Gibson Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965)

Gibson  Firebird III Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1965)

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Item # 8500
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Gibson Firebird III Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1965), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 290119, sunburst lacquer finish, laminated mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is a well-played but undamaged example of a rare late-issue original style "reverse" Firebird III. The III is the classic model in this series, sold in the highest numbers, but this particular guitar is a very rare variant, shipped only in the spring/summer of 1965.

In his "Rare bird" column and classic tone, AMERICAN GUITARS author Tom Wheeler coined the term "Platypus Firebirds" for the unusual transitional instruments Gibson made at this time, and it has become an affectionate collector's byword. This is a classic "Platypus", one of two different transitional styles briefly made as Gibson was preparing to ship the new "non-reverse" Firebirds in fall '65.

The headstock on this guitar is the unusual feature, built like the original 1963 Firebirds with banjo tuners and a carved ledge but with the low E tuner closest to the nut. This is a "reversal" of the original "reverse" Firebird design which had the headstock "upside down" with the high E in that position. The heavy Kluson banjo tuners are retained, but the tuning and string are more convenient (or at least more familiarly Fender-like) with this setup.

Theories on why this was done abound, ranging from acceding to customer and dealer complaints about the original design to using up theoretical left-handed neck blanks that had been prepared and then never ordered. Whatever the reason, it resulted in what many players find to be the most player friendly of all "reverse" Firebirds, with all the advantages of the original design combined with a more familiar tuning stance.

Otherwise the guitar has all the features of the standard Firebird III -- laminated neck-through-body construction, a big chunky neck feel, and two mini-humbucking pickups with the typical snarly and powerful Firebird sound. The vibrato arm is the fancier version otherwise found on the higher-end guitars instead of the metal "spoon handle" used on earlier III models. This great guitar was someone's gigging machine; it has the sound and feel of the best 'Birds and just enough scars to feel authentic without having been abused!
 
Overall length is 45 in. (114.3 cm.), 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 1/8 in. (2.9 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.).

This guitar has been fairly heavily played and shows finish wear overall but no damage or major repair. The neck has never been cracked or broken, the crucial issue on all Firebirds. The dark two-tone sunburst finish shows fine checking overall and quite a few chips, scrapes, and dings, with some heavier loss down to the wood on the body back and edges. This one is authentically "Reliced" and looks to have played many gigs since it left Kalamazoo in summer '65.

The guitar has been nicely refretted with slightly taller wire and a new nut, but all hardware is original except the pickguard, which is a very accurate replacement held by the original screws. Two of the pots (the treble tone and volume) have been replaced; oddly enough, with older pots, dated to 1961! The pickups and other wiring remains original.

The oft-missing vibrato arm is intact -- this late model III came stock with the plastic-tipped arm usually seen on the V model. This guitar is an excellent-playing and sounding example, well-gigged but still ready to rock out, as the saying goes. Includes the original yellow-lined hard case, intact but for one broken latch. Very Good + Condition.