the road warrior… 1987 Gibson SG


Here we have a great example of a guitar that defies all of my expectations. I’m not a huge fan of SG’s generally. The whiplike neck and fragility always was a bit of a turn off to me, but I know that there are a lot of SG devotee’s out there. This example came across our door here at Queen City Guitar recently and it may have turned me into a fan.

This instrument has obviously been places. The pickups have been changed out, but they seem correct for the late 80’s. They certainly sound amazing. Rock and Roll is a better place because of guitars like this one. Plugging it in and powering up my trusty Champ clone is enough to give me Angus fantasies for days. This thing growls, howls, crunches and grinds just like I would imagine I would, if I were Angus.

The cosmetics are exactly what you would expect from an instrument that has been worked hard, but nevertheless cared for properly. The neck is not the whip-like slim 60’s profile I tend to dislike, and not only gives the guitar a more solid feel, it seems to wake up the body and get it vibrating like a body should.

As a collector, I imagine the unoriginal pickups can’t be great selling point, but as a player, this is the most desirable SG I’ve come across. Apparently ’87 was the last year for the original spec SG reissues, and so has inherently more value than any current iterations according to Vintage Guitar Magazine’s and’s Price Guides.

All in all, a rootin’ tootin’, rock and rollin’ son of a gun!

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.