Featuring a mahogany body and neck, the Gibson Melody Maker debuted in 1959 and shifted to a double-horned shape in 1966. Though mods typically devalue a vintage instrument, the aftermarket Duncan mini-humbucker on this guitar yields a bigger, beefier sound than the original Gibson single-coil.
I’m a sentimentalist. A lot of guitar players are. What I mean is that many of us yearn for the guitars from our younger days, when music was new and exciting to us. In my youth, I had an old Gibson Melody Maker that I bought for 40 bucks. It wasn’t anything fancy—just an introductory model from Gibson that gave me a taste of what a good guitar was like. I always regretted selling it, but, hey, we move on.
Fast-forward many years later. I was surfing eBay looking for something interesting and this guitar caught my eye. It’s a 1960 sunburst Melody Maker with a single cutaway (rather than the double) and with an aftermarket Seymour Duncan mini-humbucker that replaced the original black single-coil pickup. I love the old sunburst finish on these guitars because it makes them resemble a thicker-bodied Les Paul Junior from that same period.
The original Melody Makers played great but always sounded disappointing to my ears when plugged into an amp. The problem was the original skinny single-coil pickups, which just sounded too weenie and brittle to me. The original pickups simply didn’t sound “Fender” enough for single-coils and were not beefy enough to sound like humbuckers or P-90s. They’re in a kind of sonic no-man’s-land. Because this one had been modified with a Duncan mini-humbucker, it appealed to me.
The guitar just dripped “cool,” so I kept my eye on the auction and sniped at the last minute, winning it for $376, including shipping. The auction also included an old Gibson Les Paul-type hardshell case, which was a bonus. I received the guitar a week later and just fell in love with the way it played. My take on Melody Makers (and I’ve owned half a dozen over the years) is that they make great mod guitars because of their rather modest price. I do sometimes wish it had a second pickup in the neck position, and that may be in my future down the road. In the meantime, I enjoy its “in your face” attitude. Listen to my soundclip to hear how the Duncan responds to overtones and harmonics, especially when I choke up on the pick and really dig into the strings.
The Melody Maker was among the first Gibsons to sport pickguard-mounted electronics for easy assembly at the company’s original Kalamazoo factory.
Bottom Feeder Tip #307: Mods usually diminish a guitar’s value, but that also makes a modded guitar a lot cheaper to acquire. Original Melody Makers typically go for $1,200 to $1,800, if all original. Also, the old Gibson hardshell case could probably sell for $350 to $500 in today’s market.
So is it a keeper? You bet. I still have it after many years and continue to enjoy its unique sound. Yeee-haaaaa!