Gibson cello-bodied guitars were very well regarded in the 1930s and 1940s. Models such as the ES-300 and ES-350, launched in 1947, showed what was possible, and immediately earned Gibson respect from jazz guitarists of the time. Gibson archtops set the standard, both in terms of quality and design that other manufacturers would emulate, and still do to this day. But the story of the Gibson ES-175 starts in 1949 with the launch of the one-pickup model, at $175 (hence the name ES-175), to be joined in 1953, by a two pickup version, ES-175D. This was a smaller bodied instrument than other archtops, measuring just 16 1/4" wide, (compared to 18" for the Super 400 CES, and 17" for the L-5CES, ES-5 and ES-350) and with a shorter scale (24 3/4"), to facilitate tricky jazz chordings. Having a laminate (rather than carved) maple top reduced the list price significantly: at last Gibson were offering a fine quality full-body jazz guitar at a relatively affordable price point.
The Florentine cutaway was also seen as an advantage over the more usual Gibson Venetian cutaway, and this again proved popular. Body material was maple throughout, with a set mahogany neck.
Steve Howe plays Gibson - 1971. UK Selmer advertisement for Gibson guitars. Steve Howe bought his first Gibson, An ES-175D from the Selmer shop in Charing Cross Road, London, in 1964.
Steve Howe told Guitar World in 2011: "...when you play a guitar, you have to warm it up; it doesn't sound good straight away. You need at least 20 minutes. The guitar's sound changes. We don't know why, exactly, but as the wood moistens and you play it, it starts to sound like a guitar. Before that, it's a piece of wood with strings stretched across it. A new guitar is like a new baby. It doesn't know a lot, it needs feeding. And your feeding is playing."
The ES-175 was (and still is) very widely used by jazz, rock and blues guitarists. Aswell as Steve Howe, the subject of the advertisement shown, the Gibson ES-175 was also used by Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, BB King, Howard Roberts and Pat Metheny.
Have a closer look at some of these ES-175s
The following description is taken from the 1970 Gibson electric acoustics catalogue
ES-175 D - Cutaway Easy to hold and comfortable to hold, the ES-175 D produces a brilliant distortion-free tone. The modern cutaway design provides easy access to the entire register.
FEATURES: Arched top and back of select maple with matching rims. Slim, fast low-action neck joins the body at the 14th fret. Laminated mahogany neck adjustable truss rod. Rosewood fingerboard, pearl inlays. Adjustable rosewood bridge. Powerful twin humbucking pickups. Separate tone and volume control for each pickups. Separate tone and volume control for each pickup. Toggle switch. Individual machine heads. 16 ½ " wide, 20 ¼ " long, 3 3/8 " deep; 24 ¾ " scale, 20 frets.
ES-175D - Double pickups - Sunburst finish
ES-175DN - Double pickups - Natural finish
ES-175 - Single pickup - Sunburst finish
515 - Faultless plush-lined case
303 - Archcraft plush-lined case
103 - Durabilt case
ZC-5 - Zipper cover for 515 case
The single pickup model Gibson ES-175 was last listed in company price lists in 1970, although it seems to have been shipped way beyond that date. The two pickup version, is by far the most familiar ES-175, and is still available today, largely unchanged in six decades. There was one significant change though; the pickups in use originally were single-coil P90s, however the ES-175 was the first of all Gibson guitars to be shipped with a humbucker. Original Gibson ledgers mark this event clearly; it was February 18, 1957, on an ES-175N with serial number A25000.
|Model||Gibson ES-175||Gibson ES-175D|
|Available||1949-1972, The last price list entry was Sept 1970, although shipping figures suggest they were shipped in very small numbers as late as 1972 (and possibly later)||1953-date|
|Pickups||Two single coils (1953-57), or two humbuckers (1957 onwards)||One single coil (1953-57), later one humbucker (1957 onwards)|
|Scale||24 3/4 "|
|Body||Arched maple top, maple back and sides. Some 80s instruments had mahogany back and sides. 16 1/2 " wide, 20 1/4 " long, 3 3/8 " deep|
|Neck||Mahogany (1949-1976), Maple (1976-83). Rosewood fingerboard with double parallelogram pearloid inlays.|
|Hardware||Nickel plated (1949-1965), chrome plated (1965-onwards).|
|Finishes||Sunburst, Natural, Wine Red, Sparkling Burgundy, Ebony|
The ES-175, and dual pickup ES-175D were very important guitars in the Gibson line, and as such were continually available (in some form) from their inception (1949 and 1953 respectively) to the present. These guitars were benchmarks for Gibson quality, and although certainly not cheap, neither were they unobtainable to a serious jazz musician. The model appeared in all full-line catalogs, as well as several brochures dedicated to electric acoustics. Click on the images below to see the ES-175 in each catalog.
From the 1958 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue
Extremely easy to play and comfortable to hold
From the 1960 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue
The Florentine cutaway design provides easy access to the entire fret range
From the 1962 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue
Beautiful arched top and back of select maple with matching rims, black-and-white ivoroid binding
From the 1964 Gibson electric guitar and bass catalogue
Easy to play and comfortable to hold, it produces a brilliant distortion-free tone
From the 1966 Gibson full line catalogue
The modern cutaway design provides easy access to the entire fret range
The 1970 Gibson electric acoustics catalogue
Easy to play and comfortable to hold
The 1972 Guitar of the Month Showcase
The ES-l75-D is already a legendary guitar, one of the first instruments to successfully usher in the electric age of music
From the 1975 Electric Acoustic catalogue
Gibson's electric acoustic guitars helped many artists rise to the top
The 1978 Gibson catalogue also shows the ES-175CC - the Charlie Christian model, with one single coil Charlie Christian pickup - though this variant did not ship until 1979.
From the 1983 Gibson catalogue
The new ES-175D is a response to practical input from players who want a more focused sound for expressive applications. It is built with an arched maple top bound to a mahogany back and matching rims. It feels the same as the original ES-175, but the characteristically full acoustic sound emerges with a greater degree of warmth.
Many popular Gibson guitars of the late 1950s and 1960s had a Kalamazoo-built Epiphone equivalent model. This was not the case for the ES-175. The closest were the Epiphone Windsor which shared the same construction, materials, scale length and body dimensions as the ES-175, but was a thinline; and the Epiphone Broadway, which, although slightly larger with a Venetian rather than Florentine cutaway, had the same deep body, and was similarly appointed.
In recent years, however, Epiphone branded ES-175s have been available in small numbers.
The ES-175D is one of Gibson's most successful, and longest running models, and is still available today.
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