickup and leaving it there, but if you don’t the slightly unintuitive control layout takes a little getting used to. The rewards of plugging this guitar into a big clean clean amp with reverb - say a Blackface Vibrolux or a bluesy rig like a prewar EH-150 amp - are each pretty incredible. There’s something about a big 17” hollow body with a P-90 that’s hard to beat.

Maple body and 2-piece neck with some nice figure, two-tone tobacco sunburst finish, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and gold hardware. Rounded C neck carve with 1-11/16” nut width.

The guitar’s factory order number dates to 1952, the serial is from early 1953. For Gibson history buffs, you’ll be interested to know that this guitar features a tapered headstock. We’ve never seen this feature later than 1951. It’s likely found on this guitar as it was a long scale high-end guitar with low production.

With original Gibson hardshell case in matching condition.

Shipping into the USA?

Sending this guitar to a US address is easy to do, and there are no taxes, or duties to pay when it arrives. We take care of everything involved in shipping – all you have to do unpackage the instrument when it arrives and play!

Questions? Email us anytime, or call us toll-free at 1-855-772-0424.


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