Gibson ES 150
Electric Guitar! With A Charlie Christian Pickup
The Gibson ES 150 is perhaps the most historically significant electric guitar in the ES series. And it sounded pretty good, too.
The ES-150 was the first Spanish-style electric guitar that found commercial success, according to most sources.
Introduced in 1936, it quickly won favor among jazz musicians.
Jazz orchestras of the time that had been using acoustic guitars adopted these new electric ones because they could be turned loud enough to overcome the other instruments in an ensemble, finally giving guitarists a more prominent position in the grouping.
Although the fact has been disputed, jazz guitarists Eddie Durham is often credited with playing the first public electric guitar solo in 1938 -- and on an ES-150, of course.
Durham was from San Marcos, Texas and played with greats like Cab Calloway, Glenn Miller and Count Basie.
Charlie Christian brought the instrument to prominence, however, and its new-fangled single-coil pickup became known by Christian’s name.
The Oklahoma City-born swing and jazz player performed with lots of great, too, including Benny Goodman.
His sound still influences jazz players today.
The Gibson ES-150 was originally available for as little as $78 without a case or amp.
It was an archtop without cutaways.
The body was bound and finished in sunburst.
A single Charlie Christian pickup covered all the sound.
It differed from previously released archtops, however, because it was never meant to be played acoustic, so the body was not carved out to match the outside shape.
Like just about everything else in America, the ES series was halted during World War II while workers were away fighting and their factories turned to making the implements of war.
It returned in 1946 at a larger 17-inch width and with a P-90 pickup replacing the original.
The ES-150 was discontinued in 1956.
In 1969, Gibson came out with a completely different instrument called the ES-150DC, but it was a hollowbody with double cutaways that looked very much like the ES-335.
This model had a different sound because of its two humbucker pickups, but it is often confused with the original model because of the similar names.
By the mid-1970s, this model was gone, too.
The ES-150 has been brought back in various reissue models through the years.
On the shoulders of the Gibson ES 150, jazz guitarists found a new and bolder place in their orchestras, changing the rules for guitarists of the era -- and forever changing American music by putting a guitar out front.
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