The Les Paul’s impact on the worlds of rock ‘n’ roll and blues was absolutely titanic. In the realm of jazz, the instrument that had the same monumental effect is the Gibson ES-175.
When the ES-175 debuted with a run of 129 in 1949, it nudged aside the ES-150, which had been the guitar of choice for jazz innovators like Charlie Christian and Eddie Durham. The ES-175 also proved a more manageable and less costly alternative to the L-5s thanks to its smaller body size and laminated top.
Due to its enduring appeal – a blend of comfortable playability and warm sonic versatility with presence to spare – the ES-175 has found its way into the hands and hearts of generations of players. Its success leapt across genres to play a role in defining the sound of early rock when Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scott Moore acquired his first ES-295 – essentially a model based on the ES-175 but equipped with two P-90 pickups – and accompanied the King on his Sun Records classics. Other great ES-175 players include Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Howard Roberts, Keith Richards, and Yes’ Steve Howe.
Body and Hardware
The ES-175 was the first Gibson electric guitar to feature a Florentine cutaway beneath the neck, giving easy access to all 20 frets. It also had a carved rosewood bridge. For it’s first four years the model came with one single-coil P-90 pickup. In the early ‘50s, more and more models were produced and sold, indicating the ES-175’s rapid rise in popularity.
In 1953, a two-pickup model was introduced, available in either sunburst or natural finish. The guitar received an update in 1957 when its design incorporated two humbucking pickups.
The modern recreation of this great guitar made by Gibson’s Memphis Custom Shop craftspeople owes its lineage to the ES-175 of ’57. The body is a comfortable 16-inches wide, 20-inches long and 3-inches deep with a curly laminated maple top, back, and rims. There’s multi-ply binding on top and single-ply on the back, with nickel hardware including a ABR-1 bridge and a trapeze tailpiece. Three finishes are available: wine red, antique natural, and vintage sunburst.
The Gibson Memphis ES-175’s one-piece mahogany neck supports the same 20-fret rosewood fingerboard that the guitar’s always offered, with beautiful pearl split parallelogram inlays, single-ply binding and the distinctive, comfortable classic ES-175 neck profile. Scale length is 24 3/4-inches with an 1 11/16-inch width at the nut. The tuners are vintage tulip style.
The pickups are Gibson’s versatile workhorses: ’57 Classic humbuckers – controlled by two volume and two tone pots and a three-way selector switch. The ES-175 ships with Gibson Brite Wire .010 strings in a black levant case. And before each one leaves the Memphis shop it is examined and dressed by one of the company’s state-of-the-art Pleck machines, providing high-tech assurance of optimum playability.