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. It was first demonstrated at the 1972 summer NAMM show, but does not appear to have shipped until the next year. 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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