Some variations of the Gibson L5-S guitar. From left to right 1) 1973 - Cherry sunburst. Note the gold plated low impedance 'recording' style pickups 2) 1975 - Still Cherry Sunburst but with humbuckers rather than recording pickups 3) Fireburst finish 4) 1980 Natural L5-S with the TP6 tailpiece.
The fingerboard of the L5-S is inlaid with beautiful, select abalone that gives this instrument an outstanding stage presence of its own
Taken from the 1975 Gibson solid body Catalog (above)
The Gibson L5-S was a particularly fine guitar; the first high end jazz solid body. It was first demonstrated at the 1972 summer NAMM show, but does not appear to have shipped until the next year. As the name suggests it was related to the L5 archtop electric acoustic - sharing many features; single-cutaway body (though less sharp horn), ebony fingerboard with block inlays, flowerpot headstock inlay, L-5 tailpiece with contrasting silver on gold and the multilayer binding throughout. Another similar model was the L6-S which was a simplified version of the same guitar, launched in 1974.
Features: Carved curly maple body, with ornate multilayer binding, laminated maple neck, ebony fingerboard with abalone block inlays, gold-plated hardware throughout (pre-78 tailpiece has contrasting silver centrepiece, later changed to a gold plated TP-6). "L5" engraving, two gold plated pickups with separate volume and tone, three way selector switch. Schaller 'harmonica' bridge. Width at nut 1 11/16", scale 24 3/4".
Jazz guitarist Pat Martino on the cover of Guitar Player magazine with his L5S, June 1977
It was Gibson's most prestigious solid body (and therefore expensive, with a couple exceptions). Prices were typically 30-40% more than the other high end Gibson solid bodies; the Les Paul Recording, LP Custom and SG Custom. The exceptions were in 1979/1980 when the very fine Flying VII and active Les Paul Artist models were available; both were between $50 and $100 more, and were deleted almost as quickly as they had arrived.
The L5-S was built at Gibson's Kalamazoo factory, in Michigan, USA from 1972 (presumably just prototypes in the first year). A total of 1813 examples left the plant in the period 1973-1979, with the peak year being 1974, with 555 guitars shipped. It is likely that some production continued into 1980 (and possibly beyond), though there is no available shipping data for that year.
Famous users include Ron Wood and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Pat Martino and Paul Simon
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