Gibson ES-350PN Premier Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1948)

Gibson  ES-350PN Premier Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1948)

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Item # 8270
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Gibson ES-350PN Premier Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1948), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, natural lacquer finish, laminated maple body and neck, rosewood fretboard and bridge, original hard shell case.

This is a very rare and early natural-finish example of the ES-350 Premier, Gibson's first amplified guitar with a cutaway body, and the top of the just-postwar electric Spanish line. This ground-breaking instrument is in many ways the first "modern" electric archtop, combining the then-new P-90 pickup with a cutaway laminated maple body and professional grade appointments.

Thousands of subsequent guitars from Gibson and many other makers have followed the basic template set by the ES-350P, and the design is still a recognizable standard for hollow body instruments today. The "P" in the model name stands for "Premier", the company's code for "cutaway body" from 1940-48.

Soon enough this became a common feature on electric guitars, but when this instrument was made it was still a novel offering; all of Gibson's (and basically everyone else's) previous electrics were built on non-cutaway bodies. As players figured out that amplification made those notes up the fingerboard more musically useful, the cutaway became a defining feature of a professional guitar in the 1950s.

Cosmetically, the ES-350 is very similar to the contemporary L-7C acoustic archtop. The top is triple-bound, the bound rosewood fingerboard has double parallelogram inlay, and the headstock sports Gibson's "crown" inlay under the "new" company logo. All of these features would mark many of the best electric instruments to come from Kalamazoo for years to come.

In many ways, this instrument set the standard for the "Gibson look" of the 1950s. That said, this is still quite a rare instrument -- only 55 blonde ES-350s were shipped in 1948. This particular guitar dates to late in that year, with a mix of features combining the newer "block script" Gibson logo and laminated 5-ply pickguard with the older-style unplated brass tailpiece. Very soon after this guitar was built, the second pickup was added to the model, making this an extremely rare variant of this already far-from-common model.

The only non-original hardware on this guitar is a set of Grover Imperial tuners; the original just-postwar openback Klusons were fairly unreliable machines, and so have often been replaced. This guitar has had several sets of tuners subsequently, but the period-redolent Imperials not only work fine but dress it up nicely!

Apart from its historical significance, it is also a wonderful-playing and sounding instrument with the classic P-90/hollow-body Gibson tone. The ES-350 is most associated with Barney Kessel, who played an eventually much-modified one through much of his career and Tal Farlow, who favored an early double-pickup model. This is as nice a first-generation ES-350 as we have ever had; one of the finest single-pickup electric guitars that Gibson ever made.
Overall length is 41 3/4 in. (106 cm.), 17 in. (43.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 1/2 in. (648 mm.).

This guitar shows light wear overall but remains in generally excellent condition, especially for a 1940s instrument. The finish is beautifully ambered and shows typical checking but not a lot of play wear; the heaviest is a few small spots worn through on the back of the neck.

The original clear plastic knobs have clouded a bit but are intact with no deterioration. The unplated tailpiece has a lot of age patina to it; this could be polished up, but we feel the look is more appropriate as it stands.

All hardware remains original, except, as noted, the tuners have been upgraded to gold Grover Imperials. The only other alterations are a very fine pro refret and a strap button added to the back just behind the heel.

This is a wonderful-playing instrument, as fine a single-pickup archtop electric guitar as has ever been made and a superbly historic period Gibson. The original 1940s pink-lined alligator grain HSC is still present, though it is fairly beat up with several latches no longer working. Excellent - Condition.