Gibson's ES-5 represents the ultimate professional's archtop electric guitar of the 1950s behind - or even equal to - the L5 CES. One of the most expensive instruments of its time, this triple-pickup hollowbody provided a level of versatility that was almost unmatched. Three P90 single coil pickups with independent volume controls and a master tone control allow for some fantastic tonal options from warm, thick, and fat to bright and clear with lots of shades in between. It's quite a devastating combination of appointments and tonal features that make these some of the most attention-grabbing and satisfying large body archtop electrics out there.
1 of just 126 ES-5s shipped in 1952, this guitar shows off some great original features along with some of the typical player-grade elements found in a guitar that's been worked over the decades. The most notable modification is to the neck/fingerboard. While both are original to the instrument, a shim was installed between them in order to raise up the fingerboard as a method of increase adjustability and action. Think of it as more of a poor man's neck reset. The work appears quite old and is stable, but does show evidence of the work primarily on the treble side, with some clear lacquer finish applied over the edges and shoulders of the fingerboard. There's also some light repair work that was done to the fingerboard binding. A refret was also done at some point, with slightly larger fretwire. The original nut still remains.
The original Kluson "waffle back" tuners were replaced with similar Klusons that date from the 1970s, with no additional modifications done to accommodate the swap. All three P90 pickups appear original, with the middle and bridge pickups having received newer covers at some point, also losing their respective original shims. The original IRC potentiometers remain in every position with the exception of the neck volume pot, which is a later DiMarzio potentiometer. The master tone knob and bridge pickup knob are original 1952 tall barrel knobs, while the neck and middle volume knobs are reproductions. The original pickguard remains, and was outfitted with an under-mounted mini toggle switch wired up to the middle pickup. This modification was done in order to be able to flip the phase of the pickup, resulting in out-of-phase tones when either the neck or bridge pickup were used in conjunction with the middle.
The bridge base is the proper Rosewood style, while the saddle and adjustment wheels are later replacements. The tailpiece is the correct type, although it doesn't show any original gold plating that would've been present on the factory tailpiece.
Structurally speaking, the body is in great shape with a fairly average amount of lacquer checking throughout. Original multi-ply binding is intact with just a couple of (stable) binding cracks present. There are a couple of stress cracks on the sides of the guitars at the waist, both of which are stable, and some stress cracks surrounding the input jack.
Currently set up a 12-54 set of roundwound nickel strings, this ES-5 plays really well up and down the neck with a nice medium-low action and a wonderfully carved early 50s neck profile. For a 17" archtop electric, it's quite light at 7lb 7oz on our scale. Collectors may want to look elsewhere, but gigging musicians and/or enthusiasts that want the vibe and character of a well-played and well-loved guitar would find this ES-5 as impressive as we do.
Paired with a black Gibson Historic 17" hardshell case.
Please Note: We pride ourselves on thoroughly vetting each vintage instrument we sell. If you have specific questions about the condition or originality of this instrument, we invite you to call us to discuss further. We're here to help!
- Laminated Maple 17" body w/ original Sunburst finish
- 3-piece Maple neck w/ bound Ebony fingerboard and large pearl block inlays
- Bound headstock w/ 1970s Kluson waffle back tuners
- Refret and fingerboard shim added
- Medium-full C neck profile: .84" @ 1st fret / .99" @ 10th fret
- (3) Original P90 pickups (original neck pickup cover)
- Original pickguard with phase switch mod under-mounted
- Original IRC tone, middle volume, and bridge volume pots / DiMarzio neck volume pot
- Original tone and bridge pickup volume knobs / neck volume and middle volume knobs replaced
- Rosewood bridge and saddle
- Nickel tailpiece
- Weight: 7lb 7oz