Last year at The NAMM Show, the iconic Gibson throne seemed to be missing from its usual spot at the Anaheim Convention Center. News of Gibson’s bankruptcy was finally confirmed in May, 2018 after the company attempted to spearhead as a lifestyle brand.
“My dream had always been to build a major music lifestyle business, similar to what Nike is to sports, and grow beyond guitars. We tried to do that with the acquisition of a Phillips subsidiary and it didn’t work out very well,” Gibson’s then CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, told Rolling Stone.
While accessing Philips’ consumer audio division back in 2014 (Koninklijke Philips NV) for $135 million proved to be a poor investment, the result didn’t reassure the death or life of guitars, but simply the shift in consumers and the brand’s deliverance.
Despite the rough patch, this year Gibson triumphantly returned to Room #207, throne and all, as the comeback kid of The NAMM Show. After the departure of Juszkiewicz, James “JC” Curleigh joined the Gibson family as the new President and Chief Executive Officer to steer the company in the right direction.
“Just three months ago the team said, ‘Hey JC, can we go back to NAMM?’ And I said only if we’re ready, and they said ‘well what does that mean?’ And I said hey, we’re gonna show up and we’re gonna prove to the world that we’re gonna actually be true to who we are,” stated Curleigh from a livestream at the convention center in Anaheim, Saturday January 26.
Gibson’s reinvention has been a promising arrival thus far and showcased a brand that is listening to their buyers, players, merchants, and music lovers with its presentation of past to future. “We’re paying tribute to the Golden Era of Gibson by restoring authenticity for musicians with our new lineup of Classics,” says Cesar Gueikian, Gibson’s new Chief Merchant Officer in regards to the 2019 offering.
The showroom illustrated a livelier arrangement and cleaner product display than previous years, personally speaking, but the real focus were on these ‘golden era’ revivals that consumers wanted:
- Les Paul Standard with ‘50s spec was featured, noting the fatter neck and no push-pull, while also providing a version with two options of the P90 and Humbucker; A ‘60s spec model was also on display with a slimmer neck, as well as others with P90 pickups.
- Les Paul Special in TV Yellow, which is a “period correct finish,” and Les Paul Junior Tobacco Burst.
- SG Standard and two new 61 spec SG’s with “maestro” and “sideways” Vibrolas; smaller pickguard and slimmer neck.
- SG Specials in period correct reproduction finishes and tuning machines,Vintage Sparkling Burgundy and Aged Pelham Blue, with two P90s and a bound fretboard.
Contemporary lineup included a Les Paul Tribute Double Cut Junior with a single P90 and a Les Paul Tribute Double Cut Special with dual P90’s that offer an”accessible price point” for players and introduces a new concept.
Gueikian further explains, “We did a listening tour visiting with dealers, artists and guitar enthusiasts and took the best ideas into the new Modern offerings. They incorporate many contemporary updates that players have embraced such as lighter-weight bodies, innovative slim taper neck profiles for full-access to the high frets, ebony fingerboards, high output versatile pickups and a push-pull control system to pivot between the humbucker and the P90 sounds, both of which have defined so many genres of music since we invented them.”
On the acoustic side, Gibson Generation allows a “premium access” to a younger wave of players with the G-45 Studio and G-45 Standard, featuring solid Sitka spruce tops and walnut back and sides, priced at $999 and $1299 respectively.
The first day of Gibson at NAMM proved to be a success. From open panels throughout the four days, to a live display of a Gibson craftsman at work, it was obvious the brand was listening. The sentiment of hailing back to the brand’s roots while moving forward echoed at Gibson’s Winter NAMM Jam opening party, January 24 at the The Grove of Anaheim.
Featuring performances from past icons, such as Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson, to the present with LA’s Lauren Ruth Ward, Gibson’s arrival was felt immensely at NAMM. Read our recap of the NAMM JAM here.
Cover photo: She Shreds Magazine Panel at Gibson Stage, NAMM 2019 (Tony Gonzalez)
Signature Artist Guitar Announcements 2019
George Thorogood – Epiphone Ltd Ed Thorogood “White Fang” ES-125TDC
Jared James Nichols – Epiphone Limited Edition Jared James Nichols ‘Old Glory’ Les Paul Custom Outfit
Chris Cornell – Chris Cornell Tribute Gibson ES-335
Dave Rude – Epiphone Limited Edition Dave Rude Flying V Outfit
Dave Amato – Custom Shop Dave Amato Signature Axcess Les Paul
Brian Ray – Custom Shop Brian Ray 62 SG Jr.
Lee Roy Parnell – Custom Shop Lee Roy Parnell Signature 1959 Les Paul Standard
Slim Harpo – Slim Harpo ’62 ES-330
Chuck Berry Estate – Custom Shop Chuck Berry Tribute ES-350T