I keep hearing it. It’s on websites. It’s on forums. It’s in YouTube videos. It’s in magazines. “Gibson’s Back!” But are they really?
Like most musicians and fans of Gibson guitars, I was growing weary of all the so-called innovations at Gibson under Henry J. The robot tuners. The reverse V. The brass zero-fret. The entire 2015 product line. And through it all, the number one complaint of guitarists? Gibson quality control. Yes, QC complaints trumped them all, mostly because QC was already a problem at Gibson long before these monstrosities saw the light of day. So we Henry was out and James Curleigh came in, the promises of a better Gibson were being thrown around like Frisbee convention.
Aside from the “Play Authentic” disaster, there was still hope as the 2019 product line was introduced with a nod to correct the course that Gibson had been on. Redefine the Standard and Traditional Les Paul lines, go back to basics with options, lower the prices here and there, and so on. It was also portrayed that new Gibson leadership was listening to the needs and feedback of the line staff in the factory. It was starting to look like Gibson was, indeed, “back”. So much so, that I bought a 2019 Les Paul Special in TV Yellow. The first brand new guitar I had bought in nearly 8 years.
This Les Paul is an outstanding guitar in nearly every aspect – with the exception of the finish. It’s got some clear coat issues here and there. Most online keyboard warrior fanbois will tell you that it’s just a cosmetic issue and that guitars are meant to be played, not looked at. Whatever. For the same price as this Les Paul, I’ve seen guitars by Music Man, Fender, G&L, Grosh, and many others with flawless paint jobs. So what secrets do they have that Gibson doesn’t? Here’s another example….
This is a 2020 Les Paul Standard Wildwood Exclusive. Beautiful guitar, absolutely stunning for a Les Paul under $4000 and, like the LP Special, outstanding in nearly every aspect – with the exception of the finish. It also had clear coat issues and a very noticeable chunk of binding missing. In fact, the entire top, sides, and back of the guitar were covered in micro scratches that created a haze to the clear coat. Would it have been too much to spend more than 10 seconds on the buffing wheel? And that binding, it’s just inexcusable for a brand new $2800 guitar to leave the factory like that. Sadly, this guitar went back to Wildwood. In fact, if I was Wildwood Guitars, I’d be pretty ticked at Gibson for sending out guitars in this condition. But I guess that’s just Gibson.
So I can’t help but raise the yellow flag when I hear all the “Gibson’s Back” hype. They are making better decisions about the product lines, but they need to get their sh** together in the production lines. I get it, building guitars can be a drag when the boss’ boss’ boss wants to increase production while reducing production costs. That’s reality for thousands of people every day in Corporate America, and yet manufacturers continue to make top quality, made-in-‘Merica products. So why won’t Gibson?