Gibson L-5CES

Electric acoustic archtop jazz guitar

Gibson L5 CES

Gibson L5 CESN
Wes Montgomery graces the cover of the 1964 Downbeat annual guitar issue

Wes Montgomery graces the cover of the 1964 Downbeat annual guitar issue

The Gibson L-5CES was a particularly fine instrument, and as such was made in relatively small numbers, and had a relatively high purchase price. Favoured by jazz musicians, most notably Wes Montgomery, it had a hand carved top; a feature of only the very best guitars. It was first available in 1951, and is still available today - either in sunburst or natural finish. Initially the pickups were P90 single coils, changing to Alnicos from 1953 to 1957. Thereafter the Gibson humbuckers came as standard.

One important variation over the course of production was the cutaway shape - initially this was the rounded Venetian style, changing in mid-1960 to the sharper Florentine cutaway (pictured). Sometime in 1969, this reverted to the Venetian style of the 1950s. Have a look through some of the Gibson catalogues that include the L5 CES, to see how it changed over the years.

As previously mentioned, the L-5CES was an expensive instrument - only cheaper than the Super 400 and Johnny Smith (and the Citation, when it was launched). After 1962 it was marked in price lists as a custom order instrument - but despite this, sales rose throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s.

1970 Gibson electric-acoustics catalog

The following description is taken from the 1970 Gibson electric-acoustics catalog

L-5 CES - Cutaway Professional musicians enjoy the fast neck action and quick response of the L-5 CES. This electric acoustic offers performance to match its rich, impressive appearance.

FEATURES: Carved top of select close-grained spruce. Carved back of curly maple with matching rims. Slim, fast low-action neck joins the body at the 14th fret. Five-piece curly maple neck, adjustable truss rod. Ebony fingerboard, pearl block inlays. Adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge. Exclusive L-5 tailpiece. Powerful twin Humbucking pickups. Separate tone and volume control for each pickup. Three position toggle switch to activate either or both pickups. Gold-plated metal parts. Deluxe individual machine heads. 17" wide, 21" long, 3 3/8 " deep; 25 ½ " scale, 20 frets.

L-5 CES - Sunburst
L-5 CESN - Natural
600 - Faultless plush-lined case
ZC-6 - Deluxe zipper cover for 600 case

A gorgeous 1952 Gibson L-5CES in natural finish Image Heritage auctions

Vintage adverts featuring the Gibson L-5CES

Electric guitar advertisements originally published from 1964 onwards. Click on the images for larger copies. Check out other vintage Gibson advertisements

Gibson L-5 CES - The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

Gibson L-5 CES - The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (1964)
This advertisement from 1964 uses the title of Wes Montgomery's highly acclaimed 1960 album 'The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery' - and highlights his use of Gibson jazz guitars. Montgomer...

Gibson L-5 CES - Wes Montgomery

Gibson L-5 CES - Wes Montgomery (1965)
In the mid 1960s, Gibson almost exclusively advertised itself as a brand, rather than specific products. And these adverts invariably featured virtuoso jazz guitarists that used a Gibson jazz box. ...

Gibson L-5 CES - Gibson, The Workingmans Guitar

Gibson L-5 CES - Gibson, The Workingmans Guitar (1967)
Featuring legendary Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery playing a Gibson L-5 CES electric guitar

Gibson L-5CES catalog appearances

The L-5CES guitar has appeared in numerous Gibson guitar catalogues since the model's introduction in 1951. In chronological order...

Gibson 1958 Electrics Catalogue

1958 Gibson Electrics catalogue

Hand-graduated, carved top of select close-grain spruce • arched, highly figured curly maple back with matching curly maple rims • alternate black and white ivoroid binding • modern cutaway design • small, comfortable feeling three-piece curly maple neck with Gibson Adjustable Truss Rod

Gibson 1960 Electrics Catalogue

1960 Gibson Electrics catalogue

The inherent quality, versatility, and rich, impressive appearance of the L5-CES have won acclaim from the most discriminating artists.

Gibson 1962 Electrics Catalogue

1962 Gibson Electrics catalogue

A beautiful modern deep cutaway guitar with hand-graduated, carved top of select close-grained spruce, arched back of highly figured curly maple, with matching rims

1964 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue

From the 1964 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue

Guitarists everywhere praise the slim, comfortable neck, the fast, easy-playing action and quick response

Gibson 1966 Full Line catalogue

The 1966 Gibson full line catalogue is the first to show the entire Gibson guitar range in colour. The L5-CES appears on page 4, alongside the Super 400 CES and ES-175D models.

1970 Gibson electric acoustics catalogue

The 1970 Gibson electric acoustics catalogue

Professional musicians enjoy the fast neck action and quick response of the L-5 CES. This electric acoustic offers performance to match its rich, impressive appearance

1972 Gibson L-5CES showcase

In 1972 Gibson launched a flyer devoted to the L-5CES - The Gibson L-5CES Guitar of the Month Showcase. The spruce used on the L-5CES is from a tree approximately 450-500 years old. Only a very small portion of the world's spruce yield is good enough to use in production of the Gibson L-5CES

1975 Gibson Electric Acoustics catalogue

From the Gibson 1975 Electric Acoustics catalogue

Gibson custom order guitars are unequalled anywhere because their materials design and craftsmenship are unavailable anywhere else. Close even-grained spruce from trees 450-500 years old; solid woods, not veneered; hand carved and graduated tops and backs; precision f-holes based on Stradivarius violin construction

1978 Gibson catalogue

From the 1978 Gibson catalogue

Custom carved spruce top. Carved maple back. Solid maple matching rims

1980 Gibson catalogue

The 1980 Gibson catalogue gives each model a page of it's own - the L-5CES is not exception, and is shown on page 9

The 1981 Gibson (Rosetti) catalogue was produced by UK distributors Rosetti.

Gibson 1983 guitar and bass catalogue

Gibson 1983 American made World played guitar and bass catalogue

The Gibson L-5CES is the heart and soul of the entire Gibson line - the proud descendent of Lloyd Loars masterpiece L-5, the worlds first arch top, f-hole guitar in 1923. Today's L-5CES has specially designed bracing, a carved maple back, hand-shaped rims and a beautifully finished spruce top

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Gibson L-5CES for sale

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MKDDR Comment left 27th April 2014 16:04:02 reply
What issue/date is that Downbeat please? (Wes Montgomery cover) thanks
vintageguitarandbass Comment left 17th September 2016 13:01:50 reply
The issue of Downbeat magazine with Wes Montgomery on the cover (pictured above) is dated 17th July 1964
jazzer Comment left 24th June 2012 22:10:03 reply
Superb guitar. Absolutely stunning to play, and with a tone to die for. Not quite worth the stupid money people are asking for them on ebay, but very nearly :/



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