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Byrdland, ’57

Natural, Serial number A26105.

In 1955 Gibson developed a slimmer hollow body electric guitar to appeal to players wanting a more comfortable instrument that didn’t weigh as much as a solid body. Enlisting the aid of Nashville session aces Hank Garland and Billy Byrd, a thin-bodied L-5 CES with a shorter 23 and ½” scale (instead of the L-5’s 25 and ½” scale) and a 2 and ¼” deep body (the L-5 was 3 and 3/8” deep) was the result. This new high-end electric with the same upscale appointments as the L-5, was named the Byrdland, after its endorsers. Shortly before its introduction at the July 1955 NAMM show, Gibson decided to make the most of the new thinline idea, by adding two more affordable models: The ES-350T (a laminated wood model with the same dimensions as the Byrdland) and the economy ES-225T. The 1956 Gibson catalog describes the benefits of the new guitars: “These revolutionary “Thin” models represent the latest advance in the design of Electric Guitars. The thin body – only 2 ¼” deep – fits close, reducing the right arm stretch and relaxing the wrist. The slim, short-scale neck is phenomenally fast.”

The 1957 Byrdland pictured has the characteristics most often associated with the classic guitar that year. These are best described in the 1958 Gibson catalog: “Hand-graduated, carved top of choice close-grain spruce – arched, highly figured curly maple back with matching curly maple rims – alternate black and white ivoroid binding – three-piece curly maple neck with Gibson Adjustable Truss Rod – multiple-bound ebony fingerboard with block pearl inlays- Tune-O-Matic bridge – twin, powerful pickups positioned for contrasting treble and bass response – individually adjustable polepieces – separate tone and volume controls which can be preset – toggle switch to activate either or both pickups – gold-plated metal parts – stunning new tailpiece design – hand-bound pickguard – individual machine heads with deluxe buttons.” This Byrdland still has the original style Alnico V “staple” single coil pickups that lasted on the model until the next year, when they were upgraded to humbuckers.
Fifty two natural finished Byrdlands were shipped in 1957.

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