In the early 1960s, Gibson was steadily losing ground to archrival Fender. The SoCal company offered radical colors, various pickup configurations, and several of their models—especially the Stratocaster and

In the early 1960s, Gibson was steadily losing ground to archrival Fender. The SoCal company offered radical colors, various pickup configurations, and several of their models—especially the Stratocaster and Jazzmasters—quickly became a part of surf culture thanks to the Beach Boys and Dick Dale, among other legendary players. The continued growth and pop culture immersion from Fender forced Gibson to roll up their sleeves and come out with a new batch of guitars that weren’t considered old-fashioned or overpriced.

Gibson dipped its toe in the futuristic guitar design frontier in 1958 with the release of the Explorer, Flying V, and supposedly the Moderne (which never made it into production). Unfortunately, these newfangled axes were just a bit too unconventional for most guitarists. (Obviously, today’s vintage market and the numerous reissue runs show guitarists’ admiration for the ’58 trio.) But in 1963, Gibson’s CEO Ted McCarty took a page out of Fender’s playbook and sought to have a new model that was reminiscent of mid-’50s car tailfins. They enlisted car designer Ray Dietrich—who helped create the 1931 Reo Royale Eight and the early Checker Motors Marathon models—to come up with a new guitar design.

The first Firebird I produced in 1963 had several firsts for Gibson—a peculiarly reversed body shape that had its lower horn longer than the upper, a neck-through design, and a Fender-ish reverse headstock that had banjo tuners on its right side. It features a standard Gibson scale length of 24.75", mahogany body, mahogany neck, Brazilian rosewood fretboard, and a wrapover stop tailpiece. The first models came loaded with mini humbuckers, but eventually were upgraded to standard humbuckers with the Firebird III. The reverse body style was the Firebird norm until 1965 when Gibson unveiled the non-reverse design featuring a substantial upper bass-side horn.

In 1966, Gibson went a step further and offered the non-reverse Firebird in a 12-string—the model shown here was recently purchased by Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. The V-12 features an asymmetrical mahogany body, mahogany set-neck, Brazilian rosewood fretboard, blackface LP-style headstock with pearl split diamond inlay and six tuners on each side, and a Tune-o-matic bridge. The original Firebird models came stock with P-90 pickups, but this particular model has mini humbuckers. Anomalies on this guitar lead Klinghoffer’s tech, Ian Sheppard, to believe that this was either a “factory second or a halfassed prototype.” The headstock’s diamond inlay is off-centered, and this V-12 has two on/off pickup switches whereas the standard model has a 3-way toggle. Additionally, the pickguard is a different shape and has 11 screws while the standard version has only 10.

This is an endangered bird: Only an estimated 272 were produced from 1966– 67. This doesn’t stop Klinghoffer from enjoying his recent purchase. Sheppard claims that, “so far he hasn’t used it on any songs, but when he feels particularly excited he’ll tell me before the show that he’ll want me to bring this up to him during a four-bar rest within the encore jam. He uses it when he wants to get a bit out there [laughs].”

A maze of modulation and reverberations leads down many colorful tone vortices.

Deep clanging reverb tones. Unexpected reverb/modulation combinations.

Steep learning curve for a superficially simple pedal.


SolidGoldFX Ether


A lot of cruel fates can befall a gig. But unless you’re a complete pedal addict or live in high-gain-only realms, doing a gig with just a reverb- and tremolo-equipped amp is not one of them. Usually a nice splash of reverb makes the lamest tone pretty okay. Add a little tremolo on top and you have to work to not be at least a little funky, surfy, or spacy. You see, reverb and modulation go together like beans and rice. That truth, it seems, extends even to maximalist expressions of that formula—like the SolidGold FX Ether.

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Megadeth founder teams up with Gibson for his first acoustic guitar in the Dave Mustaine Collection.

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Gibson 1960 Les Paul 0 8145 is from the final year of the model’s original-production era, and likely from one of the later runs.

The story of 1960 Gibson Les Paul 0 8145—a ’burst with a nameplate and, now, a reputation.

These days it’s difficult to imagine any vintage Gibson Les Paul being a tough sell, but there was a time when 1960 ’bursts were considered less desirable than the ’58s and ’59s of legend—even though Clapton played a ’60 cherry sunburst in his Bluesbreakers days. Such was the case in the mid 1990s, when the family of a local musician who was the original owner of one of these guitars walked into Rumble Seat Music’s original Ithaca, New York, store with this column’s featured instrument.

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