Gibson L-5CES

Electric acoustic 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 catalogue

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

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

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

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US ebay listings

Gibson L5-CES 2013 Crimson Custom Shop

Current price: $7500.00
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Time left: 17h 17m
Gibson Super 400 Electric Guitar 1969

Current price: $8600.00
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Time left: 19d 22h 57m
original 1963 Gibson L-5 CES Sunburst FLORENTINE cutaway

Current price: $13900.00
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Time left: 3d 3h 26m
Used Vintage 1954 Gibson L5-C

Current price: $12500.00
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Time left: 3d 1h 13m
Gibson Custom Super 400 Sunburst Archtop #22952005 - Used

Current price: $7450.00
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Time left: 24d 16h 14m

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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 :/