Gibson ES-150 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1937)

Gibson  ES-150 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1937)
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Item # 12242
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Gibson ES-150 Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1937), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 402C-14 (FON), sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

This is a nice original example of the early Gibson ES-150, by practically any standard one of the most historically important electric guitars of all time. Associated practically from the beginning with Charlie Christian, this model was the first truly commercially successful electric Spanish guitar and the progenitor of the entire Gibson Spanish electric line. While many of the early electric guitars of the 1930s have a rather mongrel look, the 150 has a beautifully understated elegance that undoubtedly helped it gain acceptance on the formal bandstands of the time.

This ES-150 is a very early model from 1937, the first year it was officially cataloged for sale though a few were shipped in late 1936. The arched spruce top is carved, while the maple back is flat. The guitar mounts the first "Spanish" version of the famous bar magnet pickup featuring a single-bound top edge and a straight un-notched blade under all the strings. It is controlled by a set of "radio" style tone and volume knobs, mounted in the now-conventional spot which was a new development at the time. The jack is cleverly hidden in the tailpiece, something that was not popular at the time reportedly because it prevented easily resting the guitar upright on the bandstand! The dark sunburst top, fingerboard, tortoise celluloid pickguard and plain back are single-bound in white celluloid. A small pearl script Gibson logo adorns the headstock.

The most amazing thing about this guitar is how modern it still feels, despite its deco-era origins. The neck is slimmer than some but has a fairly sharp "V" profile that was common in the 1930s while the rest of the design hardly feels dated at all. The early pickup is not the quietest but has a sound sought after and imitated right down now well into the 21st century. This ES-150 has had some wear and tear but remains a great example of this rare and perennially sought-after Gibson, a fine player's instrument even closing in on 90 years along.
 
Overall length is 40 1/4 in. (102.2 cm.), 16 1/16 in. (40.8 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This guitar shows signs of use but remains largely original and excellent playing condition. There is finish checking and some general wear over the entire instrument with dings, scratches and scrapes, most heavily on the back. There is minor pick wear on the top near around the fingerboard and pickup, but less than most! The top also has some minor scratching around the controls. Some areas of lacquer are worn through on the back of the neck with several feelable dinks in the lower positions.

The back has some heavy checking and scratching but no full cracks, which are often found on these arch-top but flat-backed solid wood models. The top has two repaired spruce grain splits to the area near the tailpiece, solidly sealed up. The longer of the two runs up to the bridge area. The hardware is original except the bridge, which is a correct style Gibson rosewood piece but from the 1940s or early '50s and the bound tortoise celluloid pickguard, which is an excellent recent repro. The all-important pickup and attendant wiring remain original including the early-style brown radio knobs.

The neck appears to have been neatly reset and the fingerboard refretted with wire slightly taller than period spec but very playable. The nut remains original as well. Overall this is a cool early example that is a better player than many, with the expected unique sound and a vibe for the ages. Overall Excellent - Condition.