Tested by Terry Buddingh Prior to the introduction of its first solidbody guitar in 1952, Gibson had secured its esteemed reputation based primarily on its impeccably crafted and sumptuously appointed archtops. To provide the missing link between its classic- and modern-era guitars, Gibson introduced its first semi-hollowbody design in 1958, the ES-335. An alternative to the Les Paul for players who appreciated a solidbody’s benefits, but wanted something more traditional, the ES-335, with its super-thin body and double cutaways, must have created a startling impression. Indeed, Gibson’s more radically shaped Flying V and Explorer were also introduced in 1958, but the “thinline” 335 was truly more innovative and, ultimately, more successful. It’s a credit to its visionary designers that the 335 has spawned so many variations, and that such a wide variety of players—including B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and Larry Carlton—have adopted semi-hollows as their primary instrument. But while many guitarists have been closely associated with thinline Gibsons, only a few have been honored with their own signature models.
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