Vintage Gibson ES-125 - USA 1948-52
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The Gibson ES-125 was first introduced in 1941 as an entry-level archtop electric guitar. It was designed to be more affordable than Gibson's higher-end models but still maintained a high level of quality.
The initial design featured a single-cutaway body shape with an arched top and back. It had a simple single P-90 pickup in the neck position, a rosewood fingerboard, and a trapeze tailpiece.
After World War II, some design changes were implemented. In the late 1940s, Gibson switched from a trapeze tailpiece to a more traditional tailpiece with a rosewood bridge. The body shape also evolved slightly during this time.
Now, this Gibson ES-125 has quite the story, so here it goes, as regaled by its current owner:
“I was flipping through the pages of Atlanta’s Creative Loafing street press when a classified listing reverberated in me. Someone was selling a blues guitar and having just come off the road with Muddy Waters and band, I took it as a sign. No model name or number, just Gibson, and the words, ‘one owner’.
When I called to see what it was and what price, the phone was answered by an older Black man with a deep bass Chicago accent who said he played the local Southern blues club circuit and that he knew it was a Gibson but not the model. He told me that in the 50s, he had bought it from a pawn shop and there was no serial number that he could find and believed from the story he was told that it was a prototype. He didn’t know what it was worth but had set a price of $200. He had just bought the guitar of his dreams, an Ibanez 1978 GB10 George Benson signature model which he hoped would look better on stage and make him play better. He was neither famous nor really local and played all over the South. Because I toured with mostly Black artists, I had already been exposed to the dives and small clubs of the Chitlin Circuit and he regaled me with stories of his experiences over a bottle of cognac.
I told him I thought his price was too cheap as it came with the nice vintage case and drunkenly offered him $500. He rebuffed it and insisted on the original $200 price saying he wanted it to go to a nice home with someone who would take care of it and maintain it. He said he’d come around and teach me some ‘special licks’, but he died a month later in a fiery car crash with his dream strum on the way to a gig in Clarkesdale, Mississippi. Shortly after that in 1980 I sailed off to Sydney where I settled into a new life and now, coming to the twilight years, I decided it was time for me to find it a new home.”
Whilst we don’t believe this Gibson to be a prototype, it holds significant value in its history and provenance. The owner believes this to be a 1948 ES-125, and we concur that it sits in a window between 1948-1952 based on certain appointments. The guitar has had a few mods over its lifetime, including the early addition of the block inlay, a replacement chrome-finished trapeze tailpiece in the same style as the original, the tone and volume knobs are those seen predominantly on Gibson lapsteels of the late 1940s, a pro refret and newer Schaller tuners in more recent history. The guitar's finish shows speckled checking, and in areas it has come away completely, most likely after being exposed to humid conditions for a part of its lifetime – we think it looks unique adding to the vintage appeal.
Structurally the body of the guitar is sound, displaying bumps and bruises and some small gaps between the binding and the body in areas but nothing to fuss over. The original P90 pickup sounds wonderful with all electronics working as they should.
This Gibson ES-125 is a real treasure, overflowing with history – it has lived a colourful life and is now ready for its new custodian – could it be you?! Enquire now!
Scale length: 24¾”
Fretboard Radius: 10-12"
Action at 1st fret: 0.25mm
Action at 12th fret: 2mm
Neck depth at 1st fret: 21.81mm
Nut Width: 42.97mm
12 fret width: 54.2mm
Neck material: Mahogany
Fretboard Material: Brazilian Rosewood
Fretboard inlays: Block (aftermarket)
Body: Ply back, Maple sides
Total guitar weight: 2.5kg / 5.51lb
Front Pickup: Original P90
Tuners: Schaller (replacement)