Gordon Smith Gatsby: What is it?
No one around these parts needs convincing that Gordon Smith’s electric guitars are cool. But guitar brands themselves can never be so sure.
Sometimes they get to thinking: ‘Are we doing enough? Are we current?’ And applying a self-critical eye can often be the first step toward innovation.
Who can say what was going on at the ground floor of Gordon Smith’s R&D when the Gatsby was spec’d up and readied for launch, but if there was a guitar designed to look current, en vogue, hip to the beat… Well, it’s the Gatsby.
The Gatsby arrives in a fashionably downsized offset body, with a bolt-on maple neck, a pair of GS ‘Homewound’ soapbar single-coils, a Golden Age tune-o-matic-style roller bridge and Hosco HK41vibrato, and a number of eye-catching finishes.
Our review model, resplendent in Cromer, evokes a classic Fender vibe, but your finish options include a deep red Merlot, the ever-classy Vintage White, Real Ale for the CAMRA alumni, a stunning Rockingham shade of blue, Tobacco and Jet Black.
They look amazing. And, with this being the age of the offset, there have been some evolutionary retooling of those classic high-waisted silhouettes debuted by Fender’s Jaguar and Jazzmaster.
It is a little more petite and weighs in under the 8lb mark which, for many players, is their load-bearing red line. The contouring marks out as something different, too, with a forearm bevel that extends to the waist.
Turn it over and you’ll find a ribcage contour, and there’s a sculpted heel, too. It’s not quite scooped away to nothing, but enough to enhance access to the dusty end of the fingerboard.
This Gatsby and the solid wood finishes have solid poplar bodies, with swamp ash found on the Tobacco finish model. If you wish to switch up the recipe, Gordon Smith presents you with plenty of options.
You can order a right or left-handed model. For a fee, you can custom order from ash, mahogany, korina, alder and swamp ash. Neck options include flamed maple or – for the Jay Gatsbys of this world – roasted flamed maple.
It doesn’t stop there. The scale length, finish (gloss, satin), pickups, hardware and fingerboard radius are all up for grabs, with a lead time of around 12 weeks for your custom instrument to arrive – though take into an account that Gordon Smith, like everyone else in this world, is at the mercy of the supply chain.
Gordon Smith Gatsby: Performance and verdict
The Gatsby is sure to be an eye-opener for those who have historically found offsets unwieldy. Players will a smaller frame will appreciate the dimensions, and that aforementioned weight is well spread across the instrument. It sits well on a strap, so too a lap.
Considering the bolt-on anatomy and the source inspiration for a guitar like this, it’s no surprise there’s a subtle Fender vibe when you pick it up. The neck is uncontroversial; a C profile with a satin-smooth feel, topped with tidy frets, and altogether not a million miles away from Fender’s new Player Plus Series models.
• Fender American Performer Jazzmaster
In the end, there’s enough vintage DNA in this model to make it cool, balanced with a level of modern build quality and playability to make them accessible to all types of player. A guitar for everyone, if you will. As it happens, that’s all Leo Fender set out to achieve in the first place.
• Gordon Smith GS1 Heritage
Factor in the one-piece wood stock, smart build, good components and the unique and highly useable voicing and you have a proposition that’s hard to ignore.
The GS1 Heritage is a mean rock machine that will easily double as a quality spare or slide guitar with a resonance that’s rare to find at this price.
Hit it with a chord and that impression changes a little. The Gatsby has a voice of its own, and quite a range.
The neck pickup is where you might find some of that Fender bounce, and it's a nice and plump complement to the more off-the-chain drive of the bridge pickup. That’s where you might well find the stereotypical offset demographic hanging out, trodding on a fuzz pedal for kicks, showing plenty of teeth when the guitar amp is sent into overdrive.
Such occasions might call for the whammy bar, and the Gatsby’s Hosco HK41vibrato has an excellent action. It helps that the Gatsby arrives with an impeccable setup, the brass nut well cut, and the tuning more stable than Zeno of Citium’s demeanour.
With both pickups engaged, you get a very appealing third voice, an excellent launchpad for building interesting clean tones via a well-stocked pedalboard. The Gatsby might be Gordon Smith’s first but it has clearly been paying attention. It makes a very persuasive case.
As with all of these offsets, there comes the question: what would we change? If we’ve just flown in from Planet Jazzmaster, that would suggest upscaling the bridge to a Mastery. But Gordon Smith’s Hosco is more than fit for purpose. Truth be told, we’d probably scan the menu of options to fine-tune the spec, then perhaps look at the pickups at another date.
That, however, can go without saying. After all, which guitar have we ever taken home and then six months later entertained the idea of swapping out the pickups? With so many quality soapbar options on the market, the idea will cross your mind. Off the peg, this Gatsby has enough style and pizzazz of its own to forestall those thoughts a little longer.
MusicRadar verdict: Effortlessly cool, different without being pointlessly radical, the Gatsby is a typically well-thought-out take on the offset electric, with Gordon Smith’s customisable model a perfect fit for the guitar style we all love to mod.
Gordon Smith Gatsby: The web says
“There’s an awful lot to like here. The Gatsby is a stylish, slightly downsized offset at a great price for a UK-made guitar, and there are plenty of customer-order options, not to mention colours available. The vibrato and bridge setup is excellent and works effortlessly – something that not all Jazzmaster/Jaguar owners can say.
“Sounds-wise, it’s no slouch and there’s a good Fender/Gibson flavour here, too, between the neck and bridge pickups, again expanding the offset style and, as ever, there are plenty of aftermarket soapbars if you want to experiment post-purchase.”
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Gordon Smith Gatsby: Hands-on demos
Gordon Smith Gatsby: Specifications
- PRICE: £1,299 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: UK
- TYPE: Double-cutaway offset solidbody electric
- BODY: Poplar
- NECK: Maple, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Brass/42.3mm
- FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium
- HARDWARE: Golden Age tune-o-matic-style roller bridge, Hosco HK41vibrato, Gotoh SG381 enclosed tuners – chrome-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52mm
- ELECTRICS: 2x GS ‘Homewound’ soapbar single coils in chromed brass covers, 3-way toggle switch pickup selector, master volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.57/7.85
- OPTIONS: The base price is £1,299. For options see drop-down menu on website
- RANGE OPTIONS: The classic GS starts at £799, the start-point to a now 14-strong range – all of which can be custom-ordered
- LEFT-HANDERS: Yes, same price
- FINISHES: Cromer (as reviewed), Merlot, Vintage White, Real Ale, Rockingham, Tobacco, Jet Black
- CONTACT: Gordon Smith (opens in new tab)