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Illustrations: Michael C. Ludwig
A Controversy is Born
|Click here to see our gallery of Moderne variations through the ages.
Others say all three guitars were shown, and that while the Flying V and Explorer achieved their goal of “shaking things up” at the show and getting into limited production, the Moderne was so poorly received that all the prototypes may have been scrapped at the Gibson factory—but not before one was supposedly sent out to Gibson’s case supplier for fitting. Ted McCarty went to his grave claiming that at least several Modernes were built, but he didn’t know what had happened to them. Some Gibson employees say none were produced. A few say the prototypes were cut up and destroyed. A few others maintain that two Gibson employees took the parts and assembled three Modernes outside the factory, yet nobody seems to remember either of these men. Almost all the original players in this fascinating mystery tale are deceased.
If you’ve never seen the Moderne, it’s an extremely unique design that’s impossible to ignore. The left side of the body resembles a Flying V or a shark fin, while the smaller right side looks like an old-style can opener or a fish hook. It’s a radical shape even today, so one can only imagine how it must have appeared in the conservative Eisenhower era fifty-two years ago. The headstock was shaped like a widened boat paddle, with four string guides. Some think the Moderne is butt-ugly; others consider it a thing of beauty. You can make your own judgment.