Gibson ES-175

I added another old classic to the collection, this time a Gibson ES-175. It’s an odd choice as this type of wide-bodied arch top, cello style is out of fashion and has been for years.

The model was a development of the L 4 and 5 used in bands without electrification (you played though a mic). First issued in 1949 and replacing the ES-150, it had just one pick up and a laminate body. It was intended as a relatively inexpensive, mid-range model. It was called the ES-175 because it was part of Gibson’s Electric Spanish range and priced at $175. In the forties, rock music had not yet come to the fore and guitar players were band and/or jazz orientated. The ‘175 was popular as, for the period, it featured a comparatively compact body and was keenly priced. Up to the late fifties it was still common to find non-electric, full body, cello style instruments and it was not surprising therefore that these were the first to have pick-ups added.

For some reason, probably because of its mellow sound, the instrument has stayed the choice of many jazz players. As solids and semi-solids (thin bodies) became the majority choice, the Fender Stratocaster the Les Paul and possibly the Gibson ES-335/355 became the icons of rock. The ES-175 has surprisingly retained the same sort of status in the jazz world.

It’s a relatively short scale guitar and has a Gibson 24¾” fret board with 20 frets. For the first time Gibson incorporated a rather stylish cutaway on one side; known as a ‘Florentine’. All quality guitars are things of beauty but the 175 is particularly so, partly because of its imposing size, in comparison with slim bodies and solids, but also in view of its beautiful construction; made of maple, poplar and maple laminate with mahogany sides and maple front and back. Since 1970, 175s have had a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard. They are equipped with twin Humbucker pickups.

It’s early days but it plays beautifully. As an acoustic electric it has the advantage of playing electric style off line.