When Ted McCarty started at Gibson in 1948, one of his first concerns was to develop and enlarge Gibson’s line of electric guitars. Among these new electrics was the ES-5, introduced in 1949. The ES-5 was intended to be, according to Gibson literature at the time, “the supreme electronic version of the famed Gibson L-5.”
Apart from the name, body dimensions, and fingerboard inlay, the ES-5 was very different from the L-5. A 1949 ES-5’s features included a 17″-wide body with laminated maple top, back and sides, pearl crown inlay on the headstock, rosewood fingerboard and unbound f-holes (until 1950). The most exciting part of the guitar was of course its three pickups. These P-90s were controlled by three individual volume knobs and one master tone.
17″ wide laminated maple top
Rounded single cutaway
Three piece neck – two matched pieces of maple with a thin centre strip of dark wood
Three p-90 pickups
Three volume controls & one master tone control on cutaway bout
Trapeze tailpiece with pointed ends and three raised parallelograms
Laminated bevelled edge pickguard
Pointed end fingerboard with 5-ply binding
Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with large block inlays
Single bound headstock
Crown headstock inlay
Gold plated hardware
Brown sunburst or natural finish
This is a very rare guitar, especially in Australia. This vintage Gibson ES-5 is in excellent condition, with all original parts as far as we can see. She has some standard player wear, but considering her 67 years on the planet, she’s doing extremely well.
There is some beautiful miniscule crazing of the lacquer on top, a few marks on the back and some expected wear on the pick guard. The only small blemish to note is at the neck joint where the lacquer finish, but not the wood or the joint itself, shows some light cracking. It is in the finish layer only.
The binding is in excellent condition. The gold hardware has that lovely dull patina that only age can bring.
However, the kicker on this guitar is the neck. It is a thing of beauty – stripy maple on the back, a dark rosewood fingerboard with large mother of pearl block inlays, 20 original frets in excellent condition, multiple binding, and low action with a wonderful feel all the way up.
This grand old lady is a significant part of Gibson history. This extremely early and rare pre-Switchmaster ES-5 was around well before rock & roll. It is in excellent, collector grade condition with its 3 original P90 pick ups, original knobs, bridge, tailpiece, pick guard, tuners, and unchanged electronics.
Comes with new top-of-the-line Gator case which fits perfectly.
Here’s an overview of the Gibson ES-5 from legendary USA guitar expert George Gruhn –