The Gibson ES-335 TD is one of those flagship models that spawned a thousand imitators, yet never lost its position amongst them. It was manufactured from 1958 until 1982, however various reissues and artist signature models have meant that it has effectively stayed in production ever since. Usually just referred to as a '335', the correct name ES-335TD, stood for Electric Spanish 335 thinline double pickup. Gibson ES guitars are great looking, superb playing instruments, and vintage ES-335TDs are highly prized amongst musicians and vintage guitar collectors alike.
The major innovation that made the 335 the ground-breaking instrument it was, was hidden in it's construction. Rather than being completely hollow, the guitar had a central maple block running the length of the guitar, below the pickups and bridge. This gave the bridge posts something to anchor into, increasing sustain, and giving some of the brighter tonal qualities of a solid body, whilst still retaining some of the mellow character of an acoustic. Furthermore it reduced feedback which had always been a problem with hollow bodies when turned up loud.
The following description is taken from the 1970 Gibson thinline catalogue
An outstanding performer for ensembles, recording, radio or TV and it sells for a very modest price. The thin double cutaway and fast, low-action neck allows easy access to upper register.
FEATURES: Curly maple arched top and back, chrome-plated metal parts. Slim, fast, low-action neck joins body at 20th fret. Laminated neck, adjustable truss rod. Rosewood fingerboard, pearl block inlays. Adjustable Tune-O-Matic bridge. Twin Humbucking pickups with separate tone and volume which can be pre-set. Three-position toggle switch to activate either or both pickups. 16" wide, 19" long, 1 ¾" thin; 24 ¾" scale, 22 frets.
ES-335TD - Sunburst finish
ES-335TDW - Walnut finish
ES-335TDC - Cherry finish
519 - Faultless plush-lined case
304 - Archcraft plush-lined case
ZC-19 Zipper cover for 519 case
In 1976, the ES-335 was given a coil-tap switch, allowing the pickups to work in single-coil or humbucking modes, see the 1978 Gibson catalogue.
From the beginning of 1979, a slightly more expensive version ($100 more, 1/1/79), and a guitar perhaps more suited to the times, the ES-335 Pro was launched. It had a stop tailpiece, speed knobs, dot (rather than block) position markers, and high-output 'dirty fingers' pickups.
The ES-335TD and ES-335 Pro were both withdrawn, their last inclusion in price lists being April 1981, with a replacement, the ES-335 dot (based on the 1961 ES-335TD) being launched the following year. As the name suggests, this had dot neck markers, and a more traditional Gibson mahogany neck.
Famous ES335 players include Eric Clapton, Larry Carlton and Alvin Lee.
Other similar guitars in the Gibson 300 series are the ES-335-12: a 12-string version of the 335, shipped between 1965 and 1970; also the Gibson ES330 with it's single coil pickups. The Gibson ES345, Gibson ES355 and Gibson ES355 stereo varitone were more ornate versions of the 335 - with stereo electronics and/or a number of cosmetic differences. A very similar guitar except for its 3" deep completely hollow body, the ES-150 DC was available from 1969-1979. Mention should also be made of the Epiphone Riviera, which was made with the 335 in the Gibson Kalamazoo factory, using the same tooling, techniques and quite a lot of the same components.
Need the value of your guitar? The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide 2023 is out now