The 335-S was Gibson's solid-body version of the semi-acoustic ES-335TD. Although it was approximately the same shape, the Gibson 335S was actually smaller and thinner, though the same scale and with the same controls as a 1980 ES-335TD. It was a well equipped guitar, with (Custom and Deluxe models) Gibson's "Dirty Fingers" humbuckers. It was first demonstrated at the Chicago NAMM fair of June 1980, but was ultimately short lived. Of the three models, two (335S Standard and 335S Custom) were in Gibson's Firebrand series, whilst the 335S Deluxe was in Gibson's professional series. All nice guitars, and quite collectable in the vintage guitar market today.
Around the middle of 1980, Gibson were planning changes in their distribution, specifically with regard dealer authorisation. Models were to be placed in a 'series'; either Professional, Firebrand, or Sonex [Not to be confused with the older models of the same name]. There had long been a waiting list to become a Gibson dealer, and the Sonex series was to be a separately authorised line, (and branded as Gibson Guitar Co. rather than just Gibson) simply to allow wider distribution, without upsetting existing dealers. Each series followed the good (Deluxe), better (Standard), best (Custom) concept. So theoretically any instrument could have nine versions. This system was never fully adapted, but it does explain why, in the case of the 335-S, the Custom (traditionally the top of the range) is a lesser instrument to the Deluxe, and why many 335-S have the word PROFESSIONAL on the truss rod covers.
1981 Gibson ES335S Deluxe Image Heritage auctions
The only American catalogue to feature the solid-boy 335-S guitars was the 1980. All three models were shown, the Deluxe, in the Professional series, and the Custom and Standard in the Firebrand series.
This 1981 Rosetti catalogue / pricelist shows the range of Gibson guitars available in the UK at this time, including all three 335S models, the Standard, Custom, and Deluxe, priced respectively at £489, £555 and £629.
On its launch in mid-1980, the solid body 335S was described as follows:
Gibsons new 335-S Series combines a familiar shape with the playability and sustain of other legendary Gibson solid bodies. Shaped much like a diminutive ES-335, these double cutaway instruments allow players added sustain capabilities due to increased body mass and density.
Individually, the 335-S Standards contoured maple body features two high output Gibson Humbucking exposed coil pickups with one cream and one black coil. A rosewood finger-board is mounted to a three-piece maple neck. Gibsons new Autumn maple finish, available only on this model, exudes an earthiness that separates it from all other guitar finishes.
The Custom version of the 335-S utilizes the unmatched power of Gibsons "Dirty Fingers" pickups with a coil tap switch mounted in a sculptured mahogany body. The three-piece mahogany neck features a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays and corresponding side dots. Gibsons incredible TP-6 tailpiece insures fine-tuning capabilties with fingertip ease. An outstanding Natural Mahogany finish tops this high energy instrument.
The 335-S Deluxe is offered in Tobacco Sunburst, Cherry or Silverburst finish on a mahogany body with a neck that features a bound ebony fingerboard. Pearl inlayed Gibson peghead, "Dirty Fingers" pickups with coil tap, TP-6 tailpiece, the new-ultra safe Gibson "Posi-Lok" strap button, and polished brass fingerboard nut for added sustain.
1980 advertisement for the Gibson 335S range - A Shape You've Seen. The Sound You're Looking For. Meet the Gibson 335-S. You've seen the same good looking shape on Gibson thin line electrics. Now it's on a solid body that rocks. With the hard edged sound and high energy response that have made Gibson solid bodies the choice of so many rock headliners.
Launch prices were $499 (Standard), $599 (Custom) and $699 (Deluxe). Perhaps a Professional series 335-S Standard or Custom would have been manufactured, had the instrument been more sucessful. The Standard had disappeared from price lists by April 1981, and the Custom by June 1982. No 335-S models were shown in the January '83 price lists.
The Gibson 335S was reissued briefly in 2011, though like the original issue, these guitars were only available in very limited numbers.