Though introduced 67 years ago, this classic archtop is still embraced by professional jazz guitarists.
The Gibson ES-175 debuted in 1949 as an affordable, yet high-quality professional alternative to the existing 17" wide ES-300 and ES-350 models. The same 16 1/4" body size of the cheaper ES-125 was used, but with an arched laminated maple back. A deep Florentine cutaway was introduced for a trouble-free reach to the high registers. A double-pickup version known as the ES-175D was eventually launched in 1953. Both models were available simultaneously until the single-pickup guitar was dropped in 1972. The ES-175 remains a top choice today for serious jazz musicians.
The 1962 catalog describes the ES-175’s innovations: “The Florentine cutaway design provides easy access to the entire fret range. Easy to play and comfortable to hold, it produces a brilliant distortion-free tone. Beautiful arched top and back of select maple with matching rims, black-and-white ivoroid binding, exclusive tailpiece, nickel-plated metal parts, and individual machine heads with deluxe buttons.”
Dual humbuckers—in this case, a set of original Gibson PAFs—earned this model of ES-175 its “D” designation.
The 1962 ES-175D pictured has the features most often associated with the classic incarnation of the model. These include PAF humbucking pickups (1957-1964), a zigzag tailpiece (1957-1970), double-ring Kluson tuners (replacing single-ring tuners in 1960), a rubber grommet under the selector switch (by 1958), and a laminated truss rod cover with a beveled white boarder (replacing the one-ply plain black cover in 1958). While the ES-175D was only officially offered in either sunburst or natural, this example is finished in cherry (a standard color for guitars in the ES-335 family). The 1962 list price was $340. The current value for this one is $10,000.
Though this instrument has a cherry finish, officially the ES-175 was only offered in natural or sunburst. Subtle checks in the lacquer near the Florentine cutaway reveal this guitar’s age.
The amp behind the guitar is a 1962 Fender Vibrasonic. It was introduced in the summer of 1959 as the first of Fender’s new brown Tolex amp series. These amps replaced the previous tweed covered models and had some practical modifications including a control panel in the front, rather than on the top, and built in tremolo. The Vibrasonic was equipped with two 6L6 power tubes pushing 40 watts through a 15" JBL speaker. The 1962 list price was $479.50. The current value for the amp is $2,500.Sources for this article include The Gibson ES-175: Its History and Players by Adrian Ingram, Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir, and Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years by John Teagle and John Sprung.