Gibson ES-345TDC Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1964)

Gibson  ES-345TDC Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1964)

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Item # 8042
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Gibson ES-345TDC Model Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1964), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 176739, cherry lacquer finish, laminated maple body; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The ES-345, Gibson's original "Stereo" guitar, was a product of the late 1950s fascination with "better living through Electronics" that inspired several makers to "channel" their efforts into stereo instruments. Essentially a somewhat fancier version of the recently launched thinline semi-hollow ES-335, the 345 was added to the line in spring 1959.

The model dressed up the 335 a bit, adding extra binding and pearloid inlay to the basic design, but its real raison d'etre was the new stereo/Vari-Tone wiring rig. The stereo wiring sent the signal from each pickup to a different amplifier (or different channel of the same amp) while the Vari-Tone was a 6-position notch filter which gradually brightened and thinned out the characteristically rich tone of the humbucking pickups. This model was originally designed to pair with Gibson's GA-79 stereo amplifier.

The ES-345 proved a fairly popular guitar in the mid-'60s, with signature users running the gamut from jazz to blues to several notable British invasion players, including Pretty Thing Dick Taylor, Tony Hicks of the Hollies (who used one extensively), to (briefly) Beatle George Harrison. Still, this was a fairly expensive guitar, and just under 200 of these cherry-red beauties were shipped in 1964, which is not a lot for that guitar-boom peak year. We can't imagine more than a handful have survived in this sort of condition.

Additionally, this guitar is an original stop tailpiece model -- many ES-345s were ordered with vibratos in the 1960s. The "stoptail" design is generally held to enhance playability, giving an adjustable angle to the bridge off the tailpiece which can be steeper than the typical vibrato setup, increasing string break angle over the saddles. In 1965 a trapeze tailpiece was fitted as standard and the "stoptail" configuration was no longer an option. This is a simply splendid guitar; stunning to look at and a joy to play.
Overall length is 42 in. (106.7 cm.), 16 in. (40.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

We almost never describe vintage guitars as "near mint," but this immaculate ES-345 is the most perfect-looking example of a 1964 thinline we have ever seen. The cherry lacquer finish still shines with hardly a mark on it, and the frets and fingerboard show hardly any play time. Can we find a few flaws? Well, we do believe most of the gold hardware has been re-plated at some point, and a very good job too. The color is the correct, slightly muted gold and not the brighter, more garish yellow/gold many modern re-plates result in. This includes the tailpiece, tailpiece bolts, bridge, bridge wheels, pickguard bracket, pickup covers, strap buttons, and tuners. Due to this, the single-ring Kluson tuner buttons are reproduction, and very good ones too. The internal solder joints appear untouched except for the attachment of the pickup covers, which has been neatly re-done.

The hardware is otherwise all original. There is some very light scuff marking to the top surface of the pickguard and the bass pickup mounting ring from picking, which could be carefully buffed off if desired. The brilliant cherry finish is nearly flawless on this the guitar, with a few marks likely from being polished -- someone liked to keep their guitar neat! A detailed blacklight inspection reveals just the right amount of finish fade under the bridge, tailpiece, and pickguard to confirm the originality of the lacquer. There are a few tiny touch-ups on the headstock edges, so cleanly done they are only visible under UV light, and the headstock is the one place we can see what may be a bit of clear overspray.

The original orange-lined black case is also in immaculate shape; it has been treated with a vinyl/rubber preservative like Armorall so is a bit slick to the touch, but this also means the covering has never dried out, split, or cracked. There are only a few small scuffs here and there to betray its true age. When vintage guitars surface in this sort of shape, it's hard for many to believe they are in fact 50+ years old; we are so used to seeing checking and fade that the finishes appear too bright and rich to be real!

This is what a 1960s guitar looked like when it went on the wall of a shop brand new, the object of dreams. Yes, we have played it -- and as long as you wipe it down each time, it's OK to fire it up and let it sing. Although the extreme state of preservation might preclude this being a gigging guitar (which is kind of sad, as it's a truly great one), if you're looking for one of the finest 1964 ES-345s in the world, there will not be much in the way of competition for this one.

Along with the guitar itself, inside the original case are copies of the 1966 Gibson full-color catalog and pricelist, the original hangtag (stamped "ES345TDC"), a set of the original instruction sheets, the Tune-O-Matic bridge and humbucking pickup adjustments, the Lifton case tag, and by far the rarest of all: a small flyer detailing how to get the "Perfect Stereo sound." This is an amazing period piece, detailing settings supplied by Gibson demo man Andy Nelson for different sounds and even specific song choices to use them on! All-in-all a fantastic package of Gibson goodness! Near Mint Condition.