Gibson Electric Steel Guitars

What started all this GAS business! Electric or lap steel guitars not only help to build my collection but became the core for the early years with a number approaching 100 at one point. They were everywhere! Under furniture, stacked along walls and pretty much invading every room with the exception of the bathrooms. This wasn't only Gibson steels but Rickenbacher, National, Alamo, etc. and a zillion house/catalog brands. that caught my eye. Odd birds like Hanburt and Volutone were in there too. It was a pretty amazing collection and became the vehicle to move into vintage guitars and amplifiers.

What is left is all Gibson and those that appeared in Andre Duchossoir's, Gibson Electric Steel Guitars, released in 2009. These are not players like the Weissenborn and Martin but historically significant with very limited numbers manufactured. The exception is the Capital steel which is my primary player and did not appear in the book.


At one point my collection included the majority of pre and post war Gibson steel models and their house brands. When it came time to make tough decisions the post war models (BR series, Ultratone, Century, EH-500 Skylark, etc.) were the first to go and then the entry level and house brand prewar models (EH-100, EH-125, Kalamazoo, Recording King, Mastertone, etc.).

The EH-275 was Gibson's top of the line prewar lap steel model. It utilized the ES-300 pickup and offerred high end appointments including a stunning curly maple body. I was very lucky to own 3 of the 25 EH-275s manufactured two of which were consecutive serial numbers! One now resides with author Andre Duchossoir and another with a Belgium collector, Bruce Bherman, who is a good friend. The keeper was the second one to come into my possession. Besides the Capital labeled to follow, this is the only prewar Gibson left in my collection. Between the two it gives me both of Gibson's most notable prewar pickup designs, The original blade or "Charlie Christian" and the ES-300 with its ajustable pole pieces.

I maintain two other rare Gisbon electric steel guitars from the 1950s. The first is a early Century (v.1) with only 2 control knobs instead of the standard three. This was an export model stamped, "Made In USA" on the back of the headstock and purchased from a Canadian seller on eBay back in 2001. The Century (and Ultratone) designs took Gibson's lap steel line in a new direction post war. Unlike prewar models, Gibson used a solid slab for these instruments reducing cost and production time. They also offered their latest pickup designs including the P90 and even the mini humbucker in the final version of this model. 

The only other steel that has made it this far is the second version (v.2) of the Royaltone with its mustard yellow finish. Only 67 were shipped making it another seldom seen steel. With a more traditional guitar shaped body than the original version (v.1) released earlier in the 1950s, it fit right in my Gibson's "TV finish" era. It was selected as a background image for two pages in Gibson Elecric Steel Guitars as well as a featured instrument. Very cool!

I count myself very fortunate to have been asked by noted author, A.R. Duchossoir, to contribute photos of specific pieces of my collection for his book. It not only validated my G.A.S. but also allowed  me to to exit the vintage world with a real sense of accomplishment. As the most comprehensive resource of its kind, it is must have for the Gibson collector or anyone who is interested in early electric instruments.

Although the Gibson house brands became "sacrificial lambs" early on, there was one that I felt should be maintained for the long term. A lesser known house brand, Capital, distributed by J.W. Jenkins & Sons Music Company bewteen 1936-38. They were a Kansas City mail order house which carried Gibson made flat tops, archtops and a few electric instruments however in very limited quantities. The EJ-H was their only lap steel model. It has high end appointments including a pearl script logo, Grover tuners, beautiful quilted maple body and Gibson's blade pickup which utilized the flat bar magnets. You can read more about her as the Monthly G.A.S. Attack for August 2009.

The Original Gibson Amplifier

After owning the complete collection of prewar Gibson amplifiers with the exception of the elusive EH-250, the remaining amp was not maintained for its tone but rather the historical value. It also made Gibson Electric Steel Guitars as the example of Gibson's early amplifier offerings. Considering the number of amazing post war amps that also passed through my collection it's hard to believe only one is left. It came down to what I use on a daily basis and its not vintage. The Gibsons were nice, sounded great but just sat unused for the most part. Between my 6L6 powered GF5 (Guitar Fuel) and 6V6 Marshall Studio 15, I have my tone so there was no sense keeping all the vintage ones. Of course parting was difficult as there were some amazing pieces (see the G.A.S. Galleries) but hopefully they all went to homes were they are being used consistently. 

The 1935 E-150 does not even bear the Gibson logo and uses the Edison-type fuse. Had to be one of the first off the line! Designed and manufactured by Lyon & Healy of Chicago for Gibson, this is as primitive as it gets with no controls and 2 inputs. Simple, straight forward and best of all, she still works! Very low volume, of course, but she's still sweet and warm. A real piece of American musical instrument amplification history! The continued evolution of the model produced the most recognizable version by late 1937 with its rounded cabinet design. Gibson also offered an extension speaker cabinet for this version so the player could position two in the room for maximum "fidelity.


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