Gibson’s First Cherry Red 335

It came from the Books
It came from the Books

Gibson introduced the ES-335T in the spring of 1958 as the progenitor to its double-cutaway,semi-hollow body “thinline” series of guitars. Characterized by the maple block running down their centers, most of the guitars in the series – the ES-335 (and its many variations), the 340, 345, 347, 355, 320, 325, and later Artist, B.B. King, and ES-369 models – are today considered classics in the Gibson line.

Initially, the model was called the 335T, the T making the customary reference to the thinline designation. Shortly after introduction, the company decided to denote another feature of the line – dual humbucking pickups – by adding the D to its name.

According to Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars (GPI Books/Miller-Freeman, 1991), the basic specs are the same for all guitars in the family; 16″ bodies, 1 5/8″ in depth, 24 3/4″ scale. All were equipped with some variant of the humbucking pickup, with the exception of the 320, which received Melody Maker pickups, and the 325, which got mini-humbuckers.

The 335’s body was made of laminated maple on top, back and sides, while its 22-fret neck (19 frets at neck/body joint) was one-piece mahogany containing the famous dot markers.

Helping shape the famous sound put forth by the 335 was Gibson’s familiar two-volume, two-tone control knob configuration and the single three-way pickup selector switch. Standard equipment included a Tune-O-Matic bridge, top-mounted jack, and stop tailpiece, but a Bigsby vibrato was optional from the model’s inception.

Cosmetically, the original 335 featured more familiar markings; single-bound top, back and fretboard, unbound headstock with Gibson logo inlaid in pearl, five-ply beveled-edge pickguard, pearl crown peghead inlay, unbound f-holes, and choice of two finishes – sunburst or natural.

A series of “refinements” saw the guitar evolve until it was replaced by the 335 DOT in 1982. This is a basically a reissue of the model as it appeared in 1960, before the replacement of the dot inlays with pearloid blocks or parallelograms. That version is still in production today.

Gibson factory records indicate the first 335Ts were built and registered on company logs in February, 1958, with the TD designation beginning in ’60. The majority shipped the first year (267 of the 317 total) were finished in sunburst, with just 50 going out in natural.

According to Gibson Electrics, The Classic Years, by A.R. Duchossoir (Hal Leonard, 1994), Gibson records also indicate that one guitar – completed December 15, 1958 – was finished in cherry red more than a year before the color was officially offered as an option (cherry red replaced natural in 1960). That cherry red was given serial #A28800.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet #A28800!

Equipped as noted, including factory stereo wiring, this guitar turned up recently in northern California. The guitar was apparently quite new when the original purchaser used it as collateral for a loan that was never repaid.

It was eventually sold to St. Louis dealer Dave Hinson (Hazardware), and he reports it is in excellent condition, complete with tags and instructions for maintaining the pickups and bridge.

“I’d consider it near mint,” Hinson said. “There is only slight checking on the back and even less on front.”

The guitar has the pearl dots used by the factory to cover the original bridge stud holes left by installation of the Bigsby.

“The guitar has no fret wear and only slight fading on the back of the neck,” Hinson added. “It obviously spent most of its 39 years in its case.”

The case is also interesting. Hinson reports it, too, is in very good condition, except a covering is missing from the handle.

“It was made by Stone Case Co. Gibson used those cases in ’58 for 335s. It’s also known as the California Girl case, which were used for some Les Pauls of the era, as well.”

While we’re at it, let’s not forget the amp! It’s Gibson’s GA-83s Stereo-Vib Amp, serial number 118180. And it is complete with owners manual and schematic.

The guitar is resting in its new home in a private collection in England.

But what other original LP Standards can be had for 1/10 the price of a ‘Burst?

Cherry Red 335 photo: Mark Pfister, courtesy of Dave Hinson/Killer Vintage.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’98 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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