Gibson Super 400 CES Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1964)

Gibson  Super 400 CES Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1964)
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Item # 12285
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Gibson Super 400 CES Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1964), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 176332, sunburst lacquer finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; laminated maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The 18" wide Super 400 CES (Cutaway Electric Spanish) was Gibson's biggest and classiest guitar aimed squarely at the top of the market; it has been a company mainstay for seven decades and a favorite of many classic jazz and R&B players. With the features of an acoustic Super 400C (including a fully carved top) and two built in humbucking pickups, this was a guitar worthy of Gibson's most prestigious endorsers. Gibson went all out to make this most prestigious instrument impressive to both the player AND the audience; in both looks and sound this was the high-end benchmark of period arch-tops.

This example dates to 1964 when all of 29 were shipped, or to 1965 when the figure bumped up to 31. In either case this represents a miniscule fraction of the period totals for other Gibson instruments. This is partially explained by the list price: in September 1964 a sunburst Super 400 CES like this would set you back $935, plus another $72 for the case. This was a few years after the more dramatic sharp Florentine cutaway body replaced the smoother rounded profile used in the 1950s, supposedly at the suggestion of Kenny Burrell.

This supremely classy guitar has features mostly typical for the mid-60s. One oddity is the back has a center seam and appears to be made from solid carved maple, which is unusual in this period as the spec was than a 3-ply laminate with no visible seam. The top is carved spruce with a very fine grain and there is multiple binding everywhere. The 5-ply laminate maple neck has a fairly wide round-backed profile, a bit flatter than some '64s with a multi-bound, split pearl block inlaid ebony fingerboard. The oversized headstock bears a split diamond pearl inlay that is the longstanding hallmark of Gibson's top-line guitars and is fitted with gold plated, metal button Kluson Sealfast tuners. The special truss rod cover has a "Custom" plate cut into the center, which is standard in this period.

The guitar is finished in a subtly shaded sunburst lighter than 1950's Gibsons, but not a full-on '60s cherry sunburst. The hardware includes two patent number humbucking pickups with gold plated covers. The standard Gibson wiring rig is topped off with the metal-capped gold knobs typical of the early-mid '60s. The original gold-plated tailpiece has "Super 400" engraved on the crosspiece and retains the old "top-buster" tension adjustment which (thankfully) almost nobody has ever used. The pickguard is multi-bound tortoise celluloid and the bridge is a gold-plated Tune-O-Matic with Nylon saddles.

The Florentine cutaway Super 400 CES is considered one of the seminal jazz and R&B guitars, used by many greats in the 1960s and beyond from Scotty Moore (borrowed by Elvis for his '68 comeback) to jazzers including Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Robben Ford and Larry Coryell. In 1969 the carved Gibson electrics reverted to their earlier pattern rounded cutaway, so this form is specific to the 1960-69 period. This is a fairly rare guitar as production numbers were never very high on this most expensive Gibson. This is a nice example showing some wear but still a supremely classy guitar and fine player with the classic Gibson sound.
 
Overall length is 44 1/4 in. (112.4 cm.), 18 in. (45.7 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 5/16 in. (8.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 1/4 in. (641 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This guitar shows signs of steady use over the past 60+ years with superficial wear overall but remains structurally excellent and a very fine player. The finish over the entire instrument shows light checking with numerous dings, dents and scratches, most notably to the top which has scratching in the armwear area and a couple of deeper "case lid bites". The back of the neck has a decent amount of finish worn away along the sides, down to the centerline on the bass side and minor dings and dents here and there. This was no "cowboy chord" player; the wear is heaviest in the middle of the neck where a jazz or blues player would have spent much of their time.

There are no apparent cracks or structural repairs to the instrument. All hardware remains original; the gold plating shows wear overall, noticeable on the pickup covers (especially the treble PU) and bridge top, the tuners and especially the tailpiece which has fairly heavy loss and some corroded spots near the base. The guitar at one point belonged to an E.C Weaver, who wrote his name and initials inside the body in a couple of spots, and apparently wrote and then crossed out his social security number. A period Gibson strap button is situated on the heel, likely added at the time.

The frets appear to be original but it its possible there was an older partial refret with compatible wire. They have been crowned down noticeably and show subsequent wear but still play well. The nut is original as well. The pickups and wiring rig appear untouched and sound excellent. This is a truly superb instrument, played in but not abused with a very lively sound even unplugged. It still resides in its original yellow-lined black HSC showing some wear and repair (including a serviceable but amateur handle) but still fully functional. Overall Excellent - Condition.