2004 Gibson USA Firebird V. Think Johnny Winter and Eric Clapton. This guitar is in flawless shape. Cool Iconic guitar. Neck-thru body design. Features the nice bridge before Gibson changed these in later years.
This Firebird is much nicer than what Gibson produced in the last few years including the Custom Shop models in my opinion. Some of the Firebird Reissues from 2010 do not feature the classic “banjo style” tuners. Gibson used Steinberger gearless tuners the tuning key on the back and locking mechanism on top of the headstock. Gibson stated that they will no longer be creating banjo tuners. The wood and finish on this 2004 is awesome.
Gibson, in an effort to shred a persona of an “old fashioned” guitar maker from the old world had made several attempts to build guitars with radical body shapes – the Flying V and Explorer in the 1950s as examples. These guitars along with a their higher prices only made them a limited initial success in the marketplace. Gibson wanted to compete better with upstart Fender in those years. So they were looking to design a guitar that would make a statement.
The Gibson Firebird has a very unusual history. Gibson actually hired car designer Ray Dietrich to come up with the unusual look for this guitar they hoped would have popular appeal. Under Dietrich, the Firebird took on the lines of mid-50s car tailfins. Dietrich took the Explorer design and rounded the edges out. The most unusual aspect is that the guitar is “backward” in that the right-hand (treble) horn of the body is longer than the other. Thus, the original Firebirds were unofficially referred to as “reverse”. It features banjo-style tuners and has reverse cutaway. The banjo-style tuners gave the guitar a sleeker appearance as you do now see the tuner buttons when seen from the front.
The Firebird was the first Gibson solid-body guitar to use neck-through construction, wherein the neck extended to the tail end of the body. The neck itself is made up of five plies of mahogany interspersed with four narrow strips of walnut for added strength. The “wings” are glued to the neck-through section. This makes the Firebird quite resonant and if you think of it, gives it some similarity to Les Paul’s “Log” guitar in its design idea.The Firebird was introduced in 1963 with four models distinguished by pickup and tailpiece configurations.
- Firebird I – One pickup. Combination stud bridge/tailpiece. Chrome hardware. Dot inlays, no neck binding.
- Firebird III – Two pickups, stud bridge/tailpiece and Gibson Vibrola (player could choose to use the stud or Vibrola). Chrome hardware. Dot inlays and neck binding.
- Firebird V – Two pickups, Tune-o-matic bridge with Maestro “Lyre” Vibrola; reissues feature a stop-bar tailpiece. Chrome hardware. Trapezoid inlays and neck binding.
- Firebird VII – Three pickups, Tune-o-matic bridge and Maestro “Lyre” Vibrola tailpiece. Gold hardware. Block inlays and neck binding.
The Firebird only had limited success with the unusual reverse-body design. Fender had also threatening a lawsuit claiming the Firebird headstock mirrored the Stratocaster and that the body violated Fender’s design patents.
In 1965 Gibson brought out the “non-reverse” Firebird that had a more traditional cutaway. The “non-reverse” body was no longer a neck-though design as Gibson found this costly to manufacture. The “non-reverse” is a standard double-cutaway design with a glued-in (“set”) neck. After a few years of disappointing sales, the “non-reverse” line was dropped from the line in 1969. The “non-reverse” Firebird was favored by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown for one.
Like all great designs from Gibson and Fender (as well as others) these guitars are always reissued.
The case is a more deluxe case that Gibson makes now. The same bridge and “banjo” style tuners are not on the later reissues and that is a shame.
- Angled Headstock
- High-Output Ceramic Mini Humbuckers
- Solid Mahogany Body and Through-Body Neck
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- Trapezoid Inlays
- Gibson Tune-O-Matic Chrome Bridge
- Black Tophat Knobs with Silver Inserts
- 3-Way Toggle Switch
- Vintage Sunburst Finish
Johnny Winter preferred the Gibson Firebird V without the vibrato unit. His famous 1963 Gibson Firebird is an iconic guitar and he has been played it his entire career.
Clapton and Gibson Firebird