The Gibson SG Custom was the top of the Gibson SG range: three Gibson humbuckers, and gold-plated throughout. It had the high-end split-diamond headstock inlay, and mother of pearl block fingerboard markers in an ebony fretboard. It was initially a redesigned Les Paul Custom, and was named as such initially. Like the other SGs it was mahogany throughout with a set neck. 6346 SG Customs were produced between 1961 and 1979, after which it was dropped from the Gibson price lists and catalogues. There were some cosmetic changes over the years, but little that stops this guitar from being one of Gibsons most recognizable models. Famous users include: Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Ollie Halsall, Lenny Kravitz and Sister Rosetta Tharpe - all of whom played white SG Customs.
Just like the other Gibson SG models, the Custom had two volume and tone controls, and a three way switch. This selected front pickup only, middle and back pickups together, or the back pickup only.
The 1972 Gibson SG Custom was quite different from earlier and later versions. See the 1972 Gibson Solid Bodies catalogue
Each of the three humbucking pickups were identical: neck, middle and bridge, and they were the same pickups as used in the SG Standard, ES-175D and numerous other Gibson guitars, though with gold-plated covers.
The part that changed most noticeably in this model is the tailpiece. Several different versions were used, early examples are fitted with Gibson 'side to side' vibrato, or inlaid ebony block vibrato, followed by the Gibson deluxe (lyre) vibrato, which is probably the best known. From June 1973, Gibson started advertising the SG Custom with a Bigsby vibrato, or an optional stop tailpiece. As the decade wore on, it became very much the Bigsby that was the option.
One big change occurred around 1971/72, when the controls started to be mounted on a semi-circular control plate, rather than (via a back cavity) through the body wood itself (See the 1972 Gibson Solid Bodies catalogue). This attempt to reduce production costs was being introduced in numerous Gibson solid-body models - it was a time of real crisis for the American guitar industry, with heavy competition from cheaper overseas imports. It was not popular on high end instruments, and was dropped in the SG Custom within a year. It did continue in numerous other Gibsons throughout the 1970s.
Initially, Gibson only listed white as a finish for the SG Custom, and it is this colour that is most associated with this guitar. The gold hardware stood out against the white body giving this guitar a very flashy appearance. But by the end of the decade, White was dropped in favour of Walnut. The September 1969 price list is the first to list Walnut as the stock finish. This continued until 1975 when both Walnut and White were offered, with Wine Red being added briefly in the June '75 price list. This was replaced by Cherry for a short time, with Tobacco Sunburst also very briefly listed. The last price-list of the 1970s saw just White and Walnut available, before the SG Custom was discontinued in the 1980s. Despite these other colour options, the majority of 60s SG Customs are finished White, and the majority of 60s Customs are finished Walnut. As always with Gibson, there are exceptions - even when not listed, Cherry seems to have been available.
From the 1962 Gibson guitars and amplifiers catalogue
At this early stage, the SG Custom was still called the Les Paul Custom Now it's more wonderful than ever with new body design and new features. Ultra thin, hand contoured, delicately balanced, it adjusts into a natural comfortable playing position for any guitarist, with or without strap
From the 1964 Gibson electrics catalogue
Ebony fingerboard, deluxe pearl inlays... Three powerful pickups with unique wiring arrangement... New Deluxe Gibson Vibrola
From the 1966 Gibson full line catalogue
Players call it the 'Fretless Wonder' for it's extremely low frets and fast action. Now it's better than ever with new body design and new features
The 1970 electric solid bodies catalogue was the first to show the SG Custom in Walnut finish; the colour that defined the Custom in the early 70s
The 1972 electric solid bodies catalogue shows a dramatically restyled SG line, the SG Custom being no exception. This look was fleeting; by 1973 the line was restyled again.
The 1973 Gibson solid body leaflet
Gibson gives you the most with it's new SG Custom. Three extra "hot" super humbucking pickups capture every subtle string vibration
From the 1975 Gibson solid body series
Contoured solid mahogany body. Double cutaway design. Gold-plated, wide travel bridge with stop tailpiece (Bigsby tailpiece optional)
The 1978 was the last Gibson catalogue appearance of the SG Custom, before being reissued after the company changed hands at the beginning of 1986
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