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At Gibson in the early 60s, coming down from the high of 1958 must have been a difficult proposition.
After all, that was the year Gibson released the futuristic Explorer and Flying V, as well as the innovative ES-335 and 355, slapped some Sunburst on the Les Paul, made a double-cutaway out of the Les Paul Junior and Special, and offered its first doubleneck electrics. All in one year. The company wasn’t going to top that in a hurry. So, what next?
Gibson began a big expansion of its Kalamazoo factory during 1960, more than doubling its size upon completion the following year. Among the firstborn within the new walls was a revised line of Les Pauls, with Gibson completely redesigning the Junior, Standard and Custom with a modern, sculpted double-cutaway body. At first it called them Les Pauls, but during 1963 renamed them the SG Junior, the SG Standard, and the SG Custom.
Despite all this invention, something was bothering the bosses upstairs: Fender was selling more and more guitars as every month passed. The first Fender solidbody electric had come out in 1950, but now, a dozen or so years later, the Californian company had a line of four great electrics – Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazzmaster and Jaguar – as well as budget models. Fenders looked and sounded fresh, new and different. Gibson’s managers must have felt their guitars seemed old and fusty by comparison.
The company had been around a long time, and its reputation was based on long-founded production methods and traditional values. Gibson’s first reaction to Fender’s solidbody revolution was the original Les Paul model of 1952.
Next, it decided to try to upstage what it saw as Fender’s edgy, modern style with the angular Explorer and Flying V. But by the early 60s, however, it was clear Gibson needed something else to weather the storm blowing in from the West Coast.