Gibson E-150 Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1935)

Gibson  E-150 Lap Steel Electric Guitar  (1935)
This item has been sold.
Item # 9012
Prices subject to change without notice.
Gibson E-150 Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1935), made in Kalamazoo, serial # 189, natural aluminum finish, cast aluminum, original tweed hard shell case.

This still futuristic-looking all-metal steel guitar from 1935 is a major historical piece...a fine original example of the Gibson company's first commercially available electric instrument. This model was originally designated both the "EHG" (Electric Hawaiian Guitar) and "E-150" (reflecting the original $150.00 list price of the guitar-amp set). Gibson's records indicate that somewhere around 100 of this model were shipped from Kalamazoo from October 1935 into early 1936. The production run was very limited; Gibson's management realized that the hollow cast aluminum body (which had to be outsourced) offered no practical advantage over wood and quickly switched to a more "Gibson-like" sunburst finished maple body that could be built in-house.

The E-150 is fitted with Gibson's earliest magnetic pickup -- later referred to as the "Charlie Christian" unit in honor of its most renowned user. The first version of this seminal pickup -- designed by Walter Fuller in mid-1935 -- has an unbound black plastic coil form with a single metal blade polepiece for the three bass strings and segmented blades for the treble strings. The very advanced (for 1935) circuitry features both volume and tone controls with a fancy Bakelite knob on either side of the lower bout. The onboard tone control was suggested by Gibson's consultant Alvino Rey, a revolutionary feature at the time. Both the controls and the jack are better laid out for the average player than on many other of the earliest steels.

The body's shoulders are more rounded and merge into the neck at a sharper angle compared to the subsequent wooden-body EH-150. The unbound ebony fingerboard has a V-shaped end, white flush fret inlays, and mother-of-pearl dot markers. This instrument has the second style of bridge, with slots to hold the strings but only two securing screws. The body, neck, and headstock on the E-150 are finished in raw aluminum, a look no doubt influenced by the Rickenbacker Electro instruments of the previous year. The original open back Grover G-98 tuners have metal buttons and are stamped with the company logo.

The serial numbers on this model are a specific series impressed into the metal at the back of the heel, apparently beginning at 100 running up to just over 200. Available records indicate that the same instrument was sometimes shipped out to several different dealers before eventually finding a home! This E-150 is stamped #189, with "Made in the USA" in small letters on the back of the headstock indicating it was originally shipped overseas.

By any standard this is one of the rarest and most important models in Gibson history. Not only were a very limited number originally produced, but more than a few were likely sacrificed to the WWII aluminum drives enforced from around 1942! In terms of not only Gibson history but the story of the 20th century guitar in general the E-150 is a milestone design, and marks the progress of the electric guitar from novelty to ubiquity. This example is nicely original and still plays and sounds great; it also comes with the original fitted tweed case.
Overall length is 31 3/4 in. (80.6 cm.), 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth at side. Scale length is 22 1/2 in. (572 mm.).

Overall this is a very nice original example, with some wear but no alterations. Everything appears intact and original. The bare metal surface shows dings, dents, and scratches, most heavily on the back, and some areas of clouding and small corroded spots. There are some inexplicable filled holes in the metal on the lower quarter of the back; these appear to be factory or at least period work and are rather inconspicuous anyway. The sound is unique -- this is the only instrument to combine the celebrated "Christian" pickup with a metal body. A fabulous piece of playable history, still in the original tweed case. Overall Very Good + Condition.