The Gibson Firebird is back. Check out the limited edition Firebird 7 and the new Firebird V 2015. Time then for a 101 on how this 'Bird has flown forward to here...

The Gibson Firebird

1. The Gibson Firebird debuted in 1963. Although often associated with Gibson's “futuristic” designs of 1958 – the Explorer, the Flying V, and the much-fabled Futura – the Firebird came five years later.

2. Automotive designer Ray Dietrich was key to the shape. Gibson's then-chief, the legendary Ted McCarty, asked Dietrich to design something “bold.” Dietrich previously designed cars for Lincoln, Ford, Packard and Studebaker. Dietrich's ethos was to design a “more rounded” Explorer-alike guitar.

3. The original design, and now, had a treble-side horn longer than the bass horn. The headstock was also reversed, with all the tuners on the “treble” side. It wasn't just about looks though: another innovation was neck-through-body construction, for increased sustain, with a mahogany neck, reinforced by walnut strips that extended all the way to the butt of the model.

4. Original Firebirds – and the 2015 design – are known as “reverse” bodies. “Non-reverse” Firebird shapes were made from 1965 to 1970. Note that “non-reverse” 'Birds have a set-neck, not a neck-through-body construction. Guitars of now are “reverse”. Got that? Here's how the Gibson Firebird III appeared in Gibson's catalog 50 years ago.

The Gibson Firebird

5. The first '60s Firebirds had just one pickup, chrome hardware and no neck binding. Options for two-pickups and a Vibrola tailpiece came soon after.

6. Banjo tuners... are what? They debuted on the first reverse 'Birds and are “behind” the headstock/peghead for a cleaner look. 2014 improves on this with Steinberger gearless tuners that are as sleek-looking as they are efficient.

7. Rival Sons' Scott Holiday is a big Gibson Firebird fan, owning a Firebird VII (reverse, in Pelham Blue) and a '65 Firebird V (non-reverse sunburst). Vibe of Zeppelin + Black Crowes + Scott's own style = fine Firebird geetar rockin'!

8. Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera owns a most beautiful Cardinal Red Firebird VII (made in 1964) with gold abounding. Manzanera loves his 'Bird. He even titled his 2008 solo album Firebird VII.

The Gibson Firebird

And here is Phil Manzanera on one of his non-reverse Firebirds with some space age guitarism. Oh yeah.

9. Paul McCartney used a non-reverse '60s Firebird on his first solo album McCartney, and also on his next album, Ram. The solo on “Maybe I'm Amazed”? It's McCartney on his 'Bird.

10. Eric Clapton played a single-pickup Gibson Firebird I during the spring of 1968 and then switched between his Firebird and a Gibson ES-335 for the remainder of Cream and for Cream's farewell concert. Clapton also played a 'Bird in Blind Faith, as did cohort Steve Winwood. Winwood’s was a Kerry Green (rare color) non-reverse Firebird from the early ’60s. It was later stolen, but Gibson built him a one-off replica in 2008.

11. My friend “Boston Barry” (he's from Boston and is called Barry, y'see?) has a '66 non-reverse 'Bird in Pelham Blue. Stickered to death, but a great vintage guitar. Bought from Harp Records' Kevin Wilson for just $175. Kevin was off “to make rave music, I don’t need a guitar,” Kevin told Barry.

“It was set-up by Real Guitars on Lafayette Street, San Francisco's Gary Brawer. Who also repaired Neil Young’s guitars.” A battered bargain blue 'Bird for Boston Barry, be sure!

The Gibson Firebird

12. The late, great Johnny Winter was all about Gibson Firebirds. He told Guitar World, “They were all just really good guitars. I was initially attracted to the Firebird because I liked the way it looked, and when I played it I discovered I liked the way it sounded, too. The Firebird is the best of all worlds.”

13. Johnny Winter's vintage Firebirds had mini-humbuckers – he owned eight 'Birds. Open A, E and D tuning was his thing.

14. The 2015 Gibson Firebird 7 has three (yes, three) '57 full humbuckers, whereas traditionally 'Birds had mini-humbuckers. Yes. A 'Bird can roar!

15. Noel Gallagher used a “reverse” Firebird in Oasis, mid-'90s. He eventually gave his 'burst 'Bird to fellow guitarist Gem Archer.

16. Launched in 2011, Gibson Firebird X is a bold update, with robot tuning and 55 presets allowing you to program effects and pickup simulations and acoustic models.

The Gibson Firebird

17. More traditional is 2014's Skunk Baxter Firebird, though this still boasts independent on/off and full/split-coil switching for numerous tone variations and combinations.

Whatever your preference – there are seven Gibson Firebird models currently available – the Gibson Firebird has been an enduring high-flyer for 51 years and is one of Gibson's acknowledged classic designs.

Who out there owns a 'Bird? Please share your photos....