a very special Gibson SG Special…

The journey to establish what exactly this guitar was has been a real education. Upon opening the case, I was stunned by the attractiveness of this SG. I’m used to seeing the variations of basically red SG’s and Pelham Blue was a true surprise.

Research revealed a scarcity of Pelham Blue SG’s over the years. I zeroed in on the chrome covered pickups and totally missed the obvious signals of dot fretboard markers and unbound neck, and incorrectly put it as an SG Standard of some sort (I’m still learning Gibsons). Inside the case were the inspection card and filled out warranty card, which I somehow saw and then immediately forgot. I found a run of Pelham Blue SG Standard “Exclusive”s marketed and sold by Sam Ash in 2011 and jumped at the assumption that this was one, as the warranty card listed Sam Ash as the purchase point. As I said, I’m still learning Gibsons.

 

Some very nice fellows gently corrected my assumptions by showing me the details I overlooked in my rush to identify this instrument. First, the neck so obviously shows it as an SG Special that I felt truly foolish to have ever thought otherwise. Apparently someone had added chrome pickup covers or new pickups. The rhythm pickup was found to be dead, so in to the local Gibson Certified repair guy it went. He replaced the rhythm pickup which he assumed was stock with the identical item. He made no mention of a refinish and stated that the wiring was restored what he believed were stock specifications.

Gibson customer support (bless their souls) provided that according to their records, it started life as a 2001 SG Special in Platinum. So obviously someone has refinished it, albeit very well, in Pelham Blue and added chrome covers to the pickups.

Although it is obviously not stock, it is truly a stunning and desirable SG Special in a very attractive Pelham Blue. I’ve never been a huge fan of SG’s being more of a Tele guy, but this one is changing my mind. The lightness and playability make this a Gibson that Fender folks could get behind, and would serve as an easy entry into the world of high quality Gibson electrics.

Mystery Strat: the Fender Stratocaster ST65B-80

This guitar was somewhat of a mystery when I first laid eyes on it. First impression was of a high quality reissue, but a strat with a bound neck? fullsizerender-5The waterslide decal indicates a mid sixties reissue (way too clean to be an old one), so I’m guessing Japanese, but turning it over revealed that there is no serial number on the neck heel where it should be, or any indication that it might be a Custom shop instrument.

Now I was considering that it as a nice mid-sixties reissue that someone had put a really well finished bound neck on, and that turned out to be the case. Upon opening it up, the neck turns out to be an AllParts licensed by Fender neck. The neck pocket showed ST65B-80 among a bunch of other markings.

It appears to be a Japanese domestic market reissue of a bound neck 1965 Stratocaster, which it turns out, Fender did produce for two years in the States. The OLB I believe indicates Old Lake Placid Blue which it looks like was done in Japan on some models. I’ve read that Lake Placid Blue can darken with age and this is a dark Lake Placid Blue, so there it is.

The pots and switch look to be upgraded to American parts. The wiring is not as tidy as I would expect from stock, but it’s seems solid enough.

The  body contours, while not quite as sleek and sexy as the deeply contoured shapes from the Fifties, is consistent with mid Sixties Strats and still much prettier to my eye than the shallow squared off cuts that became standard in later years.

fullsizerender-4All in all, a REALLY nice guitar that has the solid feel and tone not often associated with non-Custom Shop instruments. The collector value is of course compromised by the AllParts neck and upgraded electronics, but I would challenge anyone to find a more desirable player on the showroom of your local guitar store. This thing just exuded solidity and substantial quality that can be rare in Stratocasters at times. So mystery solved (unless someone out there can educate me further). Thanks for looking

Fender MIJ Jazzmaster

The Jazzmaster was Fenders attempt to sway musicians of the old school, used to handcrafted instruments, to perceive Fender as a player in the higher end guitar market. Jazz players in particular were the target of this campaign, and although it didn’t work out quite how Fender hoped, a new and historically important instrument was born. Considered one of the top of the line models along with the Jaguar, and intended to be the next revolution/evolution of design, the Jazzmaster was received without the fanfare Fender would have liked, with the possible exception of the surf music crowd, who really dug the tone from those big fat single coils.

Here is a very clean example, Crafted in Japan in the 1997 or ’98. Although it looks like an exact replica form the outside, the interior features modern, Japanese pots and a not too exact replica set of pickups, which really are most of the point to players interested in that original Jazzmaster tone. That being said, it plays and feels great. The tone may be more “Stratty” than one with proper pickups, but it still looks, plays, and sounds just like a Fender should. The Crafted in Japan Fenders are truly exceptional from a fit and finish point of view. Everything about this guitar screams quality. Not what you might expect from a stock guitar popping off the end of the production line in the mid sixties, when Fender was producing a shit ton of instruments every day. Although the values aren’t what you would expect from an American Jazzmaster, you’d have a hard time finding an instrument of this quality for the the going prices.