When it comes to great gear-acquisition stories, they often start
with a chance visit to a pawnshop, flea market, or garage sale.
Other times, however, a piece of gear starts out being just another
guitar and ends up being the guitar of a gearhead’s collection. And
that’s the case with Tony Acuri’s left-handed 1968 Gibson Reverse
Series Firebird I.
The southpaw started playing guitar when he was 5 years old.
In 1966, Acuri competed in the Allegheny Guitar and Accordion
Contest. The young guitarist didn’t place and was quite dejected,
but there was a silver lining to the defeat. “My dad said if I won
first place overall in 1967, he would buy me any guitar I wanted,”
remembers Acuri. “I spent a whole year practicing ‘Malagueña’ and
lo and behold, I won the 1967 competition. So the next time I was
at my guitar teacher’s studio, I went through his catalogs to pick
out a guitar, and I came across Gibson’s Firebird. The only reason I
wanted it was because of the cool emblem on the pickguard!”
Acuri’s father put the order in and was charged $291.50—including
a hardshell case and a $50 up-charge for the custom left-handed
setup (shown on the receipt at right). In addition to the left-handed
Firebird I, he purchased a Gibson Explorer GA-15RVT amp. It took
more than a year for the package to arrive because apparently back
in the ’60s, the entire production line had to be stopped, shut down,
and reset for a left-handed instrument. The best part of this tale is
that Acuri still owns and uses both pieces of cherished gear.
The guitar and amplifier are still all original. The guitar’s trussrod
cover was originally upside down, but Acuri had it changed
in the ’70s. “I thought it didn’t look cool upside down,” says
Acuri. “Looking back, it was a dumb teenager mistake.”
Besides the custom left-handed setup, the Firebird I has a
mahogany body, layered white pickguard, mahogany neck, 22-fret
Brazilian rosewood fretboard, partial blackface reverse peghead
with pearl logo inlay, 6-on-a-side banjo tuners, nickel hardware,
Tune-o-matic bridge, and vibrato tailpiece, and was loaded with
The GA-15RVT Explorer amp is a 12.5-watt combo loaded with a
10" speaker. The amp has a 12AU7 and two 6EU7 preamp tubes
and two 6BQ5 power tubes. The single-channel amp’s controls
are Loudness, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Tremolo Depth, and Tremolo
Frequency. This Gibson combo was only manufactured from
A special thanks to Tony Acuri for the opportunity to feature this
fine instrument and its story.