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The Gibson SG Electric Guitar: 50 Years Old and Still Going Strong
The mighty Gibson SG – the weapon of choice for rockers around the world. Angus Young, Tony Iommi, Glen Buxton, Pete Townsend, Derek Trucks, Gary Louris, Duane Allman, and Robby Kreiger are but a few of many who use the SG as a part of their sonic arsenal.
Would you believe that there was a time when Gibson couldn’t give away a 50s era Les Paul?
Despite their attempts to get the Les Paul into the hands of musicians, even with the Les Paul brand, Gibson failed. 1960 saw the last year of the single cut-away, thick-bodied, maple-capped Les Paul. In 1961, it became a thin, all mahogany body, with double cut-aways. Les Paul was not happy with this and ended his contract with Gibson, although he was for a time contractually bound to be photographed with the new guitar.
The guitar was called a Les Paul in 1961 and 1962. After that it was called the SG, which stands for solid guitar.
There were four models:
· SG Jr, with one dog-earned P90 pickup
· SG Special, with two P90 pickups
· SG Standard, with two humbucking pickups, trapezoid inlays, bound neck, and a vibrato system
· SG Custom, with three pickups, gold plated hardware, ebony fingerboard, full square inlays, and a vibrato system
Gibson stayed with this lineup until 1967, when the large batwing pick guard was added, and the neck joint was changed. SGs have always had a weak spot where the neck joins the body. This allows the guitar to be easily played on the upper frets, but came at the cost of a weak neck.
In 1971, Gibson started to change things up. The SG 1 and 2 came out, both budget models, with the controls mounted on plastic, and equipped with single coil pickups. The Standard got an ebony fingerboard, block inlays and no binding on the neck for awhile.
By 1972 the design went back to the original style pick guard and rear-mounted controls. The neck set further into the body, joining at the 20th fret and altering its look. They replaced the tuneomatic bridge with a Schaller bridge, commonly known as the harmonica bridge.
Gibson stayed on this track for quite a few years, and by 1985 when the company was sold to employees and investors, a revamp of the product was in order. They started to make them like the old days, and today, there are more models of SGs then ever.
The Faded SGs are budget guitars, made in the USA, that feature an satin finish body, two humbucking pickups and dot inlays. The Faded SG is a great guitar at any level. Beware that the neck is thick so it may not be the best choice for young players.
The SG Tribute is a return to the SG Specials of the early 60s with two P90 pickups and the single side pick guard. The white version of this is one of the most beautiful guitars I have seen. For all its simplicity, it is stunning. And affordable.
The SG Special is basically a Faded with a nitro finish - A good basic SG for those who want the shiny things in life.
The SG Standard is also one of the most beautiful guitars in music. It has the bound fingerboard, trapezoid inlays, batwing pick guard and two alnico humbucking pickups. These can be had all day long used for about $800. The cherry red version of this is the benchmark for SG colors.
The SG Classic is for all purposes a Standard with two P90 pickups, and dot inlays. I have spent time playing these, and love them. These are also affordable, new for just under $1,000, used for less.
The SG Custom is in a completely different league as the above guitars. It is the same basic guitar as before, but it is priced well over $2000.
There are many copies of the SG. Epiphone makes various models, with the SG 400 being the most popular. I like these and have played them often. Edwards, Tokai, ESP and Agile all make their own version of the SG.
The SG is a classic guitar and every guitar player should have one on their collection. They are as light as a feather, but still have that raw, crunchy rock and roll sound that you need and want.