Through the late 50s, Gibson was experiencing one thing of an id disaster because it struggled to realize dominance within the quickly increasing solidbody market. Whereas its upstart rival in California, Fender, continued to thrive because it spearheaded the brand new pattern of glossy, ultra-modern electrical guitar designs, Gibson was rendered the sufferer of its personal success as an old-school guitar-building model synonymous with conventional flat‑tops and archtops.
Firm president Ted McCarty battled in useless to shake off Gibson’s old school picture with modernistic Flying Vs and Explorers and by updating designs in Gibson’s present Les Paul vary. Alas, with Les’s affect declining and with the Flying V and Explorer neither flying nor being explored, Gibson’s imaginative and prescient of the longer term proved much less convincing to the youthful guitar-buying technology.
By the early 60s, Gibson was nonetheless testing the water with new designs – notably the SG ‘stable guitar’ vary – when Ted McCarty met retired Ford and Chrysler automotive designer Ray Dietrich. Aware of the success Fender, Gretsch and Rickenbacker had been having fun with as they appealed to the traditional automotive design aesthetics of the day, Ted started to select Ray’s mind for inspiration.
“Gibson had been very aware of what Fender and Rickenbacker had been doing,” Mat Koehler, Gibson’s head of Product Improvement, informed us in a latest interview. “Inside days of Ted McCarty assembly Ray, he requested him to design some guitars – and a few amplifiers, which no person appears to learn about!
“Ray Dietrich had a superb thoughts for design, however for instrument design it was fairly wacky. And I believe it appeared fairly wacky to Ted, too. In ’63, after the primary [Firebirds] had been made, he was in all probability pondering, ‘What did I get myself into right here?’ It was a really tough construct – and nonetheless is for us now.
“The non-reverse Firebirds aren’t so troublesome as a result of they’ve a set neck. It took eight totally different designs for Gibson to choose one thing with Ray. That’s how the Firebird grew to become the Firebird.”
Aping the glossy, angular geometry of traditional vehicles, the Gibson Firebird line was launched in 1963 within the guise of 4 fashions, all sporting a through-neck building and bespoke mini humbuckers: the single-pickup/dot-inlay I mannequin; the double-pickup/dot-inlay III; the double-pickup/trapezoid-inlay V; and the triple-pickup/block-inlay VII.
Consistent with the automotive theme, as a Gibson first (and in direct competitors with Fender’s customized colours), Firebirds had been provided in Golden Mist, Silver Mist, Frost Blue, Ember Pink, Cardinal Pink, Kerry Inexperienced, Polaris White, Pelham Blue, Inverness Inexperienced and Heather, along with their commonplace Sunburst.
The unique Firebirds are sometimes called reverse, that means the treble horn extends additional than the bass horn, whereas the decrease bass bout extends past the decrease treble bout (as per the Explorer).
In 1965, nonetheless, Gibson revisited the design and – starting with a trickle of transition specs – Firebirds had been quickly relaunched of their up to date ‘non-reverse’ guise. With an prolonged bass horn and decrease treble bout, together with tuners positioned throughout the bass facet of the headstock, the brand new Firebird was nearly a mirror picture of its former self. Moreover, the Firebird III now boasted three pickups, albeit black soapbar P-90s. It was finally discontinued in 1970.
1964 Gibson Firebird in Cardinal Pink
The anatomy of a traditional guitar…
This ’64 Firebird III encompasses a reverse headstock in matching Cardinal Pink, with a six-digit serial quantity stamped on the again. The hardware is nickel-plated and includes nickel-plated, Kluson banjo-style tuners with metallic tulip buttons on treble facet of headstock, metallic pickup covers and surrounds, stud-mounted compensated wrapover bridge and a brief Vibrola with flat arm.
As for the construct the neck is a laminated mahogany neck-through building, with a single-bound 22-fret Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays. This ‘chicken has a 24 and three/Four-inch scale, and a 1 and 11/16-inch nut width. Each neck and physique are completed in Cardinal Pink. The physique is reverse fashion with an prolonged treble horn and decrease bass bout; there are mahogany facet wings glued on to the by neck, with a raised center part.
The plastics comprise an outsized black single-layer truss rod cowl with gold Gibson emblem, three-layer (w/b/w) bevelled-edge pickguard with purple Firebird emblem, 4 metallic cap bonnet knobs, and a white swap tip.
Whereas the pickups and electronics function two bespoke mini-humbuckers, two zero.022uF ceramic tone capacitors, 4 500kΩ pots (particular person pickup quantity and tone), a three-way Switchcraft pickup selector toggle and frontmounted Switchcraft jack.
The evolution of the Gibson Firebird III
- Spring 1963: Gibson publicizes new Firebird line.
- Late 1963: Earliest manufacturing ‘reverse’ fashions launched, with twin mini-humbuckers, through-neck building and certain rosewood fingerboard.
- 1963: Round 270 Firebird III guitars registered shipped.
- 1964: Round 1,250 Firebird III guitars registered shipped.
- Early 1965: CMI and Gibson discontinue reverse-style Firebird III.
- Mid-1965: Reverse-style transitions to non-reverse fashion [as depicted in the top picture], that includes three P-90s, a glued-in neck and unbound rosewood fretboard.
- 1965: Round 1,020 Firebird III guitars registered shipped (‘reverse’ and ‘non-reverse’).
- 1970: Firebird III discontinued.