From the Vault: 10 Wild and Wonderful Vintage Gibson Ads
The year is new, but at the moment we can’t help but linger on decades past. We recently discovered a wellspring of sepia-toned Gibson and Epiphone advertisements from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s – ads that most of us had never seen before. We’ve cherry-picked 10 of them to share with you.
It was difficult to narrow it down to just 10, what with so many swirling psychedelic graphics and cringe-worthy copy to spare; in particular, we got a laugh from one 1963 blurb that stated, “The aspiring amateur fondles his Gibson with fraternal understanding.” We also got nostalgic looking at all the country and rock icons who have championed our guitars – artists like Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel, Carlos Santana, Howard Roberts, KISS, Larry Carlton and Ronnie Wood. Mostly, these ads served to remind us that Gibson has always been a company that pushes itself – and its guitarists – to dream big, achieve more and have fun.
1953 – Les Paul and Mary Ford
This ad is a particular treasure, as it’s one of the earliest-known Gibson advertisements. Featuring the late Les Paul and his wife and musical collaborator Mary Ford, the ad came just a year after the “Les Paul Model” was introduced. Gibson HQ was still in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where it would remain until 1974, when the company began its decade-long transition to Nashville.
1965 – Trini Lopez
A year after Gibson asked Trini Lopez to assist in making two signature guitars – the Trini Lopez Standard and the Trini Lopez Deluxe – this ad debuted, proclaiming Lopez’s namesake guitar “just as exciting as the young artist who inspired it.” Two years earlier, Lopez had released his first album, Trini Lopez Live at PJ’s, which sold five million copies and included his popular rendition of Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” as well as his version of “La Bamba.” Gibson produced Trini Lopez guitars from 1964 to 1972, and in 2007 introduced the Dave Grohl DG-335, inspired by Grohl’s favorite Trini Lopez signature model.
1967 – Epiphone
Really, what’s better than a psychedelic fish playing an Epiphone Riviera? This same year saw the release of The Doors’ eponymous album and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, hence the trippy artwork. Ten years after Gibson purchased Epiphone, this ad hit newsstands with the tagline “Is there something fishy about Epiphone guitars?” The idea was to encourage serious guitarists to take a second look at a less expensive guitar brand.
1970 – EB-1 Bass
This ad for our EB-1 bass guitar appeared in Guitar Player magazine, touting the instrument’s relaunch with some seriously jazzy copy: “Your long lean, Mama is comin’ back to you. She’s supposed to be retired but the cats won’t let her quit, this long, lean Mama of ours.” The EB-1 originally entered the market in 1953 but production ended in 1958. It’s been reissued twice – once in 1968 and also in 1999.
1971 – Steve Howe
Yes’ Steve Howe, then 24 years old, got a starring role in this early ’70s ad, in which he’s shown with an ES-175D. This particular ad appeared on behalf of the U.K. musical instrument distribution company Selmer, which was purchased around this same time by Chicago Musical Instruments, Inc., also the then-owner of Gibson Guitar Corp.
1972 – Acoustic
A decidedly pastoral, and sensual, approach to marketing, this ad emphasized Gibson Acoustic’s softer side. Alongside a bare-legged blonde in suede fringe, our copy reminded guitarists that our guitars “harmonize perfectly with the gentle summer breezes that weave between the leaves.”
1973 – The Moment of Truth
Appealing to the recording guitarist – and his sound engineer – this ad promised that there would be “no hum or extraneous noise that’s so difficult for engineers to cover up. And the SGs won’t scream with piercing feedback even in close quarters.”
1973 – B.B. King
With a nod to the lyrics of his song “Why I Sing the Blues,” B.B. King graced this ad in 1973 with his No. 1 girl – his signature Gibson, Lucille. King’s handwriting tells his love story: “You see Lucille is like a part of me. She’s a Gibson, brother.”
1974 – The Gibson L6-S
Manufactured from 1973 to 1979, the L6-S won endorsements from Al di Meola and Carlos Santana, who also appeared in an ad for the guitar. The fellow shown here looks “damn” happy to be playing it!
1974 – The Gibson Gospel
Our acoustic ad this year flaunted the Gospel Guitar, which we made from 1972 to 1979. “Gibson’s Gospel guitar is truly an act of nature,” states this ad. “And it will give your music a real note of praise.”