Gibson unveils 60th Anniversary '61 SGs, Made in Nashville ES series, signature models, acoustics, with more to come

Gibson 60th Anniversary 1961 SG Standard
(Image credit: Gibson)

GEAR 2021: Gibson has announced a whole host of new models across its Artist, Custom Shop, Modern and Original Collections, with the promise of much more to come as the Nashville-based guitar giant prepares for its online NAMM 2021 expo.

While we would imagine there would be more surprises in store at Gibson's Virtual NAMM Experience, there are a number of eye-catching electric and acoustic guitars that we can show you, starting with the 60th Anniversary 1961 SG Standard, offered in Cherry Red VOS, and a Classic White 1961 SG Custom with gold hardware. 

Both look exquisite, and with the sideways Vibrola they really capture that early 60s vibe. 

The SGs are launched as part of the Gibson Custom Shop Historic Collection, which in the past couple of years has issued meticulous replicas of the 1959 and 1960 Les Paul Standards. They don't come cheap, but that's life if you are looking for a vintage-inspired high-end electric guitar.

  • NAMM 2021 is cancelled, but we'll be covering all the big January gear announcements right here on MusicRadar.

Gibson 60th Anniversary 1961 SG Standard

From left: Gibson 60th Anniversary 1961 SG Standard and 1961 SG Custom (Image credit: Gibson)

Judging by the slate that's lined up, the Gibson Custom Shop is going to be clocking up some overtime in 2021, with a number of artist signature guitars in the pipeline. 

Gibson has been rationing the details but has confirmed it will be releasing a VOS replica of Peter Frampton's legendary Phenix Les Paul Custom – a mid-50s Black Beauty that survived a plane crash. The Phenix was used on Humble Pie’s Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore and Frampton Comes Alive! 

Also scheduled to empty wallets and retirement funds in 2021 are the Jerry Cantrell “Wino” Custom Les Paul, a Sergio Vallin (Mana) 1955 Les Paul Bigsby and – says Gibson, suggestively – more is coming.

Well, there will certainly be the Kirk Douglas signature SG, and the long-awaited Marcus King 1962 ES-345, aka Big Red. The original guitar was a family heirloom and as the Grammy-nominated blues/soul rocker told MusicRadar, it is his ”security blanket”.

Marcus King

(Image credit: Olly Curtis / Future)

”The ES-345 is a very special one to me,” said King. ”That is what my grandfather played and when he passed – unfortunately when I was 14 – he left it to my father, and when I was 18 years old my father give it to me as a symbol of support, a symbol of being able to take a little bit of my grandfather’s energy with me as I was embarking on what seemed to be a never-ending tour.”

”That guitar was sort of my guiding light. It was my torch. It was my everything, so I am working with Gibson now on replicating it and hopefully being able to give it as a guiding light to other players embarking on their own journey.”

Gibson Marcus King ES-345

Gibson Marcus King 1962 ES-345 (Image credit: Gibson)

Also unveiled was the ES Made In Nashville Collection, which comprises an ES-339, ES-339 Figured and an ES-335 Satin, with a variety of finishes on offer. What's the difference? Well, the ES-339 has a slightly smaller body, the hardwares is different, too, with Grover Rotomatic "kidney bean" tuners on the ES-339 and Vintage Deluxe  tuners with Keystone Buttons on the ES-335.

The ES-335 comes equipped with a pair of the newly developed Gibson Calibrated T-Type humbuckers in the neck and bridge, with the customary two volume and two tone control circuit and three-way toggle switch. For the ES-339, Gibson has gone for a 57 Classic humbucker at the neck and a 57 Classic Plus at the bridge.

Build-wise, they are similar, with 3-ply Maple/Poplar/Maple on top and back, spruce bracing and a maple centreblock to help keep feedback at bay, and light-weight Aluminum ABR-1 bridge and Stop bar tailpieces. Both have hand-wired control circuits, and should have a similar feel, with a mahogany set necks carved into a rounded C profile, and rosewood fingerboards.

The ES-335 is offered in a satin nitrocellulose finish, and you can choose from Vintage Burst, Vintage Natural and Cherry.

The ES-339 and ES-339 Figured are all but identical except the latter uses AAA figured maple veneers and Sixties Cherry and Blueberry Burst colours to bring out all the details. The Figured models also have Acrylic Small Block inlays.

Gibson also shared some of the fruits of its newly designated Murphy Lab, which operated out of the Custom Shop and let's Tom Murphy lead a team ageing and replicating vintage guitars using the cutting-edge techniques and a meticulous eye for detail. 

The team is trained by Murphy and applies all kinds of treatments to its guitars, from Ultra Light to Ultra Heavy. Players can choose from the Guitar Murphy Lab Collection and a Murphy Lab Menu for a bespoke service. Once you pick your preferred level of wear, your instrument will be coated in the appropriate Murphy Lab lacquer formula and then aged by hand for a unique finish.

Elsewhere, Gibson added the Non-reverse Thunderbird bass to its Original Collection. Featuring long-scale 34" set neck and improved balance, the T-bird [pictured above] is available in some striking solid colours. Choose from Inverness Green, Sparking Burgundy and Pelham Blue.

Gibson Murphy Lab Sample

Gibson Murphy Lab Sample (Image credit: Gibson)

This is also going to be a big year for acoustics. Gibson announced the release of the following Acoustic Custom Shop Historic Collection models: 1942 Banner J-45, 1942 Banner Southern Jumbo, 1934 Jumbo, 1936 Advanced Jumbo, 1939 J-55, 1952 J-185, 1957 SJ-200, 1960 Hummingbird, Pre-war SJ-200 Rosewood.

Again, this is Gibson digging into the family album to reanimate some acoustics that have long gone out of production only to be found on the vintage market where the money involved in securing one is astronomical.

Across the board, we will see thermally treated tone woods such as Adirondack red spruce to artificially age the guitar's voice. Hot hide glue bracing will support the soundboards; there will be traditional 25" scale lengths and historic V profile necks.

And there is something incredibly romantic about a Gibson acoustic with a Banner headstock; you know it's got songs in it.

Again, Gibson has been coy about releasing specs but some of these are showing up online now, so do check in with Gibson's Acoustic Custom Shop Historic landing page for more details.

While Gibson is perhaps not going to take a crazy stylistic turn with its Modern Acoustic Collection, there are a number of features that the contemporary player would dig, such as Slim Taper necks, flatter fingerboards, and more state-of-the-art pickup and preamp systems. 

Pictured below, this year's Modern Acoustic Collection welcomes the J-45 Standard 12-String, a J-45 Standard with a hot Cherry makeover. There's also a Hummingbird Standard in a more muted Vintage Sunburst, and an SJ-200 jumbo that looks resplendent in in Wine Red and Autumn Burst.

Like its electric counterparts, the Acoustic Custom Shop is going to be putting in a shift, with new models including a SJ-200 Western Classic, plus some very nice signature guitars in the shape of the Orianthi SJ 200, Tom Petty SJ-200 Wildflower, and Noel Gallagher J-150.

We say nice, but the Orianthi model, pictured above, is the first we have seen. Expect more details from Gibson after their big online shindig, which airs tomorrow (Friday, 22 January). You can register for the event here.

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.