Gibson ES-350 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1951)

Gibson  ES-350 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1951)
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Item # 12185
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Gibson ES-350 Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1951), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # A-8037, sunburst lacquer finish, laminated maple body and neck with rosewood fingerboard, original brown hard shell case.

This is a very cool original example of an early 1950s Gibson ES-350, one of the true classic hollowbody electric guitars of the "pre-solidbody" period and the template for many to follow. The ES-350 is a 17" fully hollow, full depth laminated maple guitar that occupied the spot in the 1950's Gibson line between the mid-line 16" ES-175 and the flashy three-pickup ES-5. Up until mid-1949 it was actually the top of the electric line before the ES-5 appeared that summer. This was also the first full year for the double pickup ES-350, upgraded with a second unit near the bridge at the end of 1948.

This particular guitar was shipped in July 1951, one of only 70 sunburst examples that left Kalamazoo that year. It mounts two black covered P-90 single coil pickups with "dog ear" covers, the standard Gibson units of the early '50s. The controls are specific to this period with no switch, but two volumes on the lower rim and a master tone control on the cutaway bout. This would be changed a couple of years along into the familiar 4-knob, 1 switch rig used ever since. While technically less versatile, this earlier system does allow more effective subtle blending of the two pickups.

The ES-350 is a fairly fancy guitar, not flashy but with an overriding elegance. The triple-bound laminated maple body has a single rounded cutaway and two f-holes, finished in a deep amber sunburst showcasing some subtle but attractive tiger maple. All hardware is gold plated. The L-7 style hinged trapeze tailpiece has pointed ends and three raised parallelograms. The pickguard is laminated B/W/B/W plastic with a beveled edge.

The fairly chunky round-backed maple neck is a three piece laminate, with a narrow black stripe down the center. The rosewood fretboard is single bound and inlaid with double pearloid parallelograms. The headstock is single bound with a mother-of-pearl crown inlaid in the peghead overlay. The early Kluson Deluxe tuners have plastic "tulip" single ring buttons.

The ES-350 is a superb full-body electric instrument which in the 1950's became a favorite of several top jazz players. In this twin-pickup configuration it is mostly associated with Tal Farlow, who used one for much of the 1950s, live and on his most famous recordings. While offering a superb jazz pedigree this is a more versatile instrument than some might think, equally at home in other stylings from R&B grooves to flat-out country twang to full-blown vintage blues or Rockabilly raunch.
Overall length is 41 3/4 in. (106 cm.), 17 in. (43.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 5/16 in. (8.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 1/2 in. (648 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This is a very sharp looking guitar, a great player with some wear here and there but generally decently well preserved for its 70+ years on Earth. The vintage patina is fantastic, with that classic Gibson 1950s "glow". The all-original finish shows some typical checking overall and some fairly random dings, dents, rubs and scuffs. The top is relatively clean, with only some small dings scattered around and some scuff marks from bridge movement. The only large area of loss is to the back of the neck, which is down to the wood from play, smooth over much of its length with some feelable dinks and scrapes in the 9-12th fret area. There are a few heavier scrapes to the back but no major buckle wear. The upper side above the heel has some random marks through the finish that look like they were caused by some solvent ages ago.

There are a couple of tiny laminate checks just around the jack on the rim, but no splits, there are no structural repairs visible to the instrument at all. solid but visible and not over finished. No other repairs are evident. The hardware is all original to the instrument and in excellent shape including the P-90 pickups and wiring, tall amber volume and tone knobs, pickguard and bracket. Full-contact adjustable rosewood bridge and gold-plater Kluson tuners with "keystone" buttons. The tailpiece plating is heavily worn down but looks authentic. The jack was replaced but the original is still in the case pocket. There was never even a strap button added to the heel.

The small frets are the period correct style but were replaced long ago and look quite authentic; the originals are still in a baggie in the case. The neck is nice and straight and playability is excellent. This is a fantastic instrument that looks, plays and sounds exactly as it should, absolutely encapsulating the early 1950s Gibson aesthetic. This lovely old "Jazz box" has been played heavily long ago is not perfectly pristine but feels like the coolest early-model 350 we have had, with some stories played in still offering a killer sound and epic vibe. It resides in the original brown HSC which is heavily worn but still serviceable. Overall Excellent - Condition.