J.T. Riboloff with a one-off lefty Samick JTR Elvira with all-gold hardware. The Elvira pays homage to Riboloff’s beloved ’63 Gibson SG.
By definition, a guru is “somebody who has a reputation as an expert, leader, teacher, or practitioner in a particular field.” J.T. Riboloff is a guitar-design guru.
A colorful personality who refers to guitars as “plunks,” Riboloff was a vital part of the team that restored Gibson’s reputation and market share after its ill-reputed Norlin years, and is known for his time as head of the Gibson Custom, Art, and Historic division. His passion proved a perfect fit and resulted in some of its most popular recent designs (and redesigns). A steady stream of the most prolific guitarists in the world made pilgrimages to the “Custom Shop” – all seeking guitars with a certain magic only he delivered.
After working 18-hour days at Gibson, Riboloff routinely met high-profile clients at his home in Nashville, where he rebuilt, modded, and hot-rodded amps, pedals, and guitars. His prolific work attracted a lot of attention, and soon he was fielding offers from numerous guitar manufacturers and investors alike. As a result, Riboloff designed guitars for several companies – everybody wanted a piece of the action.
Samick Rose Anne
Today, that action is in the hands of Samick Corporation, which has entrusted Riboloff to tweak its Indonesian facility and train its production staff. In a nod to his talents as a designer, they’ve given Riboloff his own line, dubbed JTR Designs. These will be the first instruments to carry his moniker on the headstock. Riboloff presently calls Indonesia home, living a stone’s throw from the facility he oversees.