Gibson cello-bodied guitars were very well regarded in the 1930s and 1940s. Models such as the ES-350, launched in 1935, showed what was possible, and immediately earned Gibson respect from jazz guitarists of the time. Gibson archtops set the standard, both in terms of quality and design that other manufacturers would emulate, and still do to this day. But the story of the Gibson ES-175 starts in 1949 with the launch of the one-pickup model, at $175 (hence the name ES-175), to be joined in 1953, by a two pickup version, ES-175D. This was a smaller bodied instrument than other archtops, measuring just 16 1/4" wide, (compared to 18" for the Super 400 CES, and 17" for the L-5CES, ES-5 and ES-350) and with a shorter scale (24 3/4"), to facilitate tricky jazz chordings. Having a laminate (rather than carved) maple top reduced the list price significantly: at last Gibson were offering a fine quality full-body jazz guitar at a relatively affordable price point.
The Florentine cutaway was also seen as an advantage over the more usual Gibson Venetian cutaway, and this again proved popular. Body material was maple throughout, with a set mahogany neck.
Steve Howe plays Gibson - 1971. UK Selmer advertisement for Gibson guitars. Steve Howe bought his first Gibson, An ES-175D from the Selmer shop in Charing Cross Road, London, in 1964.
Steve Howe told Guitar World in 2011: "...when you play a guitar, you have to warm it up; it doesn't sound good straight away. You need at least 20 minutes. The guitar's sound changes. We don't know why, exactly, but as the wood moistens and you play it, it starts to sound like a guitar. Before that, it's a piece of wood with strings stretched across it. A new guitar is like a new baby. It doesn't know a lot, it needs feeding. And your feeding is playing."
The ES-175 was (and still is) very widely used by jazz, rock and blues guitarists. Aswell as Steve Howe, the subject of the advertisement shown, the Gibson ES-175 was also used by Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, BB King, Howard Roberts and Pat Metheny.
Have a closer look at some of these ES-175s
The following description is taken from the 1970 Gibson electric acoustics catalogue
ES-175 D - Cutaway Easy to hold and comfortable to hold, the ES-175 D produces a brilliant distortion-free tone. The modern cutaway design provides easy access to the entire register.
FEATURES: Arched top and back of select maple with matching rims. Slim, fast low-action neck joins the body at the 14th fret. Laminated mahogany neck adjustable truss rod. Rosewood fingerboard, pearl inlays. Adjustable rosewood bridge. Powerful twin humbucking pickups. Separate tone and volume control for each pickups. Separate tone and volume control for each pickup. Toggle switch. Individual machine heads. 16 ½ " wide, 20 ¼ " long, 3 3/8 " deep; 24 ¾ " scale, 20 frets.
ES-175D - Double pickups - Sunburst finish
ES-175DN - Double pickups - Natural finish
ES-175 - Single pickup - Sunburst finish
515 - Faultless plush-lined case
303 - Archcraft plush-lined case
103 - Durabilt case
ZC-5 - Zipper cover for 515 case
The single pickup model Gibson ES-175 was last listed in company price lists in 1970, although it seems to have been shipped way beyond that date. The two pickup version, is by far the most familiar ES-175, and is still available today, largely unchanged in six decades. There was one significant change though; the pickups in use originally were single-coil P90s, however the ES-175 was the first of all Gibson guitars to be shipped with a humbucker. Original Gibson ledgers mark this event clearly; it was February 18, 1957, on an ES-175N with serial number A25000.
|Model||Gibson ES-175||Gibson ES-175D|
|Available||1949-1972, The last price list entry was Sept 1970, although shipping figures suggest they were shipped in very small numbers as late as 1972 (and possibly later)||1953-date|
|Pickups||Two single coils (1953-57), or two humbuckers (1957 onwards)||One single coil (1953-57), later one humbucker (1957 onwards)|
|Scale||24 3/4 "|
|Body||Arched maple top, maple back and sides. Some 80s instruments had mahogany back and sides. 16 1/2 " wide, 20 1/4 " long, 3 3/8 " deep|
|Neck||Mahogany (1949-1976), Maple (1976-83). Rosewood fingerboard with double parallelogram pearloid inlays.|
|Hardware||Nickel plated (1949-1965), chrome plated (1965-onwards).|
|Finishes||Sunburst, Natural, Wine Red, Sparkling Burgundy, Ebony|
There was no completely analogous Epiphone model to the Gibson ES-175, the closest being the Epiphone Windsor which shared the same construction, materials, scale length and body dimensions as the ES-175, but as a thinline, with an Epiphone mini humbucker, or the Epiphone Broadway, which, although slightly larger with a Venetian rather than Florentine cutaway, had the same deep body, and was similarly appointed.
The ES-175D is one of Gibson's most successful, and longest running models, and is still available today.
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