Rarely do we see one company influence the music world the way Gibson did. The legendary guitar manufacturer produced some of the most iconic 6-strings that have been used by guitar heroes of all genres. Yes, Gibson got into some troubles recently, but the good old , even decades since they were conceived and the company seems to be on the good path to recover. Gibson guitars you see today, such as Les Pauls, SGs, Explorers, Flying Vs, and many other models, are a culmination of decades of hard work as well as some pretty ambitious experimentation. The demands of the market throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s led the company to produce some rather unconventional instruments. Here are some of the weirdest Gibson guitars you can find out there.
The 1950s saw some significant improvements and experimentation over at Gibson. Aside from the established Flying V and Explorer models, one of the guitars designed back in 1957 was the Moderne model. However, as the company was focused on the V, it was only in 1982 that they launched this guitar.
And the 80s were indeed a better time for this model, mostly due to its unusual shape for the times. What makes it kind of interesting is the peculiar headstock and the body shape that could only be described as a mutated Flying V. Produced in ’82 and ’83, the guitar featured two humbuckers, two volume pots, and only one tone pot which was not typical of Gibsons with such pickup configurations.
There were also some re-issues in recent years, and there’s even a Zakk Wylde signature model.
Les Paul Recording
One of Gibson’s rare gems. If you actually manage to stumble upon Les Paul Recording guitar, know that the prices are over $2000 on the market. Made between 1971 and 1979, this instrument was quite innovative for the era. Instead of the regular two humbuckers, two volume and two tone pots, Les Paul Recording has some extraordinary features.
The first notable difference is the low-impedance pickups, something Gibson started experimenting with on 1969’s Les Paul Personal and Les Paul Professional series. This means that the guitar could be plugged directly into the mixing desk.
Aside from the pickups that gave players way more diversity in their tone, it included a front panel packed with a whole bunch of controls: volume, bass, treble, microphone volume, decade, tone switch, pickup selector, and a phase switch. You can just imagine how advanced this was for the times and how delighted guitar players were with these options.
Aside from these weird features, the guitar had that classic Les Paul shape, mahogany body and neck, tune-o-matic bridge with a stopbar tailpiece, and a rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets.
Headstock of a Flying V, body shape similar to Les Paul, and an overall vibe of a Telecaster – this is basically what Marauder was. With Fender being their main competitor, Gibson wanted to try out something new to attract more customers. The Marauder was produced between 1975 and 1979, with occasional pieces built all the way to 1982. The guitar had a bolt-on maple neck with the rosewood fretboard, and the body made of either mahogany, alder, or maple. While it featured a usual humbucker on the neck position, the bridge had a smaller one placed at an angle, resembling the single-coil bridge pickup on a regular Telecaster or a Strat.
The most interesting feature came with some of the later versions – a potentiometer instead of the traditional 3-way switch. This way the player was able to blend and mix the signal of both pickups, giving them more options in creating their own distinctive sound. Aside from the usual stopbar, the guitar had a “Harmonica” style tune-o-matic bridge.
It’s rather unusual to see a Gibson logo on a Superstrat type of guitar. But as the companies were competing in the 70s and 80s, everyone tried to get the best of the two worlds – Gibsons crushing heavy sound and Fender’s playability and slick designs. It was the only obvious move after the metal guitar viruosos like Eddie Van Halen ovetook the scene.
The resulting guitar from this idea was Victory, featuring a modified Strat shape with the humbucker-single-humbucker configuration. There were two models, MV2 and MVX. The MV2 had a three-way pickup selector, while the MVX had a five-way one. Certain versions also had a Kahler tremolo bridge.
Gibson’s Corvus has, without a doubt, one of the weirdest shapes in the whole history of electric guitars. This particular name “Corvus” is Latin for “crow,” and if you do turn the guitar sideways, it’s apparently supposed to look like a crow. But guitar lovers had a more appropriate name for it – “can opener.”
Manufactured from 1982 to 1984, there were three different models built. Corvus I was the simplest one with only one humbucker, one volume, and one tone pot. The Corvus II featured two humbuckers, one volume, and one tone pot. But things get really weird with Corvus III which had three single coils, volume and tone pots, and a five-way switch, somewhat resembling the classic Fender Stratocaster controls and features.
Knowing that the guitar had an alder body, bolt-on maple neck, and a 6-in-line headstock, it’s most likely that Gibson wanted to get some of those Fender users on their side. But although Corvus was well made, it didn’t achieve much of a commercial success.
Now, this is where things got really, really weird. Gibson’s Map guitar is shaped like the map of the United States of America. Yes, somebody actually had that idea in mind. Although it was produced by Gibson, it was first sold under the Epiphone brand. Surprisingly enough, it actually sold well. And after witnessing its success, Gibson decided to put their name on the headstock. The original builder of this guitar was James Hutchins.
Aside from its non-ergonomic shape, the guitar has classic features, like two volume and two tone knobs, and two humbuckers. There were, however, certain versions with three knobs. These were produced back in 1983 and 1984 and featured mahogany bodies and maple necks.
Unfortunately, Gibson’s Map guitar does not include Alaska and Hawaii.
The Nighthawk was another one of Gibson’s attempts to try and cover the Fender territory. What makes it so interesting and unusual is the modified Les Paul shape and humbucker-single-humbucker configuration with a 5-way switch. There were also two humbucker versions as well, but they still had the 5-way switch, giving players those twangy coil-split options. But the H-S-H also had a coil split over at the tone knob which gave 10 combinations in total.
The body on the Nighthawk was the usual mahogany with maple top, and it had a mahogany neck and a rosewood fretboard. Aside from that, it featured some pretty neat color options, like fireburst, translucent amber, and antique natural. It was introduced in 1993 and discontinued 1998, but was brought back in 2009. A very unusual one for Gibson, but rather diverse.
Reverse Flying V
Well, this one is kind of unpleasant to look at. Made in 2007 and 2008, they were manufactured in honor of the Flying V’s 50th anniversary. Despite the odd and OCD inducing shape, the guitar was rather successful. After the initial series of 400 guitars, Gibson made additional 900 pieces in 2008, 300 each in these colors: Classic White, Natural, and Ebony Black.
The guitar’s headstock was “borrowed” from the old Futura/Explorer design conceived back in the late 1950s. But it somehow went well with the reverse V shape. The rest of the features are the same as the classic V, although there were some minor differences between the 2007 and 2008 series.
Gibson Firebird X
Gibson’s Firebird is one of the company’s most respected models, with players like Johnny Winter contributing to its legacy. But Gibson had some heavy experimentation with the Firebird X, including the infamous Robot Tuners and an actual effects processor with an updateable software and Bluetooth control. Combine all this with an astronomically high price tag, it wasn’t exactly popular among classic Gibson lovers.
As for the pickups, the Firebird X had FBX Alnico V on the neck, FBX Ceramic in the mid position, and an FBX Alnico II on the bridge. One additional feature that turned out to work well was the 6-pickup piezzo bridge, making this one very versatile guitar. But, again, it was kind of criticized for its processor and distortion tones.
Modern Flying V
It could be described as one of the most controversial guitars ever built by Gibson. While Gibson was facing financial troubles in early 2018 and some backlash from its buyers due to poor quality control, they decided to reveal the Modern Flying V guitar. With some literally calling it an “abomination”, it had a modified shape resembling something Star Trek geeks would like. Although it seems like they sold these, Gibson received negative feedback, mostly due to releasing such a guitar in their current position they were in.
Yeah, it has 496R and 500T ceramic pickups, some neat features as well, but the weird shape and the overall impression in combination with an expensive price tag, it deserves to be on such a list.