The RD line of Guitars was unveiled in 1977. It consisted of three six-string guitar models (RD artist, RD custom and RD standard) and two basses (RD artist and RD standard). RD stands for research and development.... and this range of instruments certainly was a technological leap forward for the Gibson company. At the centre of this innovation was the RD Artist guitar and bass. Not only were they Gibsons first active instruments, but they were also equipped with Moog (another Norlin company) expansion/compression circuitry.
Throughout the 70s Gibson experimented with guitars that were completely different from its older mahogany solid-bodies. Taking ques from other manufacturers, and coming up with ideas of their own. Newer models had been made from maple (L5-S, L-6S) with a bolt-on neck (Marauder and S-1) and now were being taken one step further still with the RD series; aswell as active electronics, the guitars were Gibson's first extra long scale instrument (25 1/2" as opposed to the usual 24 3/4"). According to early literature, were designed "with size, shape, and density of materials, chosen for their brightness, brilliance, sustain and comfort"
The Gibson Product development director at the time was Bruce Bolen. in this 1978 he explains the vision behind the RD artist.
One of the particular musical qualities that I personally was looking for in one of the models, was a similar effect to that of a steel player - this being the reduction of the intitial attack and the swell of the note after the initial attack had been made. A steel player of course uses a volume pedal to accomplish this but it was still something missing. Bob designed a special circuit that would achieve this as well as an expansion circuit unlike any other that had been designed to date.
From top to bottom, the Gibson RD artist, RD custom and RD standard guitars
RD guitar users
Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)
Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
Alan Kendall (Bee Gees)
Rob Dean (Japan)
If you can add to this list please email
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