The Playmate of the month
Gibson ES 5, 1949
Introduced by Gibson at the 1949 NAMM show as the top model of the electric line, the ES 5 was an evolution, both technically and stylistically, of the ES 350 P, the first Gibson electric with a cutaway, produced from 1947. At the same time, as the "5" in its name suggests, it was presented as an electric version of the famous L 5, one of the most respected archtops produced in Kalamazoo (L 5 CES would be introduced only two years later, in 51). Actually, there are ES 5 prototypes built starting from both ES 350 and acoustic L 5 bodies, modified with pickups and pots.
decorative details, like mother-of-pearl fingerbord
inlays or multi-bound fretboard pointed end, draw it
nearer to the luxurious L 5, but, structurally, ES 5 is
more similar to the ES 350, with its laminate maple body,
often pleasantly flamed, and rosewood fretboard.
But what really sets this model apart are the electronics: for the first time, a guitar features three pickups (P90, of course), whose volume is controlled by three pots, placed in a line on the right side of lower bout, while tone is controlled by a single knob near the rounded cutaway.
glamour, made of technologic ostentation, refinement of design,
pure beauty of the woods, and timbric flexibility, immediately
fascinated many professional musicians, for whom evidently it has
been conceived: T Bone Walker, the first electric blues
master, soon bought one (a blond-finish 49), and so did his
disciples Lowell Fulson and B.B. King. Walker created his famous
"out-of-phase sound" taking advantage of the peculiar
three pickup configuration.
Replaced in 55 with the Switchmaster model, the ES 5 has tied its name to the golden years of past centurys american music. On the vintage market, it is a highly respected instrument, with a value ranging from 4.000 to 5.500 $ (sunburst), and from 6.000 to 9.000 $ (natural). Originality, overall conditions and flame in the woods can considerably raise these prices.
|Today, we at Real Vintage are proud to show you our own Gibson ES 5, serial number A 3857, which left the factory in October 49, its first year of production. Like all of the very early models, it has no binding in the "f" holes. It is an absolutely spectacular instrument, in exceptionally fine conditions, and very playable: its nicely rounded neck is very confortable, especially if you are used to that 40s feel, and its peculiar sounds offer interesting hints, even though they are quite difficult to master onstage, because of the unusual electronics configuration.|
|Anyway, if drooling for the photos is not enough for you, and you want to be - and play - like T Bone without risk of sprain due to "split- with-guitar-behind-your-shoulders" (see our logo!), you could try to get one of these wonderful instruments.... But not this one, which will always remain one of the most charming and emotionally meaningful of my personal collection. Ciao!|