Gibson Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965)

Gibson  Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1965)
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Item # 9284
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Gibson Firebird III Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 257910, sunburst lacquer finish, laminated mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This guitar is a fairly late production example of the most popular of the original "reverse" body Firebird model, the Firebird III. This instrument line was introduced in late 1963 and discontinued after the mid-1965 NAMM show. The original pattern Firebird is considered a Gibson classic with its futuristic sweeping lines and innovative through-body neck construction, but the relatively short production span meant they barely had a chance to get established in the market before being replaced by the more conventional "non-reverse" version. The originals have been a sought-after guitar since, re-issued, revamped but never really equaled in the Gibson pantheon.

The Firebird III was the mid-line model in the original line of 'birds, but has a full set of professional features. The bound, dot inlaid fingerboard is the defining element as much of the hardware and layout is otherwise shared with the next model up, the Firebird V. Other fittings include two special mini-humbucking pickups, a short Vibrola tailpiece with the McCarty bridge and the unique "backwards" headstock with individual Kluson banjo tuners. All hardware is nickel plated. The pickguard covers just the lower horn and carries the selector switch; it is also decorated with a nifty Firebird engraving in red. The neck is relatively chunky feeling with a comfortable round-backed profile.

Practically everything about the original Firebirds was unique; the long laminated neck-through-body centerpiece with "wings" glued to the sides, the fluid body shape with the longer lower cutaway horn and that headstock with the tuner buttons hidden from the front and the low E farthest from the nut. They hardly had a chance to establish themselves in the market before being drastically revamped. A threatened lawsuit from Fender is often cited as the reason, but it is more likely the complex design simply proved uneconomical to produce. The elaborate sculpting of the body and headstock and the eccentric neck-through construction make for a beautiful instrument, but one that was difficult for Gibson to build on a cost-effective basis.

Despite use with a number of major bands of the day (most notably the Rolling Stones) these beautiful birds flew off into oblivion way too quickly. It's estimated that about 2000 of the original "Reverse" Firebird III were produced between late '63 and mid '65; many have suffered cracks in the headstock area and/or been played heavily or modified. This clean all-original 'bird is a splendid survivor as well as a great all-around guitar with a unique and powerful sound.
Overall length is 45 in. (114.3 cm.), 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This late-issue "reverse" Firebird III shows some light play wear overall but no major damage, repair, or alterations. The finish has some very light checking and small chips and dings, but really this is quite a clean guitar, with a lot of the original shine to the lacquer still intact. None of the common Firebird maladies are present -- the neck has never been cracked or broken, pickguard shrinkage is minimal with no broken or cracked corners, and even the engraved and painted bird emblem is still bright, unfaded, and shows no loss at all. The nickel plating shows typical light wear but remains largely intact.

The guitar is all original and complete down to the oft-missing vibrato arm, which still has the original mounting screw and nylon bushings. The frets and fingerboard have just a bit of wear and this is an excellent player, with the typical snarly Firebird sound. It includes the black rectangular original case, relatively clean as well but with a replaced handle. One of the nicer Reverse Firebirds we have seen in quite a while, this is a great sounding and playing example of this super stylish if eccentric Gibson classic. Excellent Condition.