Vintage Vault: 1957 Gibson Byrdland Natural
Built in Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory, this 1957 Byrdland features a carved spruce top, staple-style P-90s, and gold hardware.

Nashville session guitarists helped develop a classy thinline alternative to heavy solidbodies and traditional jazz boxes.

In 1955, Gibson developed a slimmer hollowbody electric guitar for players wanting a more comfortable instrument that didn’t weigh as much as a solidbody. They enlisted the aid of Nashville session aces Hank Garland and Billy Byrd, and the result of this collaboration was a thin-bodied L-5 CES with a shorter 23 1/2" scale neck (instead of the L-5’s 25 1/2" scale) and a 2 1/4" deep body (the L-5 was 3 3/8" deep). This new high-end electric with the same upscale appointments as the L-5 was named the Byrdland, after its endorsers. Shortly before its introduction at the July 1955 NAMM show, Gibson decided to make the most of the new thinline idea by adding two more-affordable models: the ES-350T (featuring a laminated wood body with the same dimensions as the Byrdland) and the economy ES-225T. The 1956 Gibson catalog describes the benefits of the new guitars: “These revolutionary ‘Thin’ models represent the latest advance in the design of Electric Guitars. The thin body—only 2 1/4" deep—fits close, reducing the right arm stretch and relaxing the wrist. The slim, short-scale neck is phenomenally fast.”

This side view shows the elegant grain of the curly maple rims, which match the guitar’s back, and provides a closer look
at the artful trapeze tailpiece.

The 1957 Byrdland pictured here has the characteristics most often associated with the classic guitar that year. These are best described in the 1958 Gibson catalog: “Hand-graduated, carved top of choice close-grain spruce—arched, highly figured curly maple back with matching curly maple rims—alternate black and white ivoroid binding—three-piece curly maple neck with Gibson Adjustable Truss Rod—multiple-bound ebony fingerboard with block pearl inlays—Tune-o-matic bridge—twin, powerful pickups positioned for contrasting treble and bass response—individually adjustable pole pieces—separate tone and volume controls which can be preset—toggle switch to activate either or both pickups—gold-plated metal parts—stunning new tailpiece design—hand-bound pickguard—individual machine heads with deluxe buttons.

Gibson initially reserved the Greek urn headstock inlay for premium models, and it has periodically resurfaced
on various guitars during the company’s history.

This Byrdland still has the original style Alnico V “staple” single-coil pickups that lasted on the model until the next year, when they were upgraded to humbuckers.Fifty-two natural-finished Byrdlands were shipped in 1957, with a list price of $590. The current value for one in excellent all-original condition is $10,000.

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, Gibson Shipment Totals: 1937-1979 by Larry Meiners, and the 1956 and 1958 Gibson catalogs.

Equipped with noise reduction and noise gate modes, the Integrated Gate has a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal.

Read MoreShow less

Luthier Maegen Wells recalls the moment she fell in love with the archtop and how it changed her world.

The archtop guitar is one of the greatest loves of my life, and over time it’s become clear that our tale is perhaps an unlikely one. I showed up late to the archtop party, and it took a while to realize our pairing was atypical. I had no idea that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with everything about what’s commonly perceived as a “jazz guitar.” No clue whatsoever. And, to be honest, I kind of miss those days. But one can only hear the question, “Why do you want to build jazz guitars if you don’t play jazz?” so many times before starting to wonder what the hell everyone’s talking about.

Read MoreShow less

A modern take on Fullerton shapes and a blend of Fender and Gibson attributes strikes a sweet middle ground.

A stylish alternative to classic Fender profiles that delivers sonic versatility. Great playability.

Split-coil sounds are a little on the thin side. Be sure to place it on the stand carefully!


Fender Player Plus Meteora HH


After many decades of sticking with flagship body shapes, Fender spent the last several years getting more playful via their Parallel Universe collection. The Meteora, however, is one of the more significant departures from those vintage profiles. The offset, more-angular profile was created by Fender designer Josh Hurst and first saw light of day as part of the Parallel Universe Collection in 2018. Since then, it has headed in both upscale and affordable directions within the Fender lineup—reaching the heights of master-built Custom Shop quality in the hands of Ron Thorn, and now in this much more egalitarian guise as the Player Plus Meteora HH.

Read MoreShow less