1997 Gibson Custom Shop Historic ES-295 Gold ’52 reissue Limited Edition. It doesn’t get much more gorgeous than the Gibson ES-295. Gold finish, split parallelogram inlays, and the Florentine cutaway oozes class and style. Bigsby makes it even cooler. The set of P-90’s tones never gets old. The neck profile is a lot like my Gretsch guitars. It is not very fat C shape. Smaller than many Les Pauls. Came with the Gibson original hard shell case. There is some finish checking on the back of the headstock and on the neck joint area. Otherwise, this guitar is in excellent condition. Especially since it is over 20 years old.

The Gibson ES-295 is basically the same as a Gibson ES-175 with some important differences. Both had a 16″ laminated maple archtop body of the ES-175 along with the 19-fret neck with double parallelogram inlays and the Florentine cutaway. Beyond that, though, the similarities end. Whereas the ES-175 was only available in 1952 with a single P-90 pickup (humbuckers in later years), the ES-295 had two, covered in ivory-colored Royalite to harmonize with the gold lacquer body and gold-colored parts.The ES-295 is an all maple body. Where most ES-175 models have a maple top and a mahogany back and sides. Obviously, this guitar has the Bigsby tailpiece, but originally the ES-295 had a trapeze bridge.

The Gibson ES-175 has been in constant production since 1949. It has long been considered the quintessential jazz guitar. The ES-175 was the first Gibson guitar to feature a “Florentine” cutaway.

Story told by Les Paul that sparked the Gibson ES-295 model was that in n 1951, he asked Gibson to spray one of its ES-175 models in gold lacquer for an ailing World War II veteran.

Inspiration for production model of the ES-295 came once again from Les Paul when he requested they make him Gold guitar. M.H. Berlin (former head of Chicago Musical Instrument Co., Gibson’s parent company) said, ‘Why do you want gold?’ Les said, ‘Gold means rich. Gold means the best.’ Berlin said, ‘Gold it is.’”

The original Gibson ES-295 resembling the Les Paul Goldtop with trapeze bridge. The ES-295 was introduced in May 1952 as an upscale version of the ES-175. It shared the same specifications as the ES-175, except it came in Gibson’s Bullion Gold and featured a combination trapeze bridge/tailpiece with strings looping over the bridge, rather than a floating bridge. It also featured a clear plastic pickguard, back-painted in cream and embossed with a gold floral design.

Mary Ford played one while touring with Les Paul in the early 50s.

Gibson produced the ES-295 from 1952 until 59 (58 last production version but several made in 59 for a Summer show). Gibson built only 1,770 ES-295s back then, so it was pretty rare. In 1957, Gibson replaced the 2 P90 pickups on the ES-295 with 2 gold plated humbuckers to blend with the gold finish. Not many were made as the Gibson ES-295 guitars were gone by 1958.

In 1990 gibson introduced a reissue in a gold finish with two P-90 pickups plus Bigsby calling it the Gibson ES-295 reissue, discontinued in 1993. Later Gibson reintroduced them as Custom Shop models in 1994 and a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, but has since discontinued them again a few years later around 2000. The one I purchased was made in 1997 and is a called the Gibson Custom Shop Historical model.

The ES-295 is a rockabilly legend, but quite great for early jazz, roots music, and early rock-n-roll. Scotty Moore played one of these in the early days with Elvis after trading in his blackguard Fender Telecaster. When Moore first saw that Gibson ES-295 in ’53, it was love at first sight, making the trade in 1953 to Ed Fitzpatrick, the president of the O.K. Houck Piano Co. located on 121 Union Avenue in Memphis. Scotty did later switch to even larger hollow body Gibson L5-CESN and then a Super 400-CESN later on. The short time Scotty played his Gibson ES-295 forever associated this model. Danny Gatton also owned and played a Gibson ES-295 even though he is considered a Telecaster master.

Darrel Higham often plays a late 1990’s Gibson ES-295. Darrel talks about his guitars and amps in the video. Seems the Gibson ES-295 he has is basically the same guitar as the one I just bought. Love the Bigsby!

Scotty Moore with his 1952 ES-295, Bill Black on bass and Elvis Presley in Breckenridge, TX June 1955

The early models of the Gibson ES-295 came with a trapeze bridge. Scotty Moore changed the bridge pretty much immediately for the “Melita Synchro-Sonic” with adjustable saddles that allowed him to intonate each string. The “Melita Synchro-Sonic” bridge was used on a lot of mid-’50’s Gretsch guitars. This necessitated adding a different trapeze tailpiece; he chose a Kluson, as used on Gibson’s ES-125 plus some older National archtop guitars. They are almost identical to ones made in Japan and used on some Japanese models exported to the US and UK in the late ’50s and ’60s. Moore’s Gibson ES-295 (serial number A-12290) became the first rock and roll guitar, its fancy gold finish as outrageous as the music it suddenly represented. Note Moore’s ES-295 did not sport a Bigsby.

Gibson ES-295 that Scotty Moore played on the early Elvis cuts

Closeup of Scotty’s old Gibson ES-295 showing its age.

Scotty Moore added this Melita Synchro-Sonic bridge and the Kluson trapeze tailpiece.

Scotty played the guitar on the first four Sun singles: #209 “That’s All Right”/“Blue Moon Of Kentucky”; #210 “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine”/“Good Rockin’ Tonight”; #215 “Milkcow Blues Boogie”/“You’re A Heartbreaker”; and #217 “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone”/“Baby Let’s Play House.” Moore’s style was part country, part Travis picking, part something totally new. Whatever you called it, that twang reverberated far beyond the radio waves and into rock-n-roll history.

Moore believes that his choice of the ES-295 was essential to the sound of Elvis’ early rock and roll.

“All I did with my guitar was try to enhance what Elvis was doing,” he said. “There were just three of us in the band, with Bill Black keeping time on his bass, and when Elvis wasn’t singing, I was all there was.

“To me, that hollow body ES-295 enhanced Elvis’ voice better than anything else I could have used.”

On July 7, 1955, four days before their next recording session and with some extra cash in his pocket, Moore traded the ES-295 for a Gibson L5-CESN (serial number A-18195). He used that guitar – along with the new EchoSonic amp he bought in May of ’55 – to record the band’s last Sun Single, #223 “Mystery Train”/“I Forgot To Remember To Forget.”

Scotty played the L-5 through most of the RCA years, trading it for a Gibson Super 400-CESN (serial number A-24672) in January ’57. Even though Scotty only played an ES-295 during the very early years of his professional career his name has literally become synonymous with the instrument.

In his autobiography, Moore called the 295 a “wider-bodied instrument that had a more impressive appearance” than his Esquire. The L-5 and Super 400 were even more impressive, which was fitting, as the songs kept getting bigger, too.

Scotty Moore reunited with his famous Gibson ES-295

Scotty Moore wnated to be able to replicate the sound from Sun Studios at the live gigs with Elvis. In the studio Sam Phillips used tape machines to create the famous “slap-back” delay we have all come to love. In the days before guitar stompbox pedals it was no easy task to get this sound live. One day after hearing Chet Atkins playing live on the radio and hearing echo, Scotty called Chet and asked how he got that sound live. Chet explained he had a guy named Ray Butts buold him a custom amp with a biult in tape delay. Scotty immediately contacted Ray Butts and ordered the second Echosonic amp. Ray Butts is also the guy that invented the first humbucker pickup called the Filtertron at Chet Akins request. Scotty Moore talks about the Echosonic Amp with Deke Dickerson on the video. Deke often plays a Gibson ES-295 thru his Echosonic amp.

Jimmy Velvet, a longtime friend of Elvis Presley’s and collector had this to say about the guitar “I purchased the guitar many years ago for $6,000.00 and it was sold in the early 90’s for $125,000.00. Years ago I showed Scotty the guitar and he verified that it was, in fact, the guitar he traded at a Memphis music store for a new guitar he was purchasing. The guitar as when I had it was featured in the book by Lee Cotten titled: The Elvis Catalog, Published by Dolphin-DoubleDay in 1987 it’s on page 35.”

In January of 2013 at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA, Gibson announced the release of a limited run of Gibson ES-295s. They had previously analyzed and noted the specifications to Scotty’s original 1952 ES-295 to produce the first for him for his 80th birthday in December of 2011. Unlike the previous signature models in 1999 )only about 15 were produced), these featured the same modifications Scotty made to his with similar bridge hardware and each was personally signed by Scotty himself. Only 81 were produced.

This model has long been on my bucket list for a long time. They are a bit hard to find one at an affordable price. The original vintage ones often selling at around $11-12K in good condition. Even the good Gibson reissues are generally $4K or more. This one seemed to be calling my name and I could not pass it up! Even though it surpassed my budget… Just buy less food for the next few months… LOL!

Specs:

  • Body Material: Maple
  • Top Material: Maple
  • Finish: Gold
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Nice C – not very fat
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Bridge: Tune-o-matic w/ Bigsby
  • Scale: 628mm (24.75)
  • Nut Width: 43mm (1 11/16”)
  • Radius: 12
  • Tuners: Gibson Deluxe
  • Pickups: P-90s
  • Body Depth 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 7-lbs 11-ozs
  • Original Hardshell Gibson Case

Gretsch Bigsby 0261 Compensated Guitar Bridge Saddle

I replaced the Gibson ABR-1 Tun-o-matic with a Gretsch Bigsby 0261 Compensated Guitar Bridge Saddle. Works much better with the Bigsby, stays in tune better and has better tone in my opinion. Part of the secret is that these bridges are designed to rock slightly when using the Bigsby and no rattle like some Tun-o-matics can do. See Darrel Higham video above as he uses same bridge replacement on his Gibson Custom Shop Historic ES-295 guitar. Very easy and inexpensive mod that can easily be reversed.

I am using D’Addario Half Rounds, Medium, 11-49 strings which are round wound with stainless steel and then precision ground leaving the outer surface smooth and “semi flat.” The result is a string with the tone and tension characteristics of round wound strings, with a smoother feel, similar to flat wound strings. So these strings are generally brighter that most flat round strings with less string noise that round wound strings.

1997 Gibson ES-295, 1966 Gibson ES-125CD, 2006 Gretsch 6120 Reverend Horton Heat and 1950s Kay Thin Twin