Gibson SG Special

Solid body electric guitar

Gibson SG Special

Have a closer look at this 1969 SG Special

Model: Gibson SG Special
Available: 1961-date (not continuous)
Pickups: Two single coil P90s, mini-humbuckers from around 1973
Scale: 24 3/4"
Body: Mahogany
Neck: Initially one-piece mahogany, laminated mahogany by 1970. Rosewood fingerboard, with dot inlays, changing to block inlays by 1975.
Frets: 22
Hardware: 2 volume, 2 tone, nickel, then chrome hardware throughout
Finishes: Cherry, White, Walnut, Ebony, Natural
1962 Gibson full line catalogue

From the 1962 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue

The first SG Special catalogue appearance Two ways new! A lovely new finish in a new shade of limed mahogany or Gibson's new cherry red... an ultra-modern new sculptered shape - the solid body double cutaway design that provides easy access to all 22 frets

1964 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue

From the 1964 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue

Outstanding for it's tone, versatility, and low fast action at a modest price

Gibson 1966 Full Line catalogue

From the 1966 Gibson full line catalogue

Two powerful pickups with separate tone and volume controls which can be pre-set

1970 electric solid bodies catalogue

The 1970 electric solid bodies catalogue

The ultra-thin contoured body is available in two finishes: Natural Walnut, or Gibson Cherry Red

1973 Gibson solid body leaflet

The 1973 Gibson solid body leaflet

Two new design Gibson humbucking pickups

1975 Gibson solid body catalogue

From the 1975 Gibson solid body catalogue

This was the last catalogue appearance of the SG Special for some time

The Gibson SG Special was a popular guitar, in the Gibson SG range, selling in high numbers in the 1960s and early 1970s. According to released shipping figures, over 30,000 SG Specials were shipped between 1961 and 1979, with 1973 (3534), and 1965 (2618) the peak years. It is still available from Gibson today, and there is also an Epiphone SG Special.

Introducing the Gibson SG Special guitar, from Gibson Gazette, Summer 1961

The model was first announced in the Summer 1961 issue of Gibson Gazette at a price of $195, though probably not yet available as it is described in the future tense: New contoured body design and light weight make the SG Special one of the best values in the solid-body market. This beautiful and wonderful sounding guitar will be available in two finishes: cherry-red and the ultra-modern light cream.

The SG Special was, in due course, included in the 1962 catalogue at $210 - and without any mention of finish options other than cherry red, although shipping figures suggest white SG Specials were shipped at least between 1962 and 1968.

Throughout the 1960s, the SG Special sold moderately well. Gibson had it's peak year in 1965, and expanded it's Kalamazoo plant to meet demand for 100000 instruments/year. Unfortunately sales then plummeted across the US guitar industry, with overseas competition, war, and recession all putting strain on sales figures. Gibson was losing money and something had to be done to overcome this. President Stan Rendell introduced a number of changes from 1966 onwards; most notably for the SG Special was the larger scratchplate introduced towards the end of the decade, covering much of the front of the body. Mounting pickups on a larger plate simplified production, in turn reduced costs.

Gibson SG Special with twin P90 pickups

The defining feature of the Special, over any other SG model, is the twin P90 pickup configuration. The SG Junior was similar, but having just one P90. P90s are single-coil pickups, unlike the humbuckers used in the SG Custom and SG Standard. Of course, there are always exceptions with Gibson, and for a time in the mid 1970s, the SG Special had small humbuckers too, though not identical to those fitted on the other SG models. Otherwise, differences between the models were ornamental; headstock and neck inlays, binding, etc. All had the same mahogany bodies, set mahogany necks, and all used the same control layouts.

Well known users of the SG Special include Pete Townsend of the Who, who played his SG Special for much of the late 1960s and early 1970s, most famously at Woodstock. The video on the left shows the Who live at the Isle of Wight festival, UK in 1970, the SG in full effect. Another well known user is Carlos Santana, who also played an SG Special at the Woodstock festival.

Original Pricing

The table below lists a number of solid body guitars available in 1965 in the same price range as the Gibson SG Special. When you compare the guitars available, it is really no wonder the SG Special sold so well.

modelpickupsneck joint1965 price
Gibson SG Junior1 P90set$165 (June '65)
Harmony Silhouette H192 single coilbolt-on$177.50 (April '65)
Fender Telecaster2 single coilbolt-on$203 (Dec '65)
Rickenbacker 4502 single coilneck through$224.50 (Jan '66)
Gibson SG Special2 P90set$225 (June '65)
Gretsch Corvette2 single coilset$240 (1965)
Vox Soundcaster3 single coilbolt-on$250 (April '65)
Epiphone Wilshire2 humbuckerset$265 (July '65)
Fender Stratocaster3 single coilbolt-on$252-$295 (Dec '65)
Guild S100 Deluxe2 single coilset$280 (Oct '65)
Gibson SG Standard2 humbuckerset$305 (June '65)

Soundclips

Each pickup alone has plenty of character - a typically funky bridge tone, and a nice fat neck tone. Have a listen to some Gibson SG Specials - through several vintage guitar amplifiers - just mic'd up and recorded.

WEM ER15

1961 Gibson SG Special through a 1960s WEM ER15 - the first clip being neck pickup only, the second bridge only, and finally, both pickups.




WEM Clubman Mark 8

1969 Gibson SG Special through an early 1970s WEM Clubman Mark 8 - both pickups, with the amp cranked sufficiently for some nice distorted tones. More SG Special/WEM Clubman soundclips here.

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US ebay listings

VINTAGE 1967 GIBSON SG SPECIAL ELECTRIC GUITAR CHERRY FINISH

Current price: $2499.00
buy it now
Time left: 23d 55m
1964 SG Gibson Special Cherry Solid Body Electric Guitar

Current price: $4295.00
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Time left: 19d 4h 27m
1968 VINTAGE GIBSON SG SPECIAL

Current price: $3800.00
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Time left: 25d 16h 24m
1967 GIBSON SG SPECIAL - TOWNSHEND VERSION - NOT A REISSUE

Current price: $2199.00
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Time left: 27d 5h 33m

See more results on eBay here


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robert tedeschi Comment left 26th July 2013 22:10:47 reply
gidday was just wondering what a 1973 Gibson sg special is worth? rob