Gibson Guitar Corporation
|Founded||1902,1 Kalamazoo, Michigan|
|Headquarters||Nashville, Tennessee, USA|
|Key people||Orville Gibson, Ted McCarty, Les Paul, Seth Lover|
Valley Arts Guitar
Gibson Guitar Corporation is an American maker of guitars and other instruments, now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Orville Gibson founded the company in 1902 as "The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., Ltd." in Kalamazoo, Michigan to make mandolin-family instruments.1 Gibson invented archtop guitars by constructing the same type of carved, arched tops used on violins. By the 1930s, the company was also making flattop acoustic guitars, as well as one of the first commercially available hollow-body electric guitars, used and popularized by Charlie Christian. It was bought by Chicago Musical Instruments in 1944, which was then acquired by the E.C.L. conglomerate that changed its name to Norlin Inc. Many observers see this as the beginning of an era of mismanagement.
Gibson sells guitars under a variety of brand names2 and builds one of the world's most iconic guitars, the Gibson Les Paul. Many Gibson instruments are highly collectible. Gibson was at the forefront of innovation in acoustic guitars, especially in the big band era of the 1930s; the Gibson Super 400 was widely imitated. In 1952, Gibson introduced its first solid-body electric guitar, the Les Paul which became its most popular guitar to date— designed by Ted McCarty and Les Paul. After being purchased by the Norlin corporation in the late 1960s Gibson's quality and fortunes took a steep decline until early 1986, when the company was acquired by its present owners. Gibson Guitar is a privately held corporation owned by its chief executive officer Henry Juszkiewicz and its president David H. Berryman.
Orville Gibson (born 1856) patented a single-piece mandolin design in 1898 that was more durable than other mandolins and could be manufactured in volume.3 Orville Gibson began to sell his instruments in 1894 out of a one-room workshop in Kalamazoo Michigan. In 1902 Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co, Ltd. was incorporated to market the instruments. Initially, the company produced only Orville Gibson's original designs.4 Orville died in 1918 of endocarditis (inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and valves).3 The following year the company hired designer Lloyd Loar to create newer instruments.4 Loar designed the Gibson F5 mandolin that was introduced in 1922, before leaving the company in 1924.5 In 1936 Gibson introduced their first "Electric Spanish" model, the ES-150 followed by other electric instruments like steel guitars, banjos and mandolins.
During World War II, instrument manufacturing at Gibson slowed due to shortages of wood and metal. Instead, Gibson made wood and metal parts for the military. In 1944 Gibson was purchased by Chicago Musical Instruments. The ES-175 was introduced in 1949. Gibson hired Ted McCarty in 1948, who became President in 1950. He led an expansion of the guitar line with new guitars such as the "Les Paul" guitar introduced in 1952 and designed by Les Paul. The Les Paul was offered in Custom, Standard, Special, and Junior models.6 In the mid-50s, the Thinline series was produced, which included a line of thinner guitars like the Byrdland. The first Byrdlands were slim, custom built, L-5 models for guitarists Billy Byrd and Hank Garland. Later, a shorter neck was added. Other models such as the ES-350T and the ES-225T were introduced as less costly alternatives.7 In 1958, Gibson introduced the ES-335T model. Similar in size to the hollow-body Thinlines, the ES-335 family had a solid center, giving the string tone a longer sustain.
In the 1950s, Gibson also produced the Tune-o-matic bridge system and its version of the humbucking pickup, the PAF ("Patent Applied For"), first released in 1957 and still sought after for its sound.citation needed In 1958, Gibson produced two new designs: the eccentrically shaped Explorer and Flying V. These "modernistic" guitars did not sell initially. It was only in the late 1960s and early 70s when the two guitars were reintroduced to the market that they sold well. The Firebird, in the early 60s, was a reprise of the modernistic idea, though less extreme.
Below are some of the facilities used to produce Gibson instruments, along with years of their operation:
|Address||Years of Operation||Notes|
|114 So. Burdick, Kalamazoo, MI.||1896-1897||This was the “business location” of “O. H. Gibson, Manufacturer, Musical Instruments.”8|
|104 East Main, Kalamazoo, MI||1899-1902||This was Orville Gibson’s residence, and he built instruments on the 2nd floor of this location.910|
|114 East Main, Kalamazoo, MI||1902-1906||The “Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co, Ltd.” was established in 1902.11 This building, said to be infested with cockroaches, was probably the former Witmer Bakery.12|
|114 East Exchange Place, Kalamazoo, MI||1906-1911||Located quite close to the previous location, in Kalamazoo’s business district.13|
|521-523 East Harrison Court, Kalamazoo, MI||1911-1917||Located about .5 miles from previous location. The building was next to the Michigan Central Railroad, and stood for many decades, until it came down in the late 20th century.14|
|225 Parsons St, Kalamazoo, MI, 49007||1917-1984||Also located next to railroad tracks, this facility had major expansions in 1945, 1950, and 1960.15 Various brands were produced there, including Gibson, Epiphone, (1957-1970)1617 and Kalamazoo. During the depression of the 1930s, children’s toys were produced there, and during WW2 it produced materials to support the war effort in addition to producing guitars.18 Between 1974 and 1984 Gibson moved its manufacturing out of this facility to Tennessee. Most of this move happened in 1974, leaving only acoustic and some semi-acoustic production for this plant.19 In 1985, Heritage Guitars began production, renting part of this facility.20|
|309 Plus Park Blvd, Nashville, TN, 37217||? - present|
|145 Lt. George W. Lee Av, Memphis, TN 38103||? - present||This facility is located only one block away from Gibson's Beale Street "Showcase" location.21|
|1894 Orville Way, Bozeman, MT, 59715||? - present||(Dedicated to acoustic guitar production.)|
In the late 50s, McCarty knew that Gibson was seen as a traditional company and began an effort to create more modern guitars. In 1961 the body design of the Les Paul was changed due to the demand for a double-cutaway body design.22 The new body design then became known as the SG (for "solid guitar"). The Les Paul returned to the Gibson catalog in 1968.
On December 22, 1969 Gibson parent company, Chicago Musical Instruments, was taken over by a South American brewing conglomerate, E.C.L. Gibson, Inc. remained under the control of CMI until 1974, when it became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments (a member of Norlin Industries - named for ECL president Norton Stevens and CMI president Maurice Berlin). This began an era characterized by corporate mismanagement and decreasing product quality.
Between 1974 and 1984 production of Gibson guitars was shifted from Kalamazoo to Nashville, Tennessee. The Kalamazoo plant kept going for a few years as a custom-instrument shop, but was closed in 1984; several Gibson employees led by plant manager Jim Duerloo established Heritage Guitars in the old factory, building versions of classic Gibson designs. The company was within three months of going out of business before it was bought by Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman, and Gary A. Zebrowski in January 1986.23 New production plants were opened in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Bozeman, Montana. The Memphis facility is used for semi-hollow and custom shop instruments, while the Bozeman facility is dedicated to acoustic instruments.24
In 1977 Gibson sued Hoshino/Elger for copying the Gibson Les Paul.25 In 2000, Gibson sued Fernandes Guitars in a Tokyo court for allegedly copying Gibson designs. Gibson did not prevail.26 Gibson also sued PRS Guitars in 2005, to stop them from making their Singlecut model. The lawsuit against PRS was initially successful.27 However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court decision and ordered the dismissal of Gibson's suit against PRS.28
In 2011, Gibson acquired the Stanton Group, including Cerwin Vega!, KRK Systems and Stanton DJ. Gibson then formed a new division, Gibson Pro Audio, which will deliver professional grade audio items, including headphones, loudspeakers and DJ equipment.31
Gibson's factories were raided in 2009 and 2011 by the police under the authority of United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2009 authorities found ebony wood from India they claimed had misleading labels to hide violations of Indian export law. Gibson claimed the labels were made by mistake.323334 A second raid was conducted in August 2011, but the details were not released due to ongoing legal proceedings.33
Gibson Guitar Corp. filed a motion in January 2011 to recover seized materials and overturn the charges, which was denied by the court.353636 The Justice Department found emails from 2008 and 2009 discussing plans to harvest endangered ebony wood from Nagel, Germany, in violation of Madagascar's export laws. It filed a civil proceeding.373839 Gibson argued in a statement the following day that authorities were "bullying Gibson without filing charges" and denied any wrongdoing.4041
The case was settled on August 6, 2012, with Gibson admitting to violating the Lacey Act and agreeing to pay a fine of $300,000 in addition to a $50,000 community payment. Gibson also forfeited the wood seized in the raids, which was valued at roughly the same amount at the settlement.4243 The case raised concerns for musicians who lack documentation of vintage instruments made of traditional, non-sustainable materials.3244 However, officials from the Justice Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have stated that musicians who unknowingly possess instruments made from illegal wood would not be treated as criminals.45 After a scandal involving the IRS allegedly targeting Republican-backed Tea-Party groups, Gibson's CEO reiterated allegations that the company was unfairly targeted due to political donations the organization made to Republican candidates.4647
Gibson makes authorized copies of its most successful guitar designs. They are less expensive than those bearing the Gibson name. A former competitor, Epiphone was purchased by Gibson and now makes competitively priced Gibson models, such as the Les Paul, sold under the Epiphone brand,55 while continuing to make Epiphone-specific models like the Sheraton and Casino. In Japan, Orville by Gibson once made Gibson designs sold in that country.56 Gibson has sought legal action against those that make and sell guitars too-similar to their own.
In 1977, Gibson introduced the serial numbering system in use until 2006.57 An eight-digit number on the back shows the date when the instrument was produced, where it was produced, and its order of production that day (e.g., first instrument stamped that day, second, etc.).58 As of 2006, the company used seven serial number systems,57 making it difficult to identify guitars by their serial number alone.5758 and as of 1999 the company has used six distinct serial numbering systems.58 An exception is the year 1994, Gibson's centennial year; many 1994 serial numbers start with "94", followed by a six-digit production numbercitation needed. The Gibson website provides a book to help with serial number deciphering.58
In 2006 Gibson introduced a nine-digit serial number system replacing the eight-digit system used since 1977, but the sixth digit now represents a batch number.57
In 2003,59 Gibson debuted its ethernet-based60 communications protocol, MaGIC, which it developed in partnership with 3COM, Advanced Micro Devices, and Xilinx.59 Replacing traditional analog hook-ups with a digital connection that would, "...satisfy the unique requirements of live audio performances," may have been the goal of this project.60
The Gibson "self-tuning guitar", also known as a "robot model", an option on some newer Les Paul, SG, Flying V and Explorer instruments, will tune itself in little more than two seconds using robotics technology developed by Tronical GmbH.61
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- http://images.gibson.com.s3.amazonaws.com/Lifestyle/PDFs/Memphis-Tour-Brochure-Outside.pdf (Accessed Mar 24, 2014.)
- Hembree 2007, p. 110
- Hembree 2007, p. 306
- Gleick 1987
- Fjestad, Zachary (June 16, 2010). "Ibanez "Lawsuit Era" Les Paul Custom Copy". Premier Guitar.
- "Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property | Vol 4 | Iss 2". Law.northwestern.edu. 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2012-05-09.
- Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, L.P., 325 F. Supp. 2d 841 (M.D. Tenn., 2004)
- Gibson Guitar Corp. v. Paul Reed Smith Guitars, LP, 423 F.3d 539 (6th Cir. 2005).
- Garrison Guitars sold to Gibson thetelegram.com, July 4th, 2007
- Email, published by Walker Duncan (2009-03-23). "Sources: Gibson adds to layoff tally | Make and Buy | NashvillePost.com: Nashville Business News + Nashville Political News". NashvillePost.com. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
- "Gibson Guitar increases high-tech lineup with purchase". Tennessean.com. 2011-12-06. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
- Felten, E. (26 August 2011). "Guitar frets: Environmental enforcement leaves musicians in fear". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Wadhwani, A.; Paine, A. (25 August 2011). "Gibson Guitar raided but lips zipped". The Tennessean. Archived from the original on 26 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- Lind, J.R. (29 December 2010). "Federal agent: Gibson wood investigation likely to result in indictments". NashvillePost.com. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
- "Update: CEO's Outrage Gets Media Buzzing". Gibson Guitar Corp. 26 August 2011. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- "Gibson Guitars fails to squash illegal wood investigation". Sound & Fair. 19 January 2011. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- "Gibson/Lacey Act Update". Home Furnishings Business. 6 July 2011. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
- "Endangered species trafficking: What did Gibson Guitar know?". mongabay.com. 7 July 2011. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
- Trotter, J. (25 August 2011). "Endangered lemurs could be connected to Gibson raid". WMCTV.com. Archived from the original on 26 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- "Gibson Guitar Corp. responds to federal raid". Gibson Guitar Corp. 25 August 2011. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Stern, Andrew (25 August 2011). "Gibson Guitar to fight U.S. probe of its wood imports". Reuters. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Black, R. (6 August 2012). "Gibson settles discord on timber". BBC News. Archived from the original on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Clarke, C.; Grant, A. (4 May 2011). "Are your wood products really certified?". wri.org. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
- Simmons, L. (31 August 2011). "Raid highlights music manufacturers' environmental risks". bizmology.com. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Eilperin, J. (13 November 2011). "Gibson Guitar ignites debate over environmental protections". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 16 November 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
- "Gibson CEO revives complaints over government raids in wake of IRS scandal". Fox news. May 29, 2013.
- "Now The Gibson Guitar Raids Make Sense". Investor's Business Daily. 23 May 2013.
- "Gibson Expands Pro Audio Division". Gibson.com. 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
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- kramerguitars.com Kramer Official Site
- Maestro by Gibson Gibson Official Site
- steinberger.com Steinberger Official Site
- Tobias Gibson Official Site
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- Gibson Serial Numbers: What a serial number can and can't tell you about your Gibson Gibson Official Site, 7.17.2007
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- The MaGIC of Gibson's Digital Guitars Maximum PC magazine, April 2003
- This Is MaGIC Gibson Official Site
- Yuri Kageyama (The Associated Press) (December 3, 2007). "World's first robot guitar takes care of the tuning". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- Achard, Ken (1989). The History and Development of the American Guitar. Westport, CT: Bold Strummer Ltd. ISBN 978-0-933-22418-6.
- Bacon, Tony (2002). 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-879-30711-0.
- Bacon, Tony (2009). The Les Paul Guitar Book: A Complete History of Gibson Les Paul Guitars. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-879-30951-0.
- Bacon, Tony (2011). Flying V, Explorer, Firebird: An Odd-shaped History of Gibson’s Weird Electric Guitars. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-617-13008-3.
- Bacon, Tony (2012). The History of the American Guitar: From 1833 to the Present Day. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-617-13033-5.
- Bacon, Tony (2014). Sunburst: How the Gibson Les Paul Standard Became a Legendary Guitar. Montclair: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-617-13466-1.
- Bonds, Ray (2004). The Illustrated Directory of Gutiars. New York: Barnes and Noble. ISBN 978-0-760-76317-9.
- Carter, Walter (1994). Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon. Los Angeles: General Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-881-64939-7.
- Carter, Walter (2007). Gibson Electric Guitar Book – Seventy Years of Classic Guitars. Backbeat Books: New York. ISBN 978-0-879-30895-7.
- Day, Paul; Carter, Walter; Hunter, Dave; Verheyen, Carl (2011). The Ultimate Gibson Guitar Book. New York: Metro Books. ISBN 978-1-435-13756-1.
- Duchossoir, A. R. (1998). Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-0-793-59210-4.
- Duchossoir, A. R. (2008). Guitar Identification: A Reference for Dating Guitars made by Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, and Martin (4th ed.). Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-1-423-42611-0.
- Duchossoir, A. R. (2009). Gibson Electric Steel Guitars: 1935-1967. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-1-423-45702-2.
- Erlewine, Dan; Whitford, Eldon; Vinopal, David (2009). Gibson’s Fabulous Flat-top Guitars: An Illustrated History & Guide. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-879-30962-6.
- Fjestad, Zachary R.; Meiners, Larry (2007). Gibson Flying V. Minneapolis, MN: Blue Book Publications. ISBN 978-1-886-76872-7.
- Fox, Paul (2011). The Other Brands of Gibson. Anaheim Hills, CA: Centerstream Publications. ISBN 978-1-574-24271-3.
- Gruhn, George; Carter, Walter (1993). Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments: A Photographic History. San Francisco: GPI Books. ISBN 978-0-879-30240-5.
- Gruhn, George; Carter, Walter (2010a). Electric Guitars and Basses: A Photographic History. New York: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-879-30974-9.
- Gruhn, George; Carter, Walter (2010b). Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars: An Identification Guide for American Fretted Instruments. New York: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-879-30422-5.
- Hembree, George (2007). Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty’s Golden Era 1948-1966. Austin, TX: GH Books. ISBN 978-1-423-41813-9.
- Ingram, Adrian (1997). The Gibson L5: Its History and its Players. Anaheim, CA: Centerstream Pub. ISBN 978-1-574-24047-4.
- Ingram, Adrian (2007). The Gibson 175: Its History and its Players. Anaheim, CA: Centerstream Pub. ISBN 978-1-574-24223-2.
- Marx, Wallace (2009). Gibson Amplifiers 1933-2008. Minneapolis, MN: Blue Book Publications. ISBN 978-1-886-76890-1.
- Spann, Joe (2011). Spann’s Guide to Gibson: 1902-1941. Anaheim Hills, CA: Centerstream Pub. ISBN 978-1-574-24267-6.
- Thomas, John (2012). Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s ‘Banner’ Guitars of WWII. Franklin, TN: American History Press. ISBN 978-0-983-08278-1.
- Wheeler, Tom (1992). American Guitars: An Illustrated History (rev. and updated ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-062-73154-8.
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