The Gibson S-1 was first announced in the June 1975 price list
In the 1970s Norlin-owned Gibson dabbled in some new approaches to guitar building. Some ideas were truly inovative (such as the circuitry in the RD Artist guitar and bass) whilst others were just new to Gibson. Guitar manufacturers in the USA were having problems. The oil-crisis, Viet Nam War, cheap imports from the far east and deep recession were all taking their toll. All the big American guitar companies were losing sales to new cheaper competitors; production costs had to be reduced for certain entry level instruments. Techniques that had long been resisted, such as the use of bolt-on necks, scratchplate mounted controls, and the use of woods such as alder and maple, were finally acceptable. After all Fender had now been using them for close on two decades, and were doing very well.
In late 1974 Gibson launched the Marauder M-1 guitar and Grabber G-1 bass. They were alder bodied with a bolt-on maple neck. Nothing like the solid mahogany set necked SGs, Les Pauls and EB basses that were Gibsons solid-body mainstays.
Sales were good in 1975, and a further two models in the same veign were unveiled; the S-1 guitar and companion G-3 Grabber bass. The interesting thing about these instruments were the pickup configurations designed by Bill Lawrence, who was working at Gibson at the time. The S-1 had three single coil pickups, more akin to a Fender Stratocaster than anything ever produced by Gibson previously and a four-way switch that "allows you to form your own humbucking or non-humbucking combinations". The G-1 and M-1 had initially been alder bodied and this was changed to maple soon afterwards. It is unclear whether any alder-bodied S-1 instruments were manufactured, though quite possible. They were certainly produced with a maple body, and eventually mahogany was also (optionally) available as a body material too.
Gibson S-1 chronology
- 1975 Launched mid 1975. Finishes: Natural Satin ($399), Ebony ($449), Sunburst ($479). Total sales 1064
- 1976 New finish - Natural Maple Gloss. Maple fingerboard, unlike rosewood used on all other finishes. Prices: Natural Satin ($439), Ebony ($479), Maple Gloss ($479), Sunburst ($509)
- 1977 Prices: Natural Satin ($499), Ebony, Maple Gloss, Sunburst ($539)
- 1978 This was the peak year for the S-1. Maple fingerboards became standard, electronics redesigned , bodies optionally mahogany. New finishes were Natural Mahogany, Wine Red and Walnut. The Natural Satin finish was now identical to the Natural Maple Gloss finish, so that name was dropped. It cost $519, and all other finishes were $559.  Total sales were 1158. Not great for a peak year.
- 1979 Maple bodied S-1s were listed as an option as late as June 1979, however the final appearance of the S-1 in Gibson literature in late September '79 lists only one wood/finish combination; mahogany body, maple neck and a Satin Walnut finish. $459.
Gibson S-1 guitars in Ebony and Tobacco Sunburst finishes
The Gibson S-1 stayed in the Gibson line throughout the 1970s, with production ending in 1979, a few guitars of left-over parts still being shipped perhaps into the 1980s. Gibson continued creating guitars to compete with Fender's Stratocaster (in vain, admittedly), the next being the rather fine Victory MVX guitar, which, arguably, was a far superior guitar than the Fender, yet still never broke through in terms of sales.