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Gibson S1

Solid body electric guitar

S-1 description and chronology | S-1 controls, shipping & publicity

The June 1975 Gibson price list
The Gibson S-1 was first announced in the June 1975 price list

The Gibson S1 debuted in 1975, the last of a number of models designed by Bill Lawrence, and one that really highlighted the realities of running a guitar business at the time. In the 1970s Norlin-owned Gibson dabbled in some new approaches to guitar building. Some ideas were truly innovative (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, poplar 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 (or poplar?) bodied with a bolt-on maple neck. Nothing like the solid mahogany set necked SGs, Les Pauls and EB basses that were Gibson's solid-body mainstays.

1978 Gibson S-1
Gibson S-1 guitars in Ebony and Tobacco Sunburst finishes
Model: Gibson S-1
Available: 1975-1981
Body: Woods varied to some extent; though broadly maple (1976 - 79) or mahogany (1978-79). Early examples from 1975 may also have used alder or poplar.
Neck: Bolt-on. 24 3/4" scale, 22 frets. Laminate maple, with rosewood fingerboard (1975-early '78), or maple fingerboard (1976-1979)
Pickups: 3 high frequency Gibson "special design" adjustable pickups, with a "bright/low" tonality. These were single coil units, each with one Alnico magnet and no adjustable polepieces. Part numbers 13660 (front), 13661 (middle), 13662 (back).
Dimensions: 13" wide, 17 1/4" long, 1 3/4" deep

Sales were good in 1975, and a further two models in the same vein 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 'lead' switch

One of the great features of the S-1 was the bypass toggle switch. Most guitarists familiar with Gibson control layouts will naturally assume this to be a three-way pickup selector switch, but this is not the case. In fact it is just a two-way switch, allowing normal function in the up-position, i.e. a combination of two or more pickups in humbucking mode (depending on the position of the four-way chicken head switch) OR a simple "biting" lead setting in the down position; the bridge pickup alone.

But there were two variations in the S-1 wiring. In the Adventures in Archives articles from November 1997, Gibson historian Walter Carter explains

I also came across a schematic for the "S-1, Second Series," made in 1978 and after I was talking with Customer Relations head Wayne Green about it when a voice behind me said, "I drew that schematic." The voice came from Pat Murphy, who recently rejoined Gibson after working here from 1975-78 in final assembly and quality control. According to Pat, the S-1 was supposed to be Gibson's version of the Fender Stratocaster, but the original design didn't let the player select "the Hendrix sound" - the neck pickup alone. Pat was the one who rewired the S-1 to fix that problem

An explanation of all controls (of the series 1 S-1) can be seen in the 1978 S-1 Description of Controls sheet

Gibson S1 chronology

  • 1975 Launched mid 1975. Finishes: Natural Satin ($399), Ebony ($449), Sunburst ($479)[1]. Total sales 1064[2]
  • 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)[3]. Gibson started using three piece laminate maple necks replacing the earlier scarf joint version.
  • 1977 Prices: Natural Satin ($499), Ebony, Maple Gloss, Sunburst ($539)[4]
  • 1978 This was the peak year for the S-1. Maple fingerboards became standard, electronics redesigned [5], bodies optionally mahogany. New finishes were Natural Mahogany, Wine Red and Walnut. The Natural Satin finish was perhaps too similar to the Natural Maple Gloss finish, so the latter was dropped. It cost $519, and all other finishes were $559. [6] Total sales were 1158. Not great for a peak year.[2]
  • 1979 Maple bodied S-1s were listed as an option as late as June 1979[7], however the late September '79 lists only one wood/finish combination; mahogany body, maple neck and a Satin Walnut finish. $459[8].
  • 1980 The final price list inclusion comes in January 1980, still priced at $549, with the same wood specifications of mahogany body, maple neck/fretboard and a Satin Walnut finish [9]. In June Gibson announce the discontinuation of the S-1 in dealers newsletter Gibson News.[10]. the S-1 is not included in the 1980 Gibson catalog
  • 1981 The S-1 was included in the Gibson Specials pre-owners manual as a close out model.
  • 1982 Gibson 'Special Sale' price list [11], included the S-1 at a knock down dealer price (retail price not listed) of just $309.50 - the only listed finish being Satin Walnut.

1) Gibson pricelist 20/6/1975
2) Gibson Shipment Totals 1937-79 by Larry Meiners
3) Gibson pricelist 1/6/1976
4) Gibson pricelist 1/1/1977
5) Gibson Adventures in Archives November 1997
6) Gibson pricelist 15/5/1978
7) Gibson pricelist 1/6/1979
8) Gibson pricelist 30/9/1979
9) Gibson pricelist 7/1/1980
10) Gibson News, June 1980
11) Special Sale pricelist, February 15th 1982

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 into the early 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.

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1977 Gibson S-1 Tobacco Sunburst 6-String Electric Guitar! (WMP008480)

1977 Gibson S-1 Tobacco Sunburst 6-String Electric Guitar! (WMP008480)

Westminster, California, 926**, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


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Gibson S1 electric guitar, American made 1978

Gibson S1 electric guitar, American made 1978

Phoenix, Arizona, 850**, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


This vintage 1978 Gibson S1 electric guitar *MADE IN AMERICA* is a true gem for any guitar enthusiast. This guitar is unmodified - not even the wood finish has been redone! Made in the United States in 1978, it has the original beautiful natural wood finish body color and solid body type. The brand Gibson speaks for itself when it comes to quality and this S1 model is no exception. The guitar falls into the categories of electric guitars, guitars & basses, and musical instruments & ... more
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Gibson Vintage S-1 Electric Guitar 1977 with Original Hardshell Case

Gibson Vintage S-1 Electric Guitar 1977 with Original Hardshell Case

Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 190**, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


The S-1 has buckle rash (the body is really dense and heavy. Although the buckle rash is there, the exposed wood is smooth with NO dents. The wood might Ash or Maple), a replaced tuning peg (the previous owner changed to a plastic button and some rust at harmonica bridge and neck plate (most probably from sweat). The frets are in really good shape
It was made of a solid Les Paul Jr-like body with a maple Flying V neck bolted on. It has Schaller made "Harmonica" style tune-o-matic bridge and ... more
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Gibson S1 electric guitar, American made 1978

Gibson S1 electric guitar, American made 1978

Hamilton, Montana, 598**, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


This Gibson S1 electric guitar is a true gem for any musician or collector. Made in the United States in 1978, this guitar has a natural solid body color and belongs to the Gibson S1 series. It is an electric guitar that is perfect for any genre of music, whether you're a beginner or a professional. The guitar has all the features you need to create amazing music, including a high-quality brand and model ?? Gibson S-1. This guitar has been well-maintained and is in excellent condition. It ... more
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* refinished in matte black
* has a minor crack in cutaway curve=check last pic
* NOT a light body
CHECK OUR SHOP OUT -------------->>>>>-------------->>>>>
... more
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* finish has some wear
* frets are fine
* original tuners are included
* original finish but it never had a serial number above tuners, maybe a prototype
CHECK OUR SHOP OUT -------------->>>>>-------------->>>>>
... more
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1979 GIBSON S 1  /  MARAUDER NECK - made in USA

1979 GIBSON S 1 / MARAUDER NECK - made in USA

Köln, 50***, GERMANY


1979 GIBSON S 1 / MARAUDER NECK - made in USA :
* headstock finish was stripped & stained
* finish has some wear
* frets are fine
* newer SCHALLER tuners are included
... more
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1979 Gibson S 1 - Made in USA

1979 Gibson S 1 - Made in USA



1979 GIBSON S 1 BODY - made in USA :
* refinished in matte black , has wear
* body has a minor crack in cutaway curve
* chunky maple neck
* headstock finish was stripped & stained
* frets are fine
* newer SCHALLER tuners
* active EMG USA humbucker
... more
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1979 GIBSON S 1 EMG - made in USA

1979 GIBSON S 1 EMG - made in USA



1979 GIBSON S 1 BODY - made in USA :
* refinished in matte black , has wear
* body has a minor crack in cutaway curve
* chunky maple neck
* headstock finish was stripped & stained
* frets are fine
* newer SCHALLER tuners
* active EMG USA humbucker
... more
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1978 Gibson S-1 Guitar

1978 Gibson S-1 Guitar

Nottingham, NG9***, UNITED KINGDOM


A Gibson S-1 from 1978.
These are rare birds, dating from near the end of the Norlin period of Gibson ownership. The S-1 was a sort-of attempt at their own version of a Strat, with a bolt-on neck (with V headstock), 3 single coil pickups and some rather strange switching options
This one appears to have had and extra mini-switch added that, as far as I can work out, seems to reverse the polarity of the neck pickup. There's a very versatile set of sounds available, including bridge and ... more
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There are 14 comments on this article so far. Add your comment

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Tony Martin Comment left 2nd July 2023 23:11:55 reply
Hi. I have a Gibson S1, ebony finish ,that looks legit and complete but has no serial number stamped in the headpiece. Coul it be that there was a decal that is no longer there and if so, where else might there be a serial number? Thanks!!
Mark Comment left 30th May 2022 16:04:54 reply
I owned a 1976 natural satin, definitely an alder body! It had a rosewood fretboard, too. I wish I still had it!
eduardo hernandez Comment left 22nd February 2021 03:03:18 reply
I'm the proud owner of a black S-1 stamped 72368231 in the headstock. Bought it used in the early 80's. A tuning key was replaced with a Yamaha. Will appreciate your help with all information available about its build and the key replacement. Also, did Gibson build a left-handed model of it? Thanks - eduardo hernández
Martin Lindsay Comment left 16th November 2021 14:02:50 reply
Are you still in need of a tuning key? I have some. Let me know (bass or treble side) if interested.
Robert Goth Comment left 23rd April 2018 18:06:02 reply
Hi, I would like to rate my guitar. Can someone help me?
JOE W Comment left 23rd March 2014 22:10:45 reply
I cant find any info on my Gibson S-1 serial # 01550710 Can you help? Its a solid body walnut finish blk scratch pad light oke fret board Sure wish i could get some data on it. Thanks J.W
Vintage Guitar and Bass Comment left 23rd March 2014 22:10:36 reply
This serial number does not make sense - is it definitely correct?
jow .w Comment left 15th August 2017 08:08:55 reply
Yes the sn i gave was wrong it should be 81550710
Vintage Guitar and Bass Comment left 27th August 2017 01:01:33 reply
Ok Joe, that serial number shows that the guitar was stamped on the 3rd June 1980 at the Gibson Nashville plant (day 155) - and was the 210th guitar shipped that day. It will have a maple fretboard, and most likely a maple body too.
Frank Comment left 24th July 2013 04:04:47 reply
hi, I bought an S1 back in 78 or 79(?). I have not played it in 20 years or more. I have it stored at my family's home in the US. I don't have the serial number but it is a "natural" walnut(?) body / maple neck. It looks very similar to the one seen here in top picture but mine is lighter in color. Can you give me any idea what the value might be? I would say it is "good" condition with no major damage. I understand it is hard to say sight unseen so any "ballpark" figures would be ok. Thanks
vintage guitar and bass Comment left 26th March 2014 08:08:11 reply
Good condition S-1s are typically going anywhere between $450-$800 at the moment (2014) - they come up surprisingly infrequently (despite not being especially rare) which prevents the stability in price you see in more abundant 70s Gibsons.
Robert Comment left 10th January 2013 08:08:09 reply
Hello, I have a Gibson all maple S-1 that I got in 1977. I bought it at the music store so I'm the original owner. I have since changed all the hardware to suit my taste of playing. I still have all the original hardware. I cannot seem to find the value of it anywhere, the serial number is 00175934. From what I gather it was made in Kalamazoo in Jan of 75 and it was the 934th guitar for that run. Am I correct? And can you help me to put a price on it? Thanks for your time and help.
vintage guitar and bass Comment left 10th January 2013 08:08:55 reply
Hi Robert, I assume your serial number is a decal? These decal 8 digit serial numbers were used between 1975 and 1977, and do not use the same system as the 8 digit stamped serials that followed them. On your S1, the first two digits 00 tell us the year; 1976 in this case. The following six digits have no information encoded within them. 934 means nothing whatsoever i'm afraid, although it would have meant something on a later guitar. However you are correct in saying your guitar was produced at the Gibson Kalamazoo plant. Value will be mid to high $xxx depending on the usual criteria of condition and completeness.
Rob Keefe Comment left 14th January 2013 02:02:50 reply
Hey thanks for the info and the help! I appreciate you taking the time to answer. Regards, Rob


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1972 Fender PrecisionA detailed look at an early 1970s Fender Precision bass guitar in custom black finish, with rosewood fretboard. 1972 list price, $307.50. The Fender Precision had been shipping since at least very early 1952 - with just one re-design circa 1957. This example, then, shows a model already two decades old, but barely changed since the '57 revamp. Fender got it right first time around, and although there are numerous minor cosmetic differences, the essence of this bass is effectively the same as it was in '52: a simple, single pickup instrument with a GREAT sound. Check out the demo video through an old Ampeg B15. It's no wonder this is the bass that everybody wants!

1967 Vox Stroller

1967 Vox StrollerThe Vox Stroller was the brand's entry level electric solid body guitar, fitted with just one pickup and a fixed tailpiece. Although aimed at student guitarists, it wasn't a terrible instrument, but did lack somewhat in adjustability, having no accessible truss rod and only a floating rosewood bridge. But this example is actually quite an improvement on earlier versions, with a standard 1/4" jack and a solid mahogany body. 1967 price £18 2s. JMI ceased UK guitar production in late '67, and combined with decreasing demand for the Stroller, this surely must be one of the last examples shipped.

1963 Vox Clubman Bass (left handed)

1963 Vox Clubman Bass left handedA nice example of the Vox Clubman II bass, built by JMI in Dartford, Kent in 1963. This is a lightweight bass, short (30") scale and very easy to play. It is an early example, and as such has a thin black scratchplate and side mounted, coaxial output jack. JMI offered left handed examples of their solid body Vox guitars and basses at 10% premium. Production numbers are unclear, but left-handed examples rarely come up for sale

1977 Gibson ES Artist 'prototype'

1977 Gibson ES Artist prototypeNot to be confused with the Gibson ES Artist launched by Gibson in 1979; this ES Artist was an early model designed by the Gibson research and development team in Kalamazoo in 1977, the instruments themselves constructed by Gibson artist Chuck Burge. It was planned for launch as a high end semi acoustic with 335-style construction (central maple block) and innovative circuitry - but was pulled at the last minute, being deemed too expensive. Apparently, several examples were produced with varying specifications, though exactly how many actually left the Kalamazoo plant is unclear. Certainly two guitars were sold to LaVonne Music by Gibson in around 1980. Read more about the development of this guitar, with details from Chuck Burge and the story of it's sale to LaVonne music

1959 Hofner Committee

1959 Hofner CommitteeThe Hofner Committee was a truly beautiful guitar produced in Germany, primarily for the UK market. It was a large bodied (initially 17 1/2") guitar with a carved spruce top, available as an acoustic or electric guitar. By the early sixties the carved top was replaced with a laminate, and although still a very fine guitar, the earlier carved top examples, with frondose headstock (like the example shown here) are far more highly prized amongst musicians and vintage guitar collectors.

1965 Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean

1965 Gretsch Chet Atkins TennesseanThe Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean, or model 6119 was Gretsch's best selling hollow body of the 1960s. This wonderfully faded example from 1965 was originally Dark Cherry Red, but has turned a mid-orange brown. The original color, however, can be seen underneath the pickup surrounds. 1965 specs: maple body, two-piece neck, Brazilian rosewood fretboard and Hi-Lo 'Tron single coil pickups. Nickel plated Gretsch Bigsby tailpiece.

1965 Gretsch 'For the Spectacular Sound of the Times' guitar and amp catalog

1965 Gretsch catalogThe 1965 Gretsch catalog, or catalog #32, featured 10 hollow body electric guitars, including the newly launched Gretsch Viking; four solid body electrics, including the Astro Jet - making it's only catalog appearance; just one bass, the single pickup PX6070; nine acoustics and 12 tube amplifiers. Pride of place went to the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman that adorned both the front and back covers. 24 pages, six of which are in full color.

Guitar Repair: fixing fret buzz and sharp fret ends

Guitar Repair: fixing fret buzz and sharp fret endsLoose frets are especially problematic in certain old guitars, but are generally very easy to fix. You'll be amazed at the difference you can make with just a few tools, a bit of knowledge, and a little time. Fixing loose frets can eliminate fret buzz, remove sharp fret ends, and greatly improve the tone of any guitar. If your luthier bill will be greater than the value of your guitar, definitely time to have a go yourself!

1966 Hagstrom 'worlds fastest playing neck' catalog (Merson USA)

1966 Hagstrom guitar catalogHagstrom guitars were distributed in the mid-1960s United States by Merson of USA. This eight page 'worlds fastest playing neck' catalog, printed in two-colors contained six solid body electrics, three solid body basses, two electric acoustic guitars, two electric acoustic basses and five acoustics.

1965 Hofner President

1965 Hofner PresidentThe President was produced by Hofner in Bubenreuth, Germany, specifically for Selmer, who distributed the brand in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other commonwealth nations. The President was a hollow body electric acoustic, available as a full body or thinline, and with blonde or brunette finish. It was a great playing guitar that sold fairly well in the second half of the 1950s, throughout the 1960s, and into the very early 1970s. The example shown here is a full-body depth guitar in blonde - and as a 1965 guitar, one of the last to feature the rounded Venetian cutaway. From late 1965 until 1972, the President sported a sharp Florentine cut. Naturally, such an electric acoustic suggests jazz and blues, but many of the original British Hofner President players were part of the rock 'n roll, skiffle and beat scenes of the late 50s and early 60s.

1963 1964 Fender catalog

Fender 1963 catalogue"The Choice of Professional and Student Musicians Everywhere" This eight page catalogue was included as an insert in the 1963 annual "school music" issue of Downbeat magazine (September 1963). As well as keyboards and pedal steels, this catalog contains seven guitars, three basses and ten amplifiers - from student guitars such as the Musicmaster and Duotone to professional models like the new Jaguar.