By the mid-1950s, electric guitar players had two choices: either a full hollowbody electric guitar or a compact solidbody. Gibson had been receiving requests from players for something in-between the two styles, so in 1955 the first Thinline electrics were developed. They were the high-end Byrdland, the ES-350T and the low-end ES-225T.
The Byrdland was conceived with input from session guitarists Hank Garland and Billy Byrd. It was basically a thin-bodied L-5 with a 2 1/4” thick body (instead of 3 3/8”) and a shorter scale of 23 1/2” (instead of 25 1/2”). The shorter scale was meant to make difficult new jazz chords easier to play. It also allowed room for two extra frets (22 total).
The ES-350T was meant to be an affordable, less fancy version of the Byrdland with the same groundbreaking improvements and dimensions. The ES-350T adopted the cosmetic features of its full-sized predecessor, the ES-350: two P-90 pickups, laminated maple top, sides and back, rosewood fingerboard with split parallelogram inlays, and a crown headstock inlay.
The stunning example shown here was made in 1958 and is one of only 43 natural models made that year (the other 104 were sunburst). This guitar sports the Patent Applied For humbucking pickups that became standard equipment on the model in 1957. It is also adorned with an attractive, but non-stock Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, instead of the W-shaped original.
The Gibson ES-350T is most often associated with rock n’ roll founding father Chuck Berry, but it was also used over the years by Eric Clapton and Danny Gatton. More detailed information on Gibson ES- 350Ts can be found in Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir.