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Interesting Times

Recent news of Gibson filing for bankruptcy protection had an air, perhaps, of inevitability. No one takes any pleasure in the humbling of a mighty name in guitars but there are some bright notes amid the gloom. The way forward seems to involve Gibson unburdening itself of a sprawling portfolio of non-core brands and placing a renewed focus on making guitars – a part of the business which has never struggled to sell its products.

“We have sold non-core brands, increased earnings and reduced

working capital demands,” CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said. “The decision to re-focus on our core business, musical instruments, combined with the significant support from our noteholders, we believe will assure the company’s long-term stability and financial health. Importantly, this process will be virtually invisible to customers, all of whom can continue to rely on Gibson to provide unparalleled products and customer service.”

In other words, shut up and make yer guitars, to paraphrase Frank Zappa. It’s just the sort of back-to-basics plan that many longtime fans of Gibson have wanted to hear. From Dusk Tigers and the Firebird X to G Force automatic tuners, many of Gibson’s bolder innovations left ordinary players wondering why Gibson didn’t just focus on making sensibly-priced and solidly-built Les Pauls, 335s and so on.

But even as Gibson turns its back on blue-sky thinking and comes back down to earth with a bump, it’s worth remembering that the company has always been an innovator – and some of its boldest products weren’t always instant hits. Sunburst Les Pauls weren’t all that popular in 1958. They are considerably more so today. If Gibson can strike a balance between honouring its much-loved heritage and making innovations that guitar players actually want, then there could be a bright silver lining to this cloudy chapter in the company’s history. Gibson are going to have to listen carefully, rather than dictate, to players, but they have every incentive to do so. Look out for a full report next month. Until then, enjoy the issue.

Editor’s Highlights

Johnny Marr Always a provocative voice in guitar, the ex-Smiths man also has a stunning collection of vintage instruments that we explore in detail on p68

Jamie Dickson Editor

Rare Birds We return to Chattanooga’s Songbirds Guitar Museum this month to feast our eyes on some of Fender’s rarest vintage custom colour electrics p62

Hollow Victory Eastman are making some seriously good guitars right now. Their 330-inspired T-64/V-GB is one of the sweetest semis we’ve played in ages. Review on p10

July 2018  Guitarist