This is it – the Chuck Berry guitar !
The very first promo shots of the inimitable Chuck Berry featured the man and this guitar. Well, not this actual guitar, but one just like it – Chuck’s had a natural finish, this one is sexy sunburst.
Chuck Berry’s performances on American Bandstand in the 1950s changed the world. Dancing and duck-walking across the stage with his lucky bolo tie swinging, Chuck strummed his gorgeous Gibson ES-350T and belted out Maybelline, Johnny B. Goode and a bunch of other hits that influenced nearly every major music act to follow. Chuck and his Gibson guitar became the indelible look of Rock n’ Roll.
But this is not a replica of his 1955 ES-350T, it is a true vintage instrument made within months of Chuck’s at Gibson’s Kalamazoo facility in 1956.
The ES-350T was a further development of the Gibson ES-350 model from 1948 and as such has a completely hollow body. The unique feature of the Gibson ES-350T at the time of its market introduction was the reduced width of the frames. As a result, the guitar has a thinner body compared to instruments with a body that is of full height. The ES-350T, together with its sister models Gibson ES-225 T and Gibson Byrdland, was one of the first models of the thinline guitar type. The Byrdland & ES 350 shared many features.
The letter T in the model name of the ES 350T stands for Thinline and was given by Gibson at the same time as the three new models of hollow-bodies with narrow sides were introduced.
The neck is glued to the body at the 14th fret. The Brazilian fretboard has 22 frets and has inlays in the form of double parallelograms between the frets. Also made of rosewood is the base plate of the two-piece bridge with individually adjustable string rulers made of metal. The lower ends of the strings are held by a trapezoidal metal string holder, which is attached to the lower frame.
In addition to the thinline body, another feature of the Gibson ES-350T is its shortened scale length of only 597 mm (23½ inch compared to Gibson’s otherwise 25½ inch). It has been stated that this short scale is due to the jazz guitarist Tal Farlow, who had expressed the desire to make difficult chords and melodies easier to grasp. However, it is more likely that the short scale came about as Gibson developed the ES-350T from the Byrdland using less-costly hardware and detailing, and offered it as a less expensive model.
Both the early ES-350T models and Byrdland models have particularly narrow spacing between the individual strings, which required the manufacture of special, narrow-built P-90 pickups for these models.
Body size at lower bout: 17″
Scale length: 23 1/2″
Nut Width: 1 10/16″
Body depth: 2 1/4″
Arched flame maple top, back and sides
Solid figured maple neck
Solid Brazilian fingerboard – 12” radius
0.90″ neck profile at nut 0.99″ neck profile at 9th fret
Mother of pearl fingerboard inlay and thistle peghead inlay
Triple bound body, bound neck and f-holes
Twin P-90 pickups
Kluson Deluxe tuners with tulip keys
Bevelled 5-ply pickguard
Gold bell knobs
3 way control switch
Weight is flyaway light 5.9 lbs
This particular ES 350T is in wonderful shape – almost unbelievable condition for a 64 year old instrument. There are no breaks, splits or structural issues of any kind. The sunburst finish is checked as would be expected in an instrument this old, but it lends an aura of genuine vintage mojo that cannot be truly duplicated in a newer finish.
The bridge and tailpiece have been replaced with a newer Gibson ABR-1 bridge and an original Byrdland tailpiece. A pro refret and new nut has breathed life into the old girl, and it plays like a dream. There are some dings, dents & finish wear throughout, but nothing out of the ordinary for a vintage instrument.
A strap button was installed then removed from the neck heel at some point, leaving a screw hole. The original pickguard has been removed from the guitar but it is in the case and included in the sale. Easily reinstalled if you wish.
There is no fingerboard wear visible, and the dark Brazilian rosewood board is a delight to play. The P-90 pickups are clear and respond beautifully with the finely calibrated volume and tone controls. It has a lovely defined tone when played clean but also has a nice growl when played with a bit of crunch added from an amp, if that’s your thing.
The neck profile is a gentle C shape, with smooth low action over the fine new fretwork. The aged sunburst finish is quite beautiful and the lacquer is in great condition.
Here’s an interesting article about an almost identical ES 350T – https://guitar.com/review/vintage-bench-test-1956-gibson-es-350t/
That one has a serial that is 40+ guitars later than our one. But it has many similarities including ABR bridge & Byrdland tailpiece.
All in all a beautiful vintage 1956 Gibson thinline with a rock n roll pedigree, but that is also well suited for both traditional jazz or blues and anything else you may care to utilise it for. Looks beautiful, plays great, sounds like Chuck !
Comes in its original hard shell case with replaced handle, and includes its original cable along with the pickguard.