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GIBSON ES 5 Prototype, 1949

Sunburst, one of the twelve original protypes. The ES-350, born in 1947 and of which you can see a few examples in our private collection,  was the first electric cutaway Gibson: equipped in '48 with a second pickup, it was the best that lutherie and technology could offer at that time in the amplified instrument field. In 1949, nevertheless, Gibson went even further with the introduction of the new ES-5 model, described as the "L-5's electric version". Actually, the true electric L-5 was introduced only in '51 with the L-5 CES name (and an early example is also visible in our private collection) and the only features that the ES-5 shared with the L-5 were the overall shape and dimentions and the fretboard inlays, shape and binding. The ES-5 basically was a richly ornamented ES-350: body woods were laminated and steam press-arched instead of carved... and, most of all, the new ES-5 was the first electric guitar with three pickups!  The final version of the model, introduced at '49 NAMM show, had been preceded by an experimental guitar based upon an L-5C, and by a production batch of 12 prototypes built between June and July '49. Today 4 of these guitars are known to exist: one is shown in "Electric Guitars and Basses - A photographic history" by George Gruhn and Walter Carter. Another one, from the Chinery collection, is pictured in "The History Of The American Guitar - from 1833 to the present day" by Tony Bacon. The third one is already in our private collection and you can see it on this website. Some of these prototypes are labeled ES-350, some are labeled ES-5. 
And today, after 57 long years, two guitars from that experimental batch meet again, in the far foreign land of Sicily! 
This prototype, unlike the other one we have, is still labeled ES-350. It has the typical 350 fingerboard with double-parallelogram inlays and squared-off end, and like a regular 350 has Kluson Deluxe gold plated tuners. Later, regular production ES-5s have large pearl inlays on a multi-bound fingerboard with pointed end and Super Kluson tuners. The electronics show the new ES-5 configuration, with three P90 pickups, three individual volume controls and one master tone. Prototypes have ES-350, pre-49, clear no-number knobs, but numbered knobs were standard on regular production ES-5s, required by the more complex three pickup circuitry. 
As you can see from the pictures, this guitar is gorgeous, with nice flamed maple - especially neck and back. The pickguard is broken but has been fixed, and is solid and clean enough. We think that the nickel trapeze tailpiece is a later addition, since the original should be gold. However, it is an original vintage Gibson trapeze and can be easily re-plated (gold plating was done over nickel anyway), bringing back the guitar to complete originality. Original rosewood bridge.  Excellent quality non-original hardshell case. Really a very rare and historically important guitar, with fine playability and the classic bluesy sound that made of it the axe of choice for bluesmen like T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Eddie Taylor. More pictures below, please open them one at a time.

in case - body1 - body2 - body3 - body4 - back - body back - headstock - pickguard - label - knobs - bridge - pickups - tailpiece - neck - tuners - twins1 - twins2 - case