A 1965 Gibson Thunderbird bass was recently examined by the Vintage Guitar website, as part of the publication’s “Classic Instruments” series. The article provides an instructive overview of the Thunderbird’s history and lineage.

“Gibson opted to get into the full-scale electric bass market in earnest with the introduction of the Thunderbird model in 1963,” states the author. “Companions to the Firebird guitars, Thunderbirds featured neck-through construction with body sides glued to the neck block. Early examples had a two-piece full-length neck, but by the end of the first year, a nine-layer laminated neck was employed for better strength.”

Gibson Thunderbird 2018

The article goes on to note a particularly striking visual innovation that was applied to Thunderbird models.

“The standard finish on early T-Birds was sunburst, but one of the most important marketing innovations for this series was the introduction of Gibson’s custom-color program ...,” writes the author. “Ten colors were available, including the gorgeous Cardinal Red that drapes this 1965 example. Other colors on the chart were Heather Poly, Pelham Blue Poly, Golden Mist Poly, Kerry Green, Silver Mist Poly, Inverness Green Poly, Ember Red, Frost Blue, and Polaris White. Some black instruments were also manufactured, but were never catalogued as a color option.”

Devotees of the Thunderbird include such noteworthy players as Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash) and the late Allen Woody (Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule), says the writer. He also notes that changes were made to the instrument in late 1965.

“The new versions had glued-in necks and a silhouette changed to look like they’d been flipped over [from their original profile configuration],” states the article. “In the vintage guitar lexicon, original neck-through models (and their reissues) have become known as ‘reverse’ models, while the glued-neck examples are called ‘non-reverse’ models.”

Click here for an in-depth look at Gibson’s 2018 Thunderbird.