Some variations of the Gibson L5-S guitar. From left to right 1) 1973 - Cherry sunburst. Note the gold plated low impedance 'recording' style pickups 2) 1975 - Still Cherry Sunburst but with humbuckers rather than recording pickups 3) Fireburst finish 4) 1980 Natural L5-S with the TP6 tailpiece.
The L5-S was a particularly fine guitar; the first high end jazz solid body. As the name suggests it was related to the L5 archtop electric acoustic - sharing many features; single-cutaway body (though less sharp horn), ebony fingerboard with block inlays, flowerpot headstock inlay, L-5 tailpiece with contrasting silver on gold and the multilayer binding throughout. Another similar model was the L6-S which was a simplified version of the same guitar, launched in 1974.
Features: Carved curly maple body, with ornate multilayer binding, laminated maple neck, ebony fingerboard with abalone block inlays, gold-plated hardware throughout (pre-78 tailpiece has contrasting silver centrepiece, later changed to a gold plated TP-6). "L5" engraving, two gold plated pickups with seperate volume and tone, three way selector switch. Width at nut 1 11/16", scale 24 3/4".
It was Gibsons most prestigeous olid body (and therefore expensive, with a couple exceptions). Prices were typically 30-40% more than the other high end Gibson solid bodies; the Les Paul Recording, LP Custom and SG Custom. The exceptions were in 1979/1980 when the very fine Flying VII and active Les Paul Artist models were available; both were between $50 and $100 more, and were deleted almost as quickly as they had arrived.
- 1972 L5-S launched, though shipping figures list no instruments shipped until 1973
- 1973 $895.L5-S first instruments shipped, Cherry Sunburst being the only finish available
- 1974 $895. This was the best sales year for the L5-S shipping 555 instruments. Late '74 - gold covered 'recording pickups' are replaced with rectangular humbuckers
- 1975 $899. The first catalogue appearance of the L5-S was in the 1975 Gibson Solid Body catalogue, where it took pride of place.
The fingerboard of the L5-S is inlaid with beautiful, select abalone that gives this instrument an outstanding stage presence of its own
- 1976 $929. In June of '76 the price rose to $999, and two new finishes were added to the original cherry sunburst: Tobacco Sunburst and Maple
- 1977 $1079
- 1978 $1079. Tobacco Sunburst is dropped in favour of Fireburst, Maple is now described as Natural. Cherry Sunburst still available as before. The Gibson TP-6 tailpiece became standard this year. See the Gibson 1978 Quality / Prestige / Innovation Catalogue
- 1979 $1149. Antique Sunburst added to Fireburst, Cherry Sunburst and Natural.
- 1980 $1249 By late 1980, the Gibson deluxe tuners with "Crank" button, and "Posi-Lok" strap button were added to this model. See the 1980 Gibson catalogue
- 1981 $1349
- 1983 $1699
Famous users include Ron Wood and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Pat Martino and Paul Simon
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