Mandolin maker Orville Gibson in Kalamazoo, Michigan started the company we now know as Gibson. Orville disliked the bowl-backed mandolins common at the time and introduced his own design featuring single-piece sides and neck. The Gibson mandolin was not only less expensive to produce, it also sounded better than previous designs.
Gibson is still a big name in bluegrass music. Gibson banjos, resonator guitars and mandolins are assembled at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville—a small factory open to the public with a shop, a concert hall, and a restaurant.
Gibson was an innovator in guitar design throughout the 1920s, specializing in arch top acoustic guitars. They introduced their first electric guitar, the Electric Spanish model or ES-150 in 1936. Adopted by jazz virtuoso Charlie Christian, the Gibson ES-150 is still known as the Charlie Christian model and its distinctive pickup is still considered one of the best jazz pickups ever made.
Following World War II, Gibson's P-90 pickup gave guitarists added power and versatility. Gibson pioneered the humbucker pickup, a dual coil version that eliminated or "bucked" the hum generated by single coil guitar pickups of the time. Gibson's 3-pickup ES-5, and the ES-175 were both pioneering electric guitars. The first Gibson solidbody electric guitar featured a carved gold top. The most popular guitarist of the day, Les Paul endorsed it in 1952. The newly-renamed Les Paul electric guitar went on to become one of the most popular guitars of all time.
Designs for the Gibson Flying V, Explorer, and Moderne electric guitars proved to be decades ahead of their time. Gibson pushed on into the 1960s with the modern solidbody double-cutaway SG of '61 and the reverse-body Firebird electric guitars of '63.
Gibson luthiers are well known for their fine acoustic guitars. Popular Gibson acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars that you can still purchase today include the Dove, the SJ-200, the J-160E made famous by John Lennon, the Songwriter, the J-45, the Blues King, and the Hummingbird.
Gibson quality is reflected in their line of bass guitars as well. Gibson SG, Les Paul, and Thunderbird basses are favorites of instrumentalists.
Gibson has always had a close relationship with musicians at the top of their game. Besides Les Paul, famous Gibson players include B. B. King, Chet Atkins, and jazz artists such as Howard Roberts and Herb Ellis. Not to mention famous Les Paul guitar players like Jimmy Page and Joe Perry as well as Angus Young, famous for his Gibson SG guitar.
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