A gorgeous 1962 Gibson ES-350T, serial #82657. INSET: Instead of a more common tobacco sunburst, this ES-350T sports a cherry sunburst finish that still pops a half-century later.
In 1955 Gibson developed a line of thin-bodied electric guitars to appeal to players who wanted a smaller, more comfortable instrument, yet objected to the weight and tone of a solidbody instrument. This line consisted of three guitars: The top-of-the-line Byrdland, the mid-priced ES-350T, and the economy ES-225T.
The Byrdland was designed with the input of famous Nashville session guitarists Hank Garland and Billy Byrd. It was meant to be a thin-bodied L-5 CES with a shorter 23 1/2" scale (instead of the L-5’s 25 1/2" scale). These same innovations were carried out on the full-bodied ES-350, making it the ES-350T.
With its laminated maple top, back, and sides, the ES-350T was meant to be a more affordable version of the Byrdland. (The Byrdland originally cost $550, while the ES-350T was $395.) The rosewood fretboard with split parallelogram inlays and crown headstock inlay were carried over from the original full-sized ES-350.
The 1962 Gibson catalog describes many other details: “Matching the all-around excellence of Gibson performance, this distinctive instrument has a thin, narrow, short-scale neck. The choice of many professionals who acclaim these design features, which permit the use of many chords previously beyond reach. Beautifully finished arched top and back of highly figured curly maple with matching curly maple rims, ivoroid binding and gold-plated metal parts.”
LEFT: When the ES- 350T was first introduced, the guitar sported P-90 pickups. These were replaced with two humbuckers in 1957. MIDDLE: The wear on the gold-plated hardware suggests this is a well-played and well-loved guitar—one that’s likely full of songs and stories, too. RIGHT: The cherry sunburst may explain why the truss rod cover is engraved with “custom.”
The 1962 ES-350T pictured this month has all the features associated with the final incarnation of the model before it was discontinued in 1963 (a full-scale version was reissued in 1978). These include two humbucking pickups (which replaced P-90s in 1957), a deep Florentine cutaway (replacing the rounded Venetian style in 1961), and a three-piece maple neck (replacing the original two-piece in mid-1962).
Rather than the more typical tobacco sunburst, this example has a cherry sunburst, and that may explain why “custom” is engraved on the truss rod cover.
The 1962 Gibson price list shows a sunburst finish ES-350T priced at $485. A 603 Faultless plush-lined case cost an extra $56. The current market value for guitar and case is $6,500.
Sources for this article include Gibson Electrics—The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty’s Golden Era, 1948-1966 by Gil Hembree, The Gibson Guitar from 1950, Vol. 2 by Ian C. Bishop, and the 1962 Gibson catalog.
Original price: $485 in 1962, plus $56 for
Current estimated market value: $6,500
Dave ’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text by Braithwaite.