When Gibson unveiled the Flying V as part of its Modernistic Series in 1958 – alongside its partner, the Explorer – the guitar world just wasn’t ready for this sleek vision of the future. But there was no turning back, as these unique sculptures of musical innovation changed forever the way electric guitars were to be conceived, perceived and designed. Their solid Korina wood bodies and necks were carved into super-angular shapes with no discernible bouts, wastes or traditional cutaways of any sort. The Flying V was even verging on impossible to play sitting down — yet who could sit for long while playing an instrument like this anyway? The Flying V was made for strutting, swaggering, wailing rock. It’s just that no one quite realized it at the time. Realistically, the Modernistic models were aimed at a music that had yet to be born. But in the late 1960s and into the ’70s when heavy rock ruled stadium stages all over the world, these bold guitars became the ultimate incarnations of the music. From the time of their birth, however, until their deletion in 1960, less than 200 units of both models were manufactured – a reality that eventually made them some of the most sought-after guitars in the world.
Born in 1958, refined in 1959, the Flying V’s futuristic shape and heavy, resonant tone are both iconic in the world of rock and blues today. But take yourself back to the year of its birth for a glimpse at how wild it appeared on its arrival: The Cold War was hitting its full stride; Cuban revolutionaries had captured Havana; 45 million US households had acquired TV sets; Ted Williams became the highest-paid baseball player of all time by signing with the Red Sox for $135,000; Intel developed the first microchip; Elvis Presley joined the Army. You get the picture. And amid it all, a great confluence of blues, jazz, dance band and country & western music gave voice to the turmoil of the times in an adrenaline-fired, youth-inspired new music called rock and roll. Never before in history had a radical new age knocked so urgently on the door of an old world and its older ways. So it onto this crucible that Gibson launched the Modernistic Series. Too much for their day, yet legends in the making.
Not only was the Flying V’s shape wildly original, it was also made from solid Korina wood (also known as African limba), a variety that hadn’t been commonly seen in the construction of solidbody electric guitars, though it had been used in Gibson’s Consolette and Skylark steel guitars. A relative of mahogany, Korina is a light, fine-grained wood with a slightly golden hue and excellent resonance and sustain properties. In short, it makes for a rich, singing solidbodied guitar, and partnered with a pair of PAF humbucking pickups was a force to be reckoned with. Today, Gibson Custom produces the 1959 Korina Flying V in the very image of the original. From its arrowpoint headstock to its dual volume and single tone controls to its vintage tulip tuners and Holly headstock veneer to its exclusive “V” tailpiece, the Flying V is a craft that fully appears to have blasted its way forward from half a century ago. A pair of ’57 Classic humbucking pickups ensure a tone that is just the right combination of juicy, sweet and mean, and each example comes complete with a Gibson Custom case and certificate of authenticity.