The new squeeze
Anyone who knows me, or who’s been reading the blog for a while will know I’ve got a bit (well, a lot) of a thing for vintage guitars, Gibson’s primarily and one’s from the 1930 – 1969 specifically. I’ve been playing the guitar for nearly 20 years and in that time have amassed a few nice examples, but as anyone who shares this addiction knows, there’s always a list of guitars you want, most of which are utterly unobtainable.
Personally I’ve been thinking about a vintage ES-335 for quite a while now – I’ve got two ES-330’s (1961 and 1964) but their PAF equipped big sister has become my main focus over the past couple of years. The only problem is that they’re not cheap, a late ’50 example in sunburst will set you back about £15,ooo and stick around ten grand on that if you want a blonde one.
The sixties ones are cheaper but you’re looking at £10,000+ for anything with PAF’s or the fabled ’64 model (Clapton played a ’64 in Cream, and they have great feeling necks which is why they carry a premium) and the mega-rare black ones cost, well who knows? You hardly ever actually see them as they were custom order and there’s only about eight of them documented at the moment across all thinline models (including the EB-2) from 1958 – 1964, it all adds up to the same thing though really. I can’t afford one.
So imagine my excitement when I was doing an internet trawl and I found a 1962 model in black for a very good price. At first I thought it was a scam but when I realised I knew the owner a trip to East London ensued for a look and a play. I fell for it and brought it home.
There were a few problems though – it’d had a neck break and the black finish wasn’t original, and someone had nicked the PAF’s out of it… BUT it was cheaper than a new reissue costs and if it was all original would be at least fifteen thousand quid, plus where am I going to find another? So even though there was more wrong with it than right, everything it needed I already had (except PAF’s which I can wait for) so I haded over a wad of cash and have set about tidying it up.
Luckily I’m pretty good with paint due to many years messing about with cars (the paint job on this was rough, to be kind) so the last two weeks have seen me spending any time I could cutting the paintwork back properly and getting the imperfections out (I’ve left some though, it’s nearly 50 years old after all and I don’t want it to look brand new). The neck break is solid and now I’ve spent some time on it, completely invisible, and the neck itself is the wide but shallow type you typically find on these early 60’s Gibbo’s.
So with factory black being one of the rarest original colours, I’m going to leave the paintwork on the guitar as it is but the original cherry finish is still intact underneath, so if I ever get the urge to restore it back to original I could. It would be a huge task, but it could be done (I’d probably send it to a pro to do though). And anyway, Keith’s got a black 59 ES-355, Johnny Marr’s got a black ’59 ES355, Barrie from Primal Scream’s got a black ’64 ES345 (that’s a refinish too), Tom Leadon’s got a black ’61 ES335 and I’ve got a ’62 black ES335, illustrious company I think you’ll agree…
And did I mention it sounds really rather good? Well it does – very percussive with lots of honk and midrange, but with tons of clarity, and that’s unplugged. Put it through an amp and it makes the most glorious noise, thanks to the WRC Goodwoods the previous owner put in. Now I’ve reinstalled the Bigsby it would have originally been equipped with I can do that overdriven Bernard Butler whammy thing until the cows come home. Ace.