It's Gibson’s ‘hell raiser’ guitar, and it has a very interesting history...
The Gibson SG is one the most iconic guitar models ever made. Despite its association with rock, and reputation, perhaps, as the tool of choice for rock’s most rebellious and just plain noisy players, it started life as the replacement signature guitar for Les Paul. Les Paul sales were waning, so in 1961 Gibson decided to update its range with a new, slim-line model. Though this was in part due to market trends, as always with Gibson, it had the kind of unique design that would set it apart from its peers for decades. Slim, lightweight and with a blisteringly fast neck, it immediately found favour with players. It wasn’t until later, however, that it developed its ‘hell raiser’ reputation.
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To celebrate this iconic guitar, here are 10 Gibson SG facts that you might not know…
Though it was launched in 1961, the SG only became known as the SG in 1963. Before then, it was known as the Les Paul (it was a replacement for the original LP). It was only after Les Paul’s involvement with the guitar ended that it became the SG - SG standing for ‘Solid Guitar’.
There are several stories regarding the removal of Les Paul’s name. One states that Les wasn’t fond of the guitar and felt it dishonest to put his name on something he wasn’t behind 100%. Gibson state that it was named the Les Paul until it ran out of Les Paul truss-rod covers, and Les’ contract had ended. Whatever the reason, it was, and remains a great guitar.
These days, there are a number of SG pickup configurations available. At launch, there were four versions. The SG Standard had twin PAF humbuckers with nickel or chrome covers. The SG Junior had a single P90, whilst the SG Special had twin P90’s. Finally, the SG Custom had three PAFs with gold-plated covers.
Early SGs without broken necks are as rare as hen’s teeth. The SG’s neck was billed as the ‘fastest in the world’ due to its profile, which was far slimmer than the Les Paul. However, this did make it more fragile. Headstock breaks were common in this era, and this led to the neck being made slightly thicker in 1962 (though still blisteringly fast). It also led later to the addition of neck volutes (a sort of ‘bump’ reinforcement around the neck/ headstock joint). As a result, ’61 SGs with unbroken necks are ultra-rare, but ultra-desirable.
The SG established itself as the ideal weapon for raucous rock players- but why? For most, the main factor was sheer power. The PAF humbuckers delivered way more gain than their peers. Tone was thick, rich and powerful, particularly when driven. Combine this with a construction that weighed considerably less than a Les Paul, and had a faster neck, and you had the perfect instrument for rock performance. That double cutaway does look a bit like devil horns, too…
The SG Standard is, according to Gibson, their best-selling model of all time. Though the Les Paul Standards produced between 1958 and 1960 are now amongst the most valuable guitars on earth, only 1,700 guitars were produced in this period. This compares to 6,000+ units sold in each of the SG’s first 3 years.
One of the rarest SGs ever produced was the SG-R1. This incorporated active circuitry, developed by Moog, and had a slightly chubbier body profile. It was discontinued in 1980, with only 200 or so units ever made. One to look out for at car-boot sales…
The most expensive SG ever to be sold was George Harrison and John Lennon’s ’64 model, fetching $570k at auction.
This particular guitar had been used extensively by the two Beatles when recording and touring the seminal album, Revolver, and also when recording the White Album.
Because of their slightly less opulent construction compared to Les Pauls (no maple cap, flamed top, body binding etc.) they tend to be more affordable. Currently, an SG standard comes in at £999, and an SG Special is just £569. Not bad for a true pedigree rock icon…
Though Derek Trucks' '61 re-issue SG might appear to have the Lyre tremolo system, if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s actually a hardtail. Though he loves the look of the metal tailpiece, he prefers things to be a bit more stable and in-tune… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBbRrvJt8G8
Gibson or Epiphone?
The SG is versatile, iconic, easy to play, and sounds incredible. Plus, if you can’t stretch to a ‘full-fat’ Gibson version, the Epiphone models are also excellent. Why not give one a try and see what the fuss is about?
Get in touch
Check out our full range of both Gibson and Epiphone models on the Dawsons Website. Alternatively, head to your nearest Dawsons Music store where our instore specialists will be more than happy to help you out.
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Check out the latest developments with Gibson who are knocking it out of the park already in 2019. New lines, new signature models, a wealth of history and fresh start!
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Gibson SG Original (Heritage Cherry)
When it comes to the classics, sometimes you just have to have it original'and it doesn't get much more classic than Gibson's legendary SG, a rock and blues icon since its introduction in 1961. The new SG Original from Gibson USA brings back the look, feel, and tone of the most desirable SG Standards ever made, thanks to the use of Grade-A tonewoods, exacting specs, and premium hardware and pickups. From the slim '60s neck profile, to the trim early '60s headstock shape and smaller '61 pickguard, to the tonally rich and versatile '57 Classic humbucking pickups, to the vibrola tailpiece with "lyre" cover, the SG Original nails the vibe of the seminal SG in every respect, bringing you a stunning "reissue" style guitar at an impressively affordable price. With its high-gloss nitrocellulose finish in Heritage Cherry, complemented by acrylic trapezoid inlays, it looks superb, too, and offers the unparalleled playability you only get from a genuine Gibson.
The construction of any great electric guitar begins with great woods, and the new SG Original from Gibson USA has a foundation of some of the most hallowed tonewoods in Gibson history. The body is made from solid Grade-A mahogany, a wood known for its depth and richness, and crafted in the distinctive, thin asymmetrical dual-cutaway style, with iconic pointed "horns" and beveled edges to enhance playing comfort. The glued-in neck is also made from Grade-A mahogany, this time cut to the quarter-sawn orientation for superior strength and resonance, and carved to a fast, slim '60s SG profile that measures .800" deep at the 1st fret and .890" at the 12th. It is topped with a bound fingerboard made from a single piece of Grade-A rosewood, with a 12" radius, 22 medium-jumbo frets, and a PLEK-cut CorianGäó nut with a width of 1 11/16"'all major factors in Gibson's legendary playing feel. The larger vintage-style headstock has the classic mother-of-pearl Gibson logo and holly inlays.
The SG Original recreates the great tones of vintage SG Standards via a pair of '57 Classic humbucking pickups, some of the most popular recreations of vintage PAF humbuckers available today. Each carries a genuine Alnico II bar magnets and is wound with 42-AWG enamel-coated wire, for the characteristic blend of warmth and creaminess that made original PAFs legendary, updated with wax potting for howl-free performance at high volume levels. The traditional wiring complement of an independent volume and tone control per pickup plus a three-way toggle selector switch allows a broad range of sonic variations. Gibson USA loads in a Tune-o-Matic bridge with a Lyre vibrato tailpiece to expand your playing horizons, and a set of genuine ToneProsGäó vintage-style tuners with an efficient 16:1 gear ratio for rock-solid tuning. Add it all up, and for look, feel, and tone, the SG Original is a stunning recreation of the iconic early '60s SG Standard.
Each guitar includes a black Gibson hardshell case, owner's manual, and truss-rod wrench, and comes covered by Gibson two year warranty and 24/7/365 customer service.
Call GAK now for product info, advice and the Best Prices - 01273 665400
The history of the Gibson SG
Throughout the 1950s, Gibson continuously revisited and reworked its Les Paul range. One of the most significant changes occurred in 1958 when, in response to customer requests, Gibson modernised its single-cutaway Les Paul Junior, TV and Special models with double-cutaway body designs.
Featuring rounded horns, the revised Junior and TV guitars began shipping that year, followed by the Special in early ’59. Then in late ’59 Gibson rebranded the Les Paul Special and Les Paul TV; renamed the SG Special and SG TV respectively, it marked the beginning of the end for Gibson’s original Les Paul range of solidbody electrics that began in 1952 with the Les Paul Model (Goldtop) .
By 1961, these rounded double-cutaway guitars, along with the Les Paul Standard/ ’Burst and Les Paul Custom’s classic single-cutaway form, had been superseded by a profoundly different design sporting a thin bevelled body with pointed double cutaways.
Although this unmistakable profile is commonly referred to as an ‘SG’, it wasn’t until 1963 – following the expiration of Les Paul’s endorsement contract in 1962 – that the Junior, Standard and Custom joined the TV and Special in receiving their official SG model designation.
It was a notably creative period in the electric guitar building industry. As the market gathered momentum in the wake of rock ’n’ roll, Gibson president, Ted McCarty – acutely aware of the continued success enjoyed by competitors Fender and Gretsch – responded to the booming demand by testing the water with innovative designs.
Still, despite being highly coveted today, many of these formative instruments were not considered successful by Gibson at the time and were therefore subject to ongoing modifications and/or discontinuation.
“If you go through Gibson’s history and look at their electric guitars, they rarely got it right the first time,” points out Well Strung Guitars’ David Davidson. As a vintage-guitar-dealing veteran with over 40 years’ experience and the current COO and curator of the Songsbirds vintage guitar museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, David answered our call to his shop in Farmingdale, New York, to help us gathersome pearls of SG wisdom.
“Gibson were constantly playing catch-up with their competitors,” continues David. “Every guitar Fender had churned out was an instant hit that didn’t need to be modified. When they made the Stratocaster, it was great; when they made the Esquire, it was great; when they made the Broadcaster, it was great. They were just great right out of the box. Whereas Gibson took years.
"When you look at the Les Paul, they were always trying to make it better because they failed the first time. When they made the Les Paul Model [in 1952] they had the silly trapeze [tailpiece]. Then they had the stud tailpiece. It wasn’t until they had the ABR-1 [Tune-o-matic bridge] and PAFs [by 1957] that they got it right. But then they come and remodel the guitar again!
“They needed to make the [SG-style] Les Paul Standard and Custom fancy to compete with Fender, so they put a sideways Vibrola on, but they kind of over-engineered the whole thing. They went on to try several different types of tailpiece, but I think the only one that ever really worked well for Gibson generally was a Bigsby.
"Most people took the Vibrolas off and put a stop tailpiece on. That’s why there are so many guitars that’ve been converted over the years. It would’ve been a great guitar if they did it that way from the beginning. Those early years are important because the model’s reputation gets solidified very quickly. If a guitar comes out and it’s not a great player straight out of the box, people tend to move on to what plays well.”
“Gibson experimented with many vibrato systems, especially in the early 60s,” agrees vintage guitar expert Mat Koehler. After spending years running a vintage guitar store, Mat teamed up with the Gibson Custom Shop prior to his current role as head of Product Development.
He speaks to us directly from Gibson’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.
“There was an almost manic sense of trying to find a vibrato system that worked,” he says. “There were at least half a dozen different trem systems Gibson used in the 60s. The reason was to compete with Fender who had the Stratocaster; the Strat had a tremolo system and Gibson thought that it needed to have one.
Arguably, they never did find one that worked even remotely as well as the one on a Strat. “Looking back, it wasn’t the best solution to compete with a Stratocaster, but I will say that when set up well, a long Maestro [Vibrola] on an SG feels right at home.
"I like the balance better with a Vibrola, but there’s a reason why a lot of players modified their SGs to have a stop bar: it offers great tuning stability and a little bit more sustain. The SG Junior and SG Special have wrap-around tailpieces, but even though those guitars are killer, I don’t think that’s how [the SG] was originally intended; I think it was originally designed with the side pull trem in mind, as a way to balance the guitar.”
A double-cut feature
Originally, the key concepts of the SG were most likely presented by the Gibson sales team who tended to keep a close eye on the competition while receiving feedback from dealers and musicians. By 1960, they’d become convinced that double-cutaway electrics were the way forward.
“The Les Paul Special and Junior were already modified into a [rounded] double-cutaway design, and they knew they wanted to modify the Standard and Custom in a similar way,” explains Mat. “As regards the design of the SG itself, all the old-timers from the factory point to a guy called Larry Allers.
"Larry was a woodworker. He was a foreman of the woodworking area and was promoted to an ‘engineer’. That was Gibson’s way of promoting you – to call you an engineer. He became a project manager and if any highly specialised custom orders came along, Larry would often end up with the job. I think they just compiled all their notes from the sales team, gave them to Larry, and he came up with the SG [design].”
Initially, sales of the new design were encouraging: “We know that Ted McCarty thought Les Paul’s popularity was waning, and we know that sales of the single-cut Les Pauls were not going well,” Mat tells us. “But according to the shipping numbers, the new SG was received very well. It helps that Gibson went to the ’61 NAMM Show without any single-cut solidbody guitars – just their newly redesigned line of sleek, streamlined double-cutaway instruments.
"That clearly helped sell them to dealers. Sales were off the charts in the first couple of years, but it did decline steadily throughout the 60s. It’s no coincidence they reintroduced the single-cutaway Les Paul [in 1968]. By this time, the SG was not necessarily out of favour, but it didn’t have the same kind of success as in the early 60s.
“I think it all circles around what the famous players were using. Eric Clapton and Keith Richards were using singlecutaway Les Pauls, but it took years to catch on. The same goes for SGs. With the exception of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, there weren’t that many famous players using an SG when they first appeared in the early 1960s, but it gets going years later with Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton/The Fool.
"George Harrison also played SGs, but there aren’t that many artists you can point to before the mid-60s. Gibson was struggling to find its identity, especially with the rise of Fender on the West Coast.
"Automotive design was a major influence across the industry – the colours and exaggerated features mimicking automotive trends – but I think Gibson still thought of themselves as an archtop building company, even throughout the 60s. I mean, look at their endorsements and advertisements: it was all jazz players and archtop guys.”B
Beyond the custom colours
“Back in the old days, I’m sure if you wrote a letter to Gibson asking for a colour from the [Firebird] chart on such-and-such a guitar they’d make it for you,” concurs David. “Also, I think custom colour guitars would sometimes be made and displayed at a trade show then sold on.
"The earliest [SGs] I’ve seen in colours are always Customs, not Standards – I have one in Cherry Red, one in black, and I also have a sunburst from ’63. When it comes to Standards, I have an Inverness Green, a Pelham Blue, a Sparkling Burgundy, a Cardinal Red and one in black.
"We also have a custom-ordered ’64 SG Standard in Cherry Sunburst at the museum. I think ’64 to ’66 was the crest of the wave. Custom colour SGs are pretty darn scarce from the late 60s and are pretty much done by the beginning of the 70s.
“Throughout the [70s] Norlin period and beyond, they tried to make the SG into the cheaper guitar – ‘the affordable Gibson’. I think they were trying to reinvent the wheel and the SG really suffered: the necks got really thin, the quality of the workmanship went way down, and they tried to make many models that were unsuccessful – like the SG-200. They lost their way, but Gibson are doing the best thing now by going back to their roots and making them correctly.”
“The Norlin era is a different animal altogether,” says Mat. “Having access to the engineering archive, I think the pity about it is that they were a lot more proactive about things than people often think. They were always problem solving. But that was to the detriment of everything.
"They were basically over-steering and over-engineering solutions. That’s evident from the ever-changing SG designs to the bracing on the acoustic guitars. That’s not to say they didn’t make some great instruments; it’s just the process was a lot different in that era than it was earlier. SGs were a much easier guitar for Gibson to build in all of their forms, compared with single-cutaway Les Pauls because they don’t have maple tops and binding – they’re easier to make and easier to get through production.
“In the 60s, I think Larry [Allers] was steeped in the Gibson tradition of building set-neck instruments and with the SG he was just trying to build a solid-bodied modern-looking guitar. I don’t think he was that intent on changing the way production operated at the time, which is something I can relate to now.
"We have very specific ways of hand-crafting set-neck guitars. It’s a process. To do that right you have to build the neck tenon a little bit larger than the area that accepts it, and you kind of chisel away as you go while being mindful of the neck angle. It can take up to an hour just to set the neck of one guitar.”
Today, Gibson is returning to its roots with a fresh perspective under new leadership. “On the one hand we’re returning to our roots in terms of design,” says Mat, “and on the other we’re being more mindful of how we are perhaps stuck in our ways on the manufacturing side.
It’s not like a Norlin situation: we are just finding ways to modernise our production. That’s where the real work comes into play. We’re asking not only what makes it the best instrument, but what’s the strongest, smartest and most historically accurate instrument we can make. It’s about finding ways to modernise production and go back to what made our instruments great in the first place.
“We still have the same goal, but we have fresh, new ways of thinking about it. And we’re definitely not having machinery take the place of people, because try as we might to modernise to that extent, the answer to most of our problems is usually: find an expert. There’s usually a human being who can get us the result we’re looking for.”
The best Gibson SGs you can buy today: the best SGs for all budgets
The Gibson SG is the hard-rocking, no-nonsense electric guitar alternative to its flashier, not-so-horny solidbody cousin, the Les Paul.
Beloved of Tony Iommi and Angus Young, the SG is lightweight, with excellent upper-fret access and high-octane tones aplenty - and best of all, these days, it comes in a wide range of configurations across plenty of price points.
Here, we've rounded up some of the best Gibson SGs models (plus a bonus Epiphone SG) you can buy today. So, for those about to rock, we'd advise you start here.
The best Gibson SGs available right now
Gibson Custom Shop 1963 Les Paul SG Custom Reissue w/ Maestro Vibrola
Top of the line in ’63 and today, this reissue Custom has been painstakingly recreated using Gibson’s traditional building methods and is one of the best SGs money can buy. Sporting a solid one-piece mahogany body and long tenon, hide-glue fit neck, Classic White vintage patina nitro finish, solid ebony fretboard, mother-of-pearl block inlays, and Custombucker Alnico III humbuckers, this guitar was built to turn heads.
Gibson Custom Shop 1961 Les Paul SG Standard Reissue Stop Bar
This model is hand-crafted using old-school Kalamazoo factory methods and materials, with a hide-glue ’board/neck/body construction and a nitrocellulose Cherry Red finish. The ABR-1 Tune-o-matic bridge has brass saddles and a lightweight aluminum stop bar to maximize coupling between the strings and body, providing greater resonance, sustain and detail in conjunction with a pair of unpotted Custombucker Alnico III ’buckers.
This dual P-90 classic from Gibson’s distinctly retro Original Collection comes in a choice of two '60s-style gloss nitrocellulose lacquer metallic finishes: Faded Pelham Blue and Vintage Sparkling Burgundy. With a mahogany body, a slim taper mahogany neck and a bound rosewood fingerboard, the SG Special’s twin soapbar P-90s provide a broad base of tone with a virtually endless array of further possibilities available via the guitar’s hand-wired volume and tone controls.
Pros and students alike have long favored the Junior for its sheer simplicity and killer tones, not to mention its comparatively low price. Recently revived for the Original Collection, the SG Junior has been reintroduced with a design that strongly mirrors its original 60s counterpart, including a Vintage Cherry gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, compensated wraparound bridge, single dog-ear P-90 pickup, and hand-wired volume and tone controls.
The SG Tribute from Gibson’s Modern Collection is a stone-cold classic rock machine boasting open-coil 490R and 490T humbucking pickups, and it comes in a choice of two satin nitrocellulose lacquer finishes: a 60s-vibe Vintage Cherry Satin or 70s-chic Natural Walnut. With a mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, and an aluminum Nashville Tune-o-matic bridge with aluminum stop tailpiece, this faithful workhorse strips Gibson’s classic SG styling back to basics.
From the new Inspired by Gibson Collection, the Epiphone SG Standard ’61 harks back to the debut of the SG/Les Paul Standard with a Vintage Cherry finish and mahogany neck and body. Bolstered by high-quality CTS electronics,the dual ProBucker humbucking pickups found on this model are constructed using sand-cast Alnico II magnets along with vintage correct ‘18% Nickel Silver’ unit bases and covers, delivering quality vintage tone at a lower price point.
Original gibson sg
1984 Gibson SG Standard in front of an amplifier
|Period||1961–1963 (as Gibson Les Paul SG) 1963–present (as Gibson SG)|
|Neck joint||Set-in, bolt-on for some entry level models|
|Body||Mahogany (some models feature maple tops), birchlaminate, maple|
|Neck||Mahogany, Birch Laminate, Maple|
|Fretboard||Rosewood, ebony, maple, richlite|
|Bridge||Hardtail (Tune-O-Matic), Gibson Vibrato|
|Pickup(s)||1, 2 or 3 Humbuckers; 1, 2 or 3 P-90s; certain entry-level versions have smaller single coil pickups.|
|Heritage Cherry, Natural, Walnut, Mahogany, Classic White, Ebony and various specialty colors and bursts.|
The Gibson SG is a solid-bodyelectric guitar model introduced by Gibson in 1961 as the Gibson Les Paul SG. It remains in production today in many variations of the initial design. The SG (where "SG" refers to Solid Guitar) Standard is Gibson's best-selling model of all time.
In 1960, Gibson Les Paul sales were significantly lower than in previous years. The following year, the Les Paul was given a thinner, flat-topped mahogany body, a double cutaway which made the upper frets more accessible, and a contoured body. The neck joint was moved by three frets to further ease access to the upper frets. The simpler body construction significantly reduced production costs, and the new Les Paul, with its slender neck profile and small heel was advertised as having the "fastest neck in the world".
However, the redesign was done without knowledge of Les Paul himself (who had nothing to do with it). Although the new guitar was popular, he strongly disliked it. Problems with the strength of the body and neck made Paul dissatisfied with the new guitar. At the same time, Paul was going through a public divorce from wife and vocalist partner Mary Ford, and his popularity was dwindling as music tastes had changed in the early 1960s. Paul asked friend and former President of Gibson, Ted McCarty, for his $1 royalty per guitar to be withheld. Gibson mutually agreed to end the contract. This is from a 1992 interview with Ted McCarty, who wrote the contract and was a lifelong friend of Les Paul.
Gibson also honored Les Paul's request to remove his name from the guitar, and the new model was renamed "SG", which stood for "Solid Guitar". Les Paul's name was officially removed in 1963, but the SG continued to feature Les Paul nameplates and truss rod covers until the end of 1963.
In the early-to-mid 1960s Gibson's parent corporation, Chicago Musical Instruments, also revived the Kalamazoo brand name for a short time. Later models of the KG-1 and KG-2 featured a body style similar to the Gibson SG, effectively creating a budget-line model until the brand was dropped in the late 1960s. Gibson currently releases lower-cost, internationally sourced versions of the SG through their subsidiary, Epiphone.
Because of its ease of play, holding comfort, popularity and vintage heritage, the body style of the SG is often copied by other manufacturers, although much less frequently than the Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster.
The SG generally has a solid mahogany body, with a black pickguard. The 24.75" scale mahogany neck joins the body at the 19th or 22nd fret. Early models had a smaller neck joint with a longer tenon. This neck design provided access above the 16th fret. Epiphone-made bolt-on neck models still use a 16th fret neck joint. The SG's set neck is shallower than the Gibson Les Paul's. The SG features the traditional Gibson combination of two or three humbuckerpickups or P90 pickups and a Tune-o-matic bridge assembly, wraparound bridge, or vibrato tailpiece, depending on the model.
The SG Standard features pearloid trapezoid fretboard inlays, as well as fretboard binding and inlaid pearl "Gibson" logo and crown; the mid-level SG Special features pearloid dot inlays and an inlaid pearl "Gibson" logo, without a crown. The Standard has a volume and a tone control for each individual pickup, and a three-way switch that allows the player to select either the bridge pickup, the neck pickup, or both together. The SG does not include switching to coil split the humbuckers in stock form.
Some models use body woods other than mahogany; examples include the swamp ashSG Special, the SG Zoot Suit, made using multiple birch wood laminate, and the SG Voodoo, the 2009 Raw Power, and some walnut bodied 1970s models. High-end models, including the Diablo, occasionally sport decorative maple caps, carved tops, and gold hardware.
Models and variations
At the launch of the SG in 1961, Gibson offered four variants of the SG; the SG Junior (a stripped-down version of the standard, analogous to the Les Paul Junior), the SG Special, the SG Standard, and the top-of-the-line SG Custom.
However, Gibson's current core variants as of 2010 are the SG Standard and the SG Special. Over the years, Gibson has offered many variations of the SG, and continues to manufacture special editions, including models such as the Special and Faded Special, Supreme, Artist Signature SGs, Menace, and Gothic, as well as the premium-priced VOS reissues of the sixties SG Standard and Custom.
Models produced between 1961 and early 1966 have the original small pickguard; in late 1966 the guitar was redesigned slightly, first with a longer, more robust neck joint, and then came the modern larger semi-symmetrical "batwing" pickguard. This design continued until late 1971 or early 1972, when variations of the SG were sold with a raised Les Paul style pickguard and a front-mounted control plate. The low-end SG-100 and the P-90 equipped SG-200 appeared during this time, as well as the luxurious SG Pro and SG Deluxe guitars. Vibrato (tremolo arm) tailpieces were also introduced as options.
In 1972 the design went back to the original style pickguard and rear-mounted controls but with the neck now set further into the body, joining roughly at the 20th fret. By the end of the seventies, the SG models returned to the original sixties styling, and modern (1991–present) standard and special models have mostly returned to the 1967–1969 styling and construction, with a few exceptions; various reissues and other models of the SG still retain the original 1961–1967 styling.
In 1979, a low-cost SG made of walnut wood was introduced called "The SG." It had a clear finish and an ebony fingerboard and was accompanied by low-cost "Les Paul" and "ES 335" type guitars. "The Paul" was also made from walnut, but "The ES" was made out of solid mahogany (rather than the semi-solid body they usually produced). All three guitars were discontinued after about a year, replaced by the "firebrand" series, again made of mahogany. Also in 1979 a limited edition model, the SG Exclusive was produced. Visually similar to the SG Standard of the time, the special features included an ebony fretboard, two Dirty Fingers humbucker pickups, and a master volume, two tone controls, and rotary coil tap that gradually eliminated one coil from each humbucker. The finish was black with cream color plastics and the truss rod cover read "Exclusive".
In 1980, the first SG manufactured with "active" factory pickups was introduced. Gibson experimented with an SG that included the same Moog active electronics that had previously been used in another Gibson model, the RD Artist. The resulting SG had a slightly thicker body to accommodate the extra circuitry, and was dubbed the "Gibson SG-R1". The SG-R1 was renamed the "SG Artist" in 1981, and was discontinued shortly afterwards. Approximately 200 active SGs were produced.
In 2008, Gibson introduced the Robot SG, which feature a motorized tuning system developed by Tronical. Limited-edition variants include the SG Robot Special and the limited-edition Robot SG LTD. The Robot system was designed to be convenient for players who need to frequently change tunings, without requiring them to manually tune or carry several guitars; however, they also carry a significant price premium.
Around 2000 through 2009, Gibson introduced the SG Classic, which harked back to a Junior/Special type design, with bound mahogany fret board with dot inlays and two P-90 pickups, with a thin '60s neck profile.
In 2009, Gibson introduced the Raw Power line of SGs, which have an all-maple body, unbound maple neck and fretboard, and unique colors not previously seen in SGs. These models are priced between the entry-level Specials and the more expensive Standards. The year 2009 also brought the Guitar Center-exclusive SG Standard with Coil Taps available in both 50s and 60s style necks.
In 2013 Gibson released the new Gibson SG Baritone. This SG comes in Alpine white and has 24 frets. It comes tuned down two and a half steps to B-E-A-D-F#-B. It is made with a full mahogany body, Richlite fretboard 496R (Ceramic) Bridge Position 500T (Ceramic) pickups and a tune-o-matic bridge.
Gibson's EB-3, EB-0, EDS-1275, and later model of Melody Maker and Kalamazoo also shared or once shared SG-shaped bodies, but these are not the members of the SG family.
Epiphone also offers a range of value-priced models, including a model with 1960s styling, sold as the G-400. These models often feature simpler construction than their Gibson counterparts, although they also often implement a number of features missing from production Gibson models; examples include the period-correct 1961 SG Special's wraparound bridge (unavailable on any Gibson SG Special production model as of 2013), the 22" scale SG Express, the metal-oriented Prophecy line (equipped with high-output humbuckers and unique inlays), and a replica of the Gibson EDS-1275, popularized by Jimmy Page.
SG Faded Special (batwing pickguard)
- Angus Young of AC/DC occasionally uses a custom-made SG with lightning-bolt inlays, based on a custom model originally produced by luthier John Diggins. Since then, Young has collaborated with Gibson to make the Angus Young SG which features a custom-designed Humbucker in the bridge position, a '57 Classic in the neck position and the lightning-bolt inlays.
- Robby Krieger of The Doors used a Gibson SG Standard starting in 1965. Gibson produced a limited run of 150 SG's which incorporate many of Krieger's favorite components of various SG's.
- Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order used a Gibson SG Standard in 1976 (particularly used on album Closer in 1980)
- Gillian Gilbert of New Order used a Gibson SG Standard in 1980 (on album "Movement")
- Eric Clapton used a 1964 Gibson SG Standard starting in 1967 while in Cream. This guitar was known as the "Fool" guitar, as it was painted by the Dutch artists known collectively as The Fool. In spring 1968, the SG was loaned to Jackie Lomax, an associate of George Harrison. The "Fool" was later sold to Todd Rundgren for $500 before eventually being sold to a private collector for about $500,000.
- Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath owns several custom-made black left-handed Gibson SGs with white cross-shaped fretboard inlays. Epiphone produces a similar guitar as the Tony Iommi G-400. Iommi's original SG (used on the early Sabbath albums) was a cherry red, left-handed 1965 SG Special with P-90 pickups.
- John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service used a custom Gibson SG with custom pickguards in the shape of bat-like figures, as well as the fret board being customized with unique patterns.
- Music Machine made a limited run of 20 Stinger SG's in 2003. Ten were standards and ten were customs.
- Mike Ness of Social Distortion played a black SG in the late 70s and early 80s, with the Social Distortion logo on it, as well as a white Joan Jett and the Blackhearts bumper sticker. It can be seen on the cover of the compilation album Mainliner: Wreckage From the Past.
- Mike Oldfield used a modified 1963 SG with a guitar synthesizer pickup to control a Roland GR300 Module for some of his guitar sounds on his 1980s albums such as 1983's Crises (including "Shadow on the Wall"), 1984's Discovery (including the title track) and 1987's Islands (including "The Wind Chimes") as well as single-only tracks from this period such as 1984's "In The Pool" and 1986's "Shine".
- Tommy Bolin when in Zephyr used a 1963 SG.
- In 1992, the Gibson Custom Shop introduced a "premium plus" reissue of the '67 SG. There was an estimated run of 100 of these instruments. It included three '57 humbuckers, ABR-1 bridge, ebony fingerboard, slim tapered neck and a mother-of-pearl block. There were no certificates issued from Gibson on this particular run.
- In 1998 Gibson introduced a rarer, higher-specification version of the SG Special—The SG Special Limited Edition. It came with an ebony fingerboard, factory gold hardware, and two gold array Humbuckers, and included a Gibson gigbag.
Differences from the Les Paul
The SG has a thinner, and more contoured body than the Les Paul, making it much lighter and more comfortable. The lighter, thinner, one-layer body means the SG, unlike the Les Paul, is particularly suitable for harmonic feedback playing techniques. The SG's neck profile is typically shallower, and thinner than that of the Les Paul, though this varies between production years and individual guitars. The SG also lacks the carved maple top and body binding of the Les Paul. Unlike the Les Paul's neck, which joins the body at the 16th fret, the SG's neck joins the body at the 22nd fret, which allows easier access to higher frets. This also makes the neck joint somewhat flexible, and players have exploited this factor in extended techniques by shaking the guitar to induce a vibrato effect such as Pete Townshend at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. Despite the differences in body design, the SG and Les Paul models share similar electronics and controls. The sound of the SG is often described as having more "bite" (midrange emphasis) than a Les Paul, as both pickups are closer to the guitar's bridge.
Notable SG users
Main article: List of Gibson players
- ^Hunter, Dave (2017-06-30). "Classic Gear: The 1962 Gibson Les Paul/SG". Retrieved 2017-10-11.
- ^"The Best-Selling Gibson of All Time: The SG Standard". .gibson.com. 2009-04-14. Archived from the original on 2018-12-29. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
- ^"Former Gibson Chief Ted McCarty on Tonewoods and the Problems of 'Top-Heavy' Management - Bacon's Archive". reverb.com.
- ^Gruhn, George; Carter, Walter. Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars: An Identification Guide for American Fretted Instruments.[page needed]
Note: although 22nd fret joint is seen on early models (1961–1966) and current models (1986–), historically 17th, 18th, and 19th fret joint models were manufactured during 1967–1985.
- ^Guitar History Volume 2, Gibson SG, P. 28
- ^"Epiphone SG G-400". Epiphone.com.
- ^"Epiphone SG Express". Epiphone.com.
- ^"Epiphone G-1275 Custom". Epiphone.com.
- ^Gibson website articleArchived October 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- ^"Epiphone Tony Iommi G-400". Epiphone.com.
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Gibson SG Original
So, in the past I've always been a Gibson guy and I've owned 3 prior to this one. All of which I kind of regret letting go. I've always loved the SG. It is a guitar that has history in the hands of a couple of my biggest influences (Pete Townsend, Tony Iomi and even Hendrix to name a few). So when I finally had the cash to spend on a nice guitar this was my choice. It has it's pros and cons but I will say that I like using it in the studio. I play it with the band but when it comes to live shows I always go back to my Strat, If nothing else for the Strat's dependability in to tone and tuning stability. Don't let the name of this guitar fool you. This is an Standard with a Vibrola and Lyre tail piece.... and it was over priced. I have considered letting it go but when I think of the amount I paid for it I just can't bare to let it go for $800.
Conclusion: I own it, I like the history, I've used it in multiple recordings but I get more out of my MIM Strat.
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"- Don't you know. Another virgin. Your Viti has the same thing and now this little thing in the mouth of this young lady without principles and morality. And she knows exactly what to do with him. " Especially sonorous Vitin groan confirmed my guesses.