Gibson manufactured the Howard Roberts Custom between 1973 and 1981. Designed for jazz session guitarist Howard Roberts (who recorded the themes for the Munsters, the Twilight Zone and many other TV classics), this signature model was originally built as an Epiphone in the ’60s. In the ’70s, Gibson made two versions of this guitar, the Custom and the Artist. The two were essentially the same with a distinct oval sound hole, but the Custom featured a Rosewood instead of ebony fingerboard and chrome hardware.
Featured on untold thousands of major studio recordings, movie and TV soundtracks as both a sideman and soloist, the late Howard Roberts was almost surely one of the most prolifically recorded jazz guitarists of all time. Like his contemporary Johnny Smith, Roberts also consulted in the creation of a number of technically innovative guitars.
An instrument as versatile as its celebrated creator, the Howard Roberts Model was introduced by Gibson under its Epiphone label in 1965. Made in Kalamazoo, this original guitar combined an arched 16″ Florentine cutaway body with a unique oval soundhole, a design with roots in Orville Gibson’s very earliest guitars. With its long-scale neck, the Howard Roberts also revived the celebrated vine peghead inlay of the prewar Epiphone Deluxe.
The Epiphone Howard Roberts was discontinued by 1968, but revived under the Gibson logo in 1970. A full-sized floating humbucking pickup was produced for this model alone, and unique separate treble and bass tone controls. Three years later, Gibson premiered this version of the model, the Howard Roberts Custom. Produced in limited numbers, the Howard Roberts Custom was offered for less than a decade.
Body size at lower bout: 16″. Scale length: 25 1/2″ Nut Width: 1 11/16″
Finish: Wine Red finish, nitrocellulose lacquer
Materials: Seven-ply bound figured maple body; three piece flame maple neck; solid rosewood fingerboard; ornate NY Epi Deluxe style peghead vine inlay, Gibson peghead logo, and split block pearl fingerboard inlays.
Hardware: includes custom trapeze tailpiece; original compensated adjustable ebony bridge with mother of pearl foot inlay; unique full sized original floating pickup; master volume with separate treble and bass tone controls; original black barrel knobs.
This Gibson HR Custom has had a few changes including –
- original Gibson pickup replaced with a Seymour Duncan floating humbucker
- Gibson tuners replaced with quality Schaller units
- the Howard Roberts branded tailpiece insert is missing
- after market pickguard installed
It has had an excellent refret by respected Sydney guitar tech Teen Goh. The newer frets are in excellent shape with plenty of life left.
Most importantly, this instrument has suffered no breaks or damage in its 40+ years on the planet. There are no fractures, cracks, splits or repairs and it remains in sound structural condition. There is some fading of the finish colour in some areas, and expected player wear evident in keeping with a guitar of this age, but nothing abnormal or offensive.
It plays beautifully in all positions and the Duncan pickup is perfect for this guitar. The tone is smooth and rich thanks to the floating pickup arrangement and the unique tone control system. The distinctive oval hole body has a respectable unplugged voice of its own.
This guitar was originally owned by one of Sydney’s most respected players who used it on many recordings and in professional live performances. He sold it to the current owner for whom it has been a home & studio based instrument for the past decade or more.
The original case for this Howard Roberts Custom was destroyed by flood water some years ago, but luckily the guitar was not in its case. So that’s why this one comes as is – without a case.
This is a rare opportunity to own one of Gibson’s most distinctive Artist models – an unusual and versatile tone machine that will scratch that jazz-box itch without breaking the bank.