Thirty Years of ESP Guitars

When Japan’s Hisatake Shibuya opened his Electric Sound Products chain of music stores in 1975, he probably wasn’t envisioning that the company would evolve into one of the world’s foremost guitar makers. But, in 1983, the stores—often tagged with the snappier title of “ESP”—reacted to the booming guitar market by manufacturing replacement parts and accessories.
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Two years later, ESP was making complete custom guitars as special orders for touring and recording pros. Soon the word got out about these “special custom jobs,” and ESP, while in no way intending to become a mass-market guitar company, decided to open an office in New York City in 1986 to devise custom models for U.S. players.

Thwarting any intention of remaining a small custom shop, ESP guitars captured the imaginations of rock and metal players who desired something different, and celebrity endorsees such as George Lynch, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Ron Wood, Stephen Carpenter, Dave Mustaine, and Jeff Hanneman further promoted the brand. Now a fully rockin’ purveyor of high-end guitars for the masses, ESP added its affordable LTD line in 1996, and introduced its X-Tone series of semi-hollowbodies in 2003.

“ESP’s motto has always been, ‘If you dream it, we can build it,’” says ESP president Matt Masciandaro, “and we still stick to that philosophy.”

Here, then, is a photo gallery of dreams from the company’s 30 years. For more information on current production models, as well as the ESP custom shop, click to