Premier Guitar

1960 Gibson ES-335 And 1959 Model 5F8A Fender Twin

December 21, 2010


After introducing the Vari-Tone—a 6-way tone-selector switch—and stereo wiring in 1959, Gibson offered them as a regular option on the ES-355.
In the late 1950s, Gibson designed a guitar meant to have the look and feel of a traditional hollowbody archtop while also offering the sonic advantages of a solidbody. At the time, this was a novel idea, and it resulted in the now-classic ES-335. Gibson was so confident in the double-cutaway, semi-solid guitar that by the summer of 1958 it had expanded that part of its electric line. The first offshoot was the ES-355, which was intended to be the pinnacle of Gibson’s new thinline electric series. The 355 shared the 335’s solid center block and hollow wings, but had the fancy cosmetic appointments of a Les Paul Custom—including binding, gold hardware, split-diamond headstock inlays, and an ebony fretboard.

Due to advances in stereophonic recording, stereo LPs had become readily available to the public and were gaining in popularity over the mono versions. Gretsch recognized the excitement stereo was generating and introduced a stereo electric guitar in 1958. By mid 1959, Gibson retaliated with its own stereo technology, combined with a 6-way tone-selector switch called a Vari-Tone. The Stereo Vari-Tone became standard on the new ES-345 (which was priced between the 335 and the 355) and a regular option on the ES-355.


LEFT: Like a Les Paul Custom, this ES-355 has split-diamond headstock inlays and an ebony fretboard.
RIGHT: This particular 5F8A Twin’s wears its battle scars and splats right on its tweed. Its original Jensen
P12N 12” speakers are one of the casualties of its many musical skirmishes: It’s now outfitted with
Jensen Special Design replacement speakers.

This month’s guitar has the typical features of an early 1960 ES-355 with Stereo and Vari- Tone. These include a gleaming Cherry Red finish, Grover Rotomatic tuners, PAF humbucking pickups, and a Bigsby Vibrato tailpiece (which was changed to a Gibson sideways Vibrola later that year).

Be sure to check out Gibson Electrics—The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir for detailed information on Gibson electric guitars made through 1965. For more information on Fender amps, see Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years by John Teagle and John Sprung, and The Soul of Tone by Tom Wheeler.



Dave’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally.
Photos and text by Tim Mullally. Dave’s collection is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
davesguitar.com