In the world of popular music, the name Gibson is legendary. Founded in the early 1900s Gibson made the first hollow body acoustic guitars in the 1930s and went on to create some of the first solid body electrics in the 50s. Countless famous musicians played their guitars in the 60s and 70s creating generations of guitarists eager to own one of their precious instruments.
Fast forward to may this year – gibson files for bankruptcy. What? Such a respected brand with an ever-growing fan base- all they had to do is keep making quality guitars. But no. Apparently they bought a large amount of companies in the last 10 years in an effort to become a ‘lifestyle’ brand. At the same time though they substantially increased their margins on guitars by reducing production costs and cutting corners on quality control. The end result: a bankrupt company without a CEO, fighting lawsuits while scrambling to try and put quality back into their guitar line. They even released their 2019 range yesterday – a back to basics range of guitars that reflects what the CEO outlined before he was fired.
So I had these things in my head as I walked into a local guitar shop the other day. After owning a gibson SG for a few years in the early 90s I’ve been looking to get another. I was interested to see if the quality mapped on to what I remember and whether the talk of gibsons troubles might be exaggerated. Well… the first gibson SG I tried was about 6000 hkd and it was just awful. Poor finish, ragged joints, blemishes on the body, gritty neck, badly cut nut…. oh my. What a shambles. The SG at 14000 hkd was considerably better but should I have to pay so much when other guitar makers are shipping great guitars for a fraction of the price. Interestingly the epiphone range, long seen as a poor man’s chinese gibson were the big surprise. Their SG pro looked and sounded fantastic and seemed a real bargain at 3000hkd.
I do hope Gibson can turn all this around and continue to do what they do best. I am still looking for an SG but for now I’ve moved to second hand market. I’ll see if I can find a guitar made back when Gibson had their priorities right.