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Gibson L5-S
Solidbody electric guitar

Gibson 75 solid body catalogue
The fingerboard of the L5-S is inlaid with beautiful, select abalone that gives this instrument an outstanding stage presence of its own
Taken from the 1975 Gibson solid body catalogue (above)

Gibson L5-S - As pickups stack up, Gibsons on top
Gibson L5-S - As pickups stack up, Gibsons on top
An L5-S in an advert for Gibson pickups: Laid Back, BJB Jazz, True Blues, Dirty Fingers, Super Humbucking, Original Humbucking
Variations of the Gibson L5-S

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.

L5-S chronology
  • 1972 L5-S launched[1], though shipping figures list no instruments shipped until 1973[2]
  • 1973 $895[3].L5-S first instruments shipped, Cherry Sunburst being the only finish available
  • 1974 $895[4]. This was the best sales year for the L5-S shipping 555 instruments[2]. Late '74 - gold covered 'recording pickups' are replaced with rectangular humbuckers
  • Gibson 1975 Solid Body Catalogue1975 $899[5]. 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[6]. In June of '76 the price rose to $999, and two new finishes were added to the original cherry sunburst: Tobacco Sunburst and Maple[7]
  • 1977 $1079[8]
  • Gibson 1978 Quality / Prestige / Innovation Catalogue1978 $1079[9]. 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[10]. Antique Sunburst added to Fireburst, Cherry Sunburst and Natural.
  • Gibson 1980 Catalogue1980 $1249[1] 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[12]
  • 1983 $1699[13]

1) Gibson 1975 solid body catalog
2) Gibson Shipment Totals 1937-79 by Larry Meiners
3) Gibson pricelist 1-6-73
4) Gibson pricelist 1-2-74
5) Gibson pricelist 1-1-75
6) Gibson pricelist 1-3-76
7) Gibson pricelist 1-6-76
8) Gibson pricelist 1-1-77
9) Gibson pricelist 15-5-78
10) Gibson pricelist 1-6-79
11) Gibson pricelist 1-7-80
12) Gibson pricelist 1-4-81
13) Gibson pricelist 1-1-83

Famous users include Ron Wood and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Pat Martino and Paul Simon

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US ebay listings

Gibson L5-s 1974 Cherry Sunburst Humbuckers

Current price: $3499.00
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Time left: 6d 8h 1m
Free Shipping!! Very Rare!! Gibson L-5S '73 CHSB Guitar β

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Gibson L5-S 1972 Cherry Sunburst Low imp. All original

Current price: $3199.00
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Vintage Guitar Case for Gibson L6S L5S circa 1970's Purple Lining

Current price: $199.00
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GOLD HARMONICA Bridge For GIBSON 70's SG L5S IBANEZ 80's 1980 1970 Reissue

Current price: $58.47
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Time left: 14d 15h 17m
Vintage Gibson L6S L5S Guitar Case circa 1970's Purple Lining

Current price: $249.00
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Time left: 26d 14h 27m
1973 Gibson L5S Custom

Current price: $3495.00
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70's Gibson Guitar BRIDGE SG CUSTOM L-5S HARMONICA BRIDGE Gold Plated

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Free Shipping!! Gibson L-5S '73 CHSB Guitar β

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UK ebay listings

GIBSON L5S THREE TONE CHERRY SUNBURST

Current price: £4250.00
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Time left: 4h 48m
GOLD HARMONICA Bridge For GIBSON 70's SG L5S IBANEZ 80's 1980 1970 Reissue

Current price: £37.18
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Time left: 14d 15h 17m
1973 Gibson L5S Custom

Current price: £2222.58
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Time left: 4h 36m
See more results on eBay here


German ebay listings

1975 GIBSON L 6 S / L 5 S CASE -- made in USA

Current price: €218.00
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Time left: 6d 8h 14m
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There are 4 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Norm Elder Comment left 13th November 2011 13:01:57
I own a 1973 L5 - S and IMO, it is the most fantastic guitar Gibson ever made. My L-5 has been used on so many recording projects, I lost count. The beauty of the instrument has to be in the low impedance pick ups, any tone can be created from big box jazz to "Telecaster" twang. When I play out, I run the L5 through a pair of Twin Reverb Fender amps, w/ real JBLs', none others need apply. Do not pass up the chance to play one of these incredible guitars, should the opportunity come your way. Norm
Tommy Tom Tom Comment left 7th March 2012 08:08:06
In the avert up above Santana is playing the L6-S model, not an L5-S. Just sayin'.
vintage guitar and bass Comment left 7th March 2012 08:08:20
You are correct Tom - that is not meant to show Carlos Santana with a L5S - rather it is the cover of the 1975 Gibson Solid Body guitar catalogue from which the quote below it (about the L5S) is taken
Phil Meek Comment left 30th November 2013 21:09:17
I bought my custom L-5 S around 1980. This thing traveled all over the northwest playing everything from little bar gigs to some pretty big time concerts. I still have it and do play it once in a while. I have everything from strats to PRS and Carvin, but my L-5 is still my baby. When I pass it will go to my daughter. Thanks Gibson for a dream come true that has lasted for my lifetime.

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