These crazy newly unearthed Gibson archive guitar designs from the '50s prove just how bold it was in the golden era

(Image credit: Gibson)

If Gibson's Theodore was a previously lost Gibson '50s electric guitar design that set tongues wagging in the guitar community, it ain't seen nothing yet.

The Gibson Gazette has reported on a new article by guitar historian Tony Bacon that has unearthed a stock of previously hidden Gibson acoustic guitar concept designs in the company's archives from a 1955 meeting – including what would become the headstock for the Gibson Explorer.


(Image credit: Gibson)

That 1955 'brainstorming' session didn't just lead to the Explorer, but the ES-335 years later too. Gibson's innovative team were blazing a trail that is still being felt today. 

Bacon's article, originally appearing on Reverb, has been aided by the research of Mat Koehler, VP of Product at Gibson, and Jason Davidson, Director of Product Development & Gibson Archives Curator - two of the company's most knowledgable staff when it comes to its design history.

As you can see, the illustrations showcase five different acoustic shapes that are positively sci-fi by 1955 standards… or indeed now. The Theodore's outline is certainly reminiscent of one sketch here, along with the Explorer headstock the electric model would go on to feature when that 1957 design was finally realised for release in 2022 as part of the Gibson Archive Collection, and a standard edition for 2024. And another guitar concept above has a horn that even looks like a BC Rich Mockingbird!

Elsewhere a collection of headstock design sketches illustrates just how open-minded Gibson designers were, but then looking at just how bold the Flying V, Explorer and Moderne were when they first emerged in 1957, should we really be so surprised? 

MusicRadar's interview with Gibson's (then President) and future CEO Cesar Gueikian in 2021 hinted that there were still innovations in the archive to be explored following the Theodore and Gibson Generation Collection acoustics. "There are other things in the archives that have not been released, or we're putting through a lab," he told us. Though we doubt some of these sketches are what he has in mind, perhaps elements of them will be considered – just as the unreleased J-45 Modern's second soundhole concept from the archives inspired the Generation acoustic guitars.  

Read more at the Gibson Gazette and Reverb

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.