An up close and personal look at Johnny Winter''s 1963 Firebird V

Gibson''s Johnny Winter 1963 Firebird V
Pat Foley, Artist Relations Director for the Gibson Custom Shop, proudly displays the Johnny Winter 1963 Firebird V
Photo by Wayne Dennon

The Summer NAMM show never ceases to present unique opportunities to lucky convention-goers. This year was no exception with its return to Nashville, Tennessee, a move that seemed to bring an extra sense of “magic,” if not just plain hopefulness, to the entire event. With that said, my experience during Gibson’s Summer Jam, held in the heart of the

Body & Hardware:
Solid Mahogany wings
Vintage Sunburst finish
Nickel hardware
ABR-1 bridge, heavy stop-bar tailpiece

Neck & Headstock:
Nine-ply mahogany/walnut neck-thru body
22-fret rosewood fingerboard
Pearloid trapezoid inlays
Single-ply cream binding
Firebird rounded neck profile
24 3/4" scale length, 1 11/16" nut width
Banjo tuners

Electronics & Strings:
Mini-humbucker pickups
2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way selector switch
Vintage Reissue .010 strings
company’s Nashville operations, probably gave me my most memorable NAMM experience to date. I was given a personal, “behind-the-scenes” look at Gibson’s latest Custom Shop masterpiece: a recreation of Johnny Winter’s 1963 Firebird V.

I was ushered to the back area of the Gibson Custom Shop, to what looked like a giant stock room filled with the pleasant scent of freshly cut wood. I was immediately presented with approximately 30 brand new Johnny Winter guitars, each one impeccably finished in that iconic vintage sunburst finish. While inspecting the guitar, I found myself awe-struck by the detail put into it. I noticed a chip in the pickguard near one of the screws; at first, I thought that there had been a mistake by one of the builders. How wrong I was – further inspection revealed that each guitar had a chip in the pickguard, although I was informed that no two were exactly alike, due to the fact that each one was painstakingly done by hand. And while anyone with a few tools and the gumption can make a Firebird replica these days, the chipped bridge, the aged body and headstock, the worn fretboard – including a crack where Johnny had broken the neck – and the cigarette burns all proved that it takes a special talent to recreate a piece of rock history.

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