The first catalogue apperance of the Melody Maker was in 1960.
The Gibson Melody Maker is an absolutely legendary Gibson solid body guitar. It isn't necessarily at the top of the list of classic models, but just in terms of sales it was absolutely huge, with over 47000 Melody Makers shipped in a relatively short period between 1959 and 1970. In that time, and since, the Melody Maker has earned itself many devoted fans, who prefer it to more expensive models. Perhaps not as iconic as the Gibson SG or Les Paul models, but how many classic garage, punk or grunge riffs were blasted out with a Gibson Melody Maker? It was the ultimate beginners model, and was also available in a 3/4 size model. In fact, the 3/4 size Gibson Melody Maker actually outsold the regular scale model in 1959, though in no other year. Except for a brief hiatus in the early 1970s, the Gibson Melody Maker remained an important part of the Gibson range for the majority of the next half century.
The Melody Maker was built in the famous Gibson plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It changed a lot in the time of it's production, more so than probably any other model; it had three distinct body styles between 1960 and 1967, but always with the same basic construction and hardware: a mahogany neck glued to a mahogany body, a rosewood fingerboard with simple mother of pearl dot position markers, and between one and three single coil PU380 pickups. These were mounted to the scratchplate and height adjustable with two screws above and below the pickup. The simple controls and input jack were also scratchplate-mounted on all but the SG-styled guitars. A vibrola tailpiece was optional; usually the Gibson GV19 vibrola in conjunction with a compensating bridge - as seen on certain Gibson SGs.
The Melody Maker shipped in quite large numbers in 1959, but the first catalogue appearance of the Melody Maker was not until the Guitars & Amplifiers catalogue of 1960. 1959 shipping figures were great for the Gibson Melody Maker, 1960 less so, despite the addition of a dual pickup model, the Melody maker D. The 1959 and 1960 Gibson Melody Maker had a single-cutaway Les Paul-style body shape. This changed to the double cutaway Les Paul Junior style in mid 1961. This was by far the most popular body design, at least in terms of sales figures. In late 1966 or early 1967 the design changed again, finally adopting the Gibson SG style.
From the 1964 Gibson catalogue
Greatest value ever in a solid body electric with full-sized neck and scale length. Acclaimed by players. teachers and students for its fine sound. Big tone, sensative pick-up, feather-light touch and beautiful sunburst finish.
The earliest Melody Makers were generally available in Gibson's classic Sunburst nitrocellulose finish. In fact this was the only finish listed right through to 1964, although occasional examples were shipped in the translucent Cherry used on the Gibson SG line, certainly as early as 1963 (see a 1964 Gibson Melody Maker in Sunburst finish). Then through 1965, Sunburst was discontinued with only Cherry offered in 1965 and April 1966 price lists. In late 1966, with the change to the SG-style body, Cherry was also discontinued; the Gibson Melody Maker was now offered in Pelham Blue and Sparkling Burgundy finishes - with a natural mahogany neck. Walnut finish (See a 1969 Gibson Melody Maker in Walnut finish). seems to have been available as a finish option from as early as 1968, though it is not listed in price lists until March 1970, replacing all previous finishes. The Melody Maker's final price list inclusion was in the September 1970 list.
Throughout the early 1970s, the Melody Maker was replaced by various short lived SG variants, such as the SG100/200/250 (see the 1972 solid bodies catalogue) and the SG-I and SG-II (see the 1973 solid bodies catalogue).
Finally in 1976/77 the Melody maker was revived, and was shipped in moderate numbers compared to in it's heyday. In the first run (1959-1970) just under 50,000 Melody Makers were shipped (more Gibson Melody Maker shipping data).
From 1959, the Melody Maker was offered with an optional case, Durabilt case, model 114. As an entry level model, there was no upgrade option; this case was exclusive to the Melody Maker. From June 1965, the suggested case was Durabilt, model 154. But when the body style changed to the same shape and size as the SG, it was offered with any of the SG's case options. Durabilt case 116, Archcraft case 316, Oblong case 1237 or Faultless case 0537.
In recent times, there have been numerous Gibson Melody Maker reissues, in all three body styles: single cutaway, doublecut and SG. Even a Joan Jett Melody Maker. Various finish and price points have been offered but none compare to the early 1960s instruments. Even entry level Gibson guitars in the early 1960s were made out of very nice pieces of wood; mahogany and rosewood in this case, the likes of which are simply not available in large quantities today. Original 1950s/60s Melody Makers are still affordable, and great playing guitars; especially with upgraded hardware for improved tuning and intonation. A lot of old Gibson Melody Makers have had their single coil pickups replaced by P90 pickups, or mini-humbuckers. Some of these have been irreversibly modified in their upgrades, decreasing value considerably; but these are fantastic for every day players, and the irony is that they are potentially better instruments.