The RD Artist (along with the RD Artist bass) was the last of the RD series still available, last listed in US prices in July 1980, and last shown on page 31 of the 1980 Gibson catalog. The text and image shown here are those of the RD Artist/79 (24 3/4" scale, with separate bright mode and expansion/compression switch) from this catalog.
One object of the 1981 Gibson Specials folder was to offer close out models (see the inside cover) at a reduced price, and the RD Artist is one such model.
However, there was a limited edition version (just 100 guitars) of the RD Artist, the RD Artist CMT (curly maple top) announced in March 1981, for shipping in April 1981. The rationale of the Gibson Specials folder was detailed on the inside cover, and whilst a close out was one reason, another was to offer limited edition test models. And it is surprising that the RD Artist CMT was not included in this folder. Three other guitars (The V, The Explorer, and Firebird II) were built in a similar style: maple veneer top with bound edges, but were otherwise pretty similar (but not identical) to the regular versions of these guitars. An insert advertising the RD Artist CMT, perhaps called "The RD" would have been completely at home here.
As this folder was announced a little later in June 1981, it could be suggested that the RD Artist CMT was already sold out by this time. However a dealer communication 'Special Sale Price List' dated 15th February 1982 includes the RD Artist CMT in both Antique Sunburst and Vintage Cherry Sunburst finishes. On the contrary, rather than having sold out was it already proving insufficiently popular? With it's gold hardware and flashy inlays it would have been expensive; so perhaps the answer lies in the fore-mentioned Firebird II. Rather than the usual mahogany through neck design, the Firebird II had the same set neck maple construction as the RD Artist CMT, the same Moog circuitry and much of the same look, including bound body and maple top, but with far simpler appointments and a nice Firebird headstock?
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