Gibson has made Marcus Lee King a signature ES-345

Gibson has made blues wizard Marcus Lee King a prototype signature ES-345 semi-hollow electric guitar that's based on his 1962 "Big Red" model.

King sat down with Gibson's director of brand experience, Mark Agnesi, at Eric Clapton's 2019 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas. They talked about King's rise, his experience playing on a bill that included the likes of Derek Trucks and Peter Frampton, sharing guitar stories, when the conversation turned to the ES-345 he was holding. 

This, said Agnesi, was the prototype #1 of the ES-345 that will become King's signature model, and King told the guitar's history.

As King explained to MusicRadar in a rig tour back in March, Gibson had given him an ES-345 with a flame top that was made by Jim Lillard at Gibson Memphis, based on the Rusty Anderson model, with the promise of a signature model to follow. 

King said his signature guitar would be based on the the 1962 "Big Red" ES-345 – a family heirloom that was purchased by his grandfather in 1964 when he was stationed with the US Air Force in Great Falls Montana. "Big Red" was then passed down to his father and then to King himself. As King explains in the video, he remembers his grandfather playing it when he was a kid. 

In the MusicRadar rig tour, King revealed some of the specs we can expect.

“The pickups are fantastic – very similar to the PAF clones, but a little bit different," said King. "They have this sharper attack. I still keep my grandfather’s guitar at home, very safe. That guitar had a Maestro tailpiece on it, which is really interesting – you won’t find any other 345s with that kind of tail.

“It’s the one from those really early SGs, like what Sister Rosetta Tharpe played. It had a tremolo system you pulled in with your pinky instead of whammying down and this custom-made plaque. It was fixed onto the guitar incorrectly actually! That’s what made this guitar really different and my signature will be identical, coming out next year.”

There is no more release information but you can check out both guitars sitting side by side in Marcus Lee King's Instagram post below.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

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