Gibson Barney Kessel Regular Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1966)
Gibson Barney Kessel Regular Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1966), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 850061, red sunburst lacquer finish, laminated maple body, mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case. Item # 7340
One of Gibson's new ideas for the early 1960's was a series of electric archtop guitars named for and endorsed by top jazz players; the Barney Kessel models were the least conventional of these but proved quite successful for a time. The Barney Kessel Regular was the less deluxe of two Kessel-themed guitars offered; the defining characteristic of both this and the similar Deluxe model was the full-depth 17" double cutaway body. Gibson had been gradually adopting this symmetrical cutaway body format for several years, launching the ES-335-series in 1958 and gradually changing the Les Paul line over to the SG body. The Kessels are unique, however, and their swooping twin Florentine cutaways on a 17" wide, nearly 3" deep body looked and felt like no other guitar of the time-and few since. The models were introduced in 1961, and remained in production until the end of the decade.
The Kessel models were considered a successbut were not built in particularly large numbers- only 149 "Regular' models were were produced in 1966. The Barney Kessel Regular, though not as fancy as the Custom model is still a relatively high-end guitar has a number of distinctive features. The body is laminate maple, the long scale mahogany neck has a bound rosewood fingerboard adorned with the typical Gibson double parallelogram pearl inlay, and the oversize bound headstock is faced with the crown motif. The top is triple bound and the tailpiece has a wood/plastic inset with "Barney Kessel" engraving. The pickups are the typical period Gibson humbucking rig with chrome plated covers, with standard controls. Tuners are double-ring Kluson deluxe, and the bridge is the wood-based Tune-O-Matic seen on most period Gibson archtops. This one still has the older style "capped" gold knobs that would be gone by the next year.
Gibson Barney Kessel models were seen with several well-known players in the 1960's; The best known was Gene Cornish of New York's Rascals, who had several Kessels including a custom-made black example. Trini Lopez used one extensively and Gibson soon built a signature model for him using the same body and general features. Bryan McLean of Love played a Kessel Custom model for much of the band's oeuvre in 1965-8. This Barney Kessel has seen some play time but remains an excellent sounding and playing guitar, a nice example of this unusual 1960's Gibson.
Overall length is 44 in. (111.8 cm.), 17 in. (43.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 1/4 in. (641 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.). Very nice overall and all original except for a pro-grade refret. The finish is clean and shows very little fade with checking and a few light dings here and there. Some corrosion to the bridge top and neck pickup cover, the rest of the hardware shows little wear. A very good player, refretted at some point with slightly taller wire and the nut was replaced. An excellent gigging example of this cool if slightly oddball 1960's Gibson. Excellent Condition.
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