Vintage Instruments: Gibson Guitars

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1956 Gibson ES-135

Gibson’s ES-135 was built for a few years in the mid 1950’s. A dressed up version of the best-selling ES-125, the more expensive 135 featured a bound fingerboard with pearloid trapezoid inlays, a 5-ply black pickguard, and individual Kluson tuners. The guitar’s body and single P-90 circuitry was identical to the 125, and so the two models are tonal twins as well. The 135 is a fairly rare bird though, as most buyers sought out the ES-125 for its price point, or opted for the more expensive ES-175 or ES-225 if they were looking for an upgrade. The ES-135 was discontinued after only 4 years of limited production.

This example has all the tone in the world if that full-hollow, fat P-90, early Rock’n’Roll sound is your thing. It is our thing, and this guitar does it really well. It’s a great sounding pickup, with plenty of output, bite, and classic P90 mid-range.

A well played guitar with a lot of patina and charm, crackled and worn finish, and a good looking sunburst, it remains in excellent working order with original everything but for a repro set of tuners. The 1950’s frets are fairly worn but play surprisingly well, and the fingerboard has deep wear in the first position. Set-up here at Folkway, the guitar plays easily with a comfortable electric guitar action and 11-49 strings. The bridge is compensated for a wound G, so that’s what’s on the guitar. Round neck with 1-11/16” nut, 24.75” scale.

With deluxe hardshell case

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