Gibson’s JC Curleigh compares Gibson’s revival to The Beatles, says Gibson Garages could launch across the globe

James 'JC' Curleigh
(Image credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Gibson)

Gibson’s fate has changed dramatically since it was announced in 2018 that the guitar icon was facing bankruptcy. Following one of the most difficult eras in the brand's history, it found itself under new leadership with former Levis head honcho James 'JC' Curleigh' taking-up the role of CEO along with Brand President Cesar Gueikian - just in time for the arrival of a global pandemic. 

However in a new interview with the Nashville Business Journal, CEO James ‘JC’ Curleigh details some of the key components in the brand’s renewed success, going as far as comparing the impact of ‘Gibson 3.0’ to that of The Beatles, as well as giving us some insight into what we can expect from Gibson in the future-  specifically the potential roll-out of Gibson Garages across the globe.

Talking about Gibson’s success since the shift in management and dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, JC says, “About three and a half years ago, we set about rebuilding the new Gibson and what we call Gibson 3.0.

“We did it with expanding our crafters, investing in craftsmanship and automation, we did it with building out new platforms like Gibson Media and Gibson TV and by paying attention to all our brands…

“We took a brand portfolio approach to leverage our iconic paths and do what was expected, but also lean into the innovative future. We’ve done that and so, our strategies were working before Covid-19.

“Our business suffered for the first month or two of Covid-19, but as people settle into the unfortunate new norm of Covid and figured out that they had time and passion, they all of a sudden started playing guitar. We started doing more made-to-measures, more custom shops. 

“We saw every dimension of our fan base grow significantly. What we’ve done through Covid, unfortunately it took a global pandemic, but we’ve set up a lifetime journey for individuals to play guitar more than at any stage probably in the last, I don’t know, since The Beatles…”

As the Gibson Garage (Gibson’s flagship, 8000-square-foot ‘retail experience’ in Nashville) celebrates its first birthday, JC also shed some light on the possibility of more Gibson Garage locations emerging. 

“You look at the key cities of where the center of culture, of music could be happening in a country or in a state, or in a city. You could imagine cities like London as being the next Gibson Garage. 

"What about Shanghai in the future, where it’s not as mature of a guitar market, but boy it’s growing fast. You can think of Tokyo as an opportunity in the future. And then probably a few other cities in the States, is it L.A. or New York? 

"No plans as of yet, but in a five-year vision, us putting a standard of the Gibson experience in place in key markets in key cities will only benefit the entire guitar business community and the fan base around it.” 

Most recently, Gibson launched the Lzzy Hale Explorerbird - a mash-up of the Explorer and Firebird. Meanwhile, it also emerged victorious in its legal battle with Dean Guitars over trademark infringements.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.