The wide-bodied version of the Trini Lopez was based on Gibson’s Barney Kessel signature model, but with such oddball adornments as diamond-shaped soundholes and position markers.
In 1965 Gibson added Trini Lopez to its list of artists with signature guitars. These already included Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel, and the Everly Brothers.
Trini Lopez was born in Dallas, Texas in 1937. Dropping out of high school his senior year, he helped support his family by playing music. Buddy Holly befriended Lopez in the late ’50s and introduced him to his producer, Norman Petty, in Clovis, New Mexico. Lopez’s band, the Big Beats, recorded an instrumental single in Clovis before Lopez left the group to go solo.
After recording several disappointing singles for King Records between 1959 and 1962, Lopez was invited to California to front Buddy’s old group, the Crickets. That gig didn’t work out, but his California trip eventually brought him to the attention of Frank Sinatra, who signed him to his own label, Reprise Records. This venture proved successful and earned Lopez multiple hits throughout the rest of the ’60s, including “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree.”
The trapeze tailpiece includes a decorative rosewood shield with a plastic “Trini Lopez” plaque.
Gibson offered two Trini Lopez models: the Standard (based on the ES-335), and the Deluxe (based on the Barney Kessel model). Both had asymmetrical, Fender-like headstocks and diamond-shaped soundholes and fretboard inlays. The 1966 Gibson catalog describes the Deluxe: “A Gibson custom artist guitar featuring deep modern double cutaway and exceptional electronic response. Exquisitely fashioned in Curly Maple with cream binding and shell pickguard, the Trini Lopez Deluxe is styled for today’s guitarists.”
The 1968 Trini Lopez Deluxe pictured here has the standard features for that year: a double-cutaway laminated maple body measuring 21" x 17" x 3", a 24 3/4"-scale fretboard, a mahogany neck, two humbuckers with a volume and tone control for each, a 3-way pickup selector switch, a standby switch, a Tune-o-matic bridge with nylon saddles, and a trapeze tailpiece embellished with a rosewood shield and plastic nameplate. While bright cherry sunburst was the standard finish, this example is finished in sparkling burgundy—common for ES-335s, but rare for this model.
The Trini Lopez was one of the few Gibson models to have the “six-on-a-side” headstock first popularized
by Fender in 1950.
A total of 302 Trini Lopez Deluxe models shipped between 1964 and 1970. The September 1967 list price was $725. (There may have been a small upcharge for the custom finish.) The current value of one in excellent all-original condition is $5,000.
Sources for this article include Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years by A. R. Duchossoir, Gibson Shipment Totals 1937-1979 by Larry Meiners, and trinilopez.com.