Friday, November 23, 2012

The $200k Les Paul's little brother: 1960 Gibson Melody Maker

According to Gibson's website, the Melody Maker was the best selling guitar at the time.  It was cheap and looked cool too.  They produced them on the same line that made Les Pauls, ES-335s and J-200s.

The Melody Maker was a full scale guitar with trimmed down features. The body is solid Mahogany but is much thinner than a standard guitar at 1 3/8ths" thick.  It has only one single coil pickup made specifically for this model.  The neck is a full size standard neck except the headstock doesn't have the "wings" glued on the side like a standard Gibson.  

This guitar was owned by a blues player and you can tell!  He played and played it.  It has a nice aged patina but still fully playable and has all the original parts.  I bought this guitar and two others from the brother-in-law of the blues player.  The other guitars I bought from him were a 1964 Fender Duo-Sonic and a 1946 Gibson J-45.  They all have a distinctive wear mark where he put his arm and shoulder over the guitar.  This wear doesn't photograph well but this picture shows it the best.  

The guitar is all original but the case is clearly not.  It is from the late 60s/early 70s.  It fit the guitar well and protected it much better than the chipboard case that it probably came in.  That case is long gone.

 This guy must have been a hell of a player!  He played these things all the way through the finish on the neck.  It feels good- very good.  I guess he figured they needed to be broken in before they played well.  He may have been right!  Many people would pay big money to have their guitar "relic"ed like this.  Now I know why.

The neck retains the 50s style big full neck.  It has the standard width with just enough depth to feel full.  The is the same neck shape that would be on a Les Paul from the same year.  The fretboard is Rosewood but is flat-sawn instead of quarter (like would be on a Les Paul).  I've seen this one some J-45s from the late 50s as well (email guitar).

This simple layout includes a jack, tone, volume and pickup.  You could take all of the electronics out by removing the pickguard if the ground didn't go to the bridge post.  

Some have described the Melody Maker single coil as a cross between a P-90 and a Tele neck pickup.  I would say that it is closer to the Tele pickup but a bit darker.  

 Do you have one of these?  Send me a picture!


  1. I can't believe the single coil pups. I always throught they were P90's from the start. I stand corrected. Do you know when the P90 were invented and where featured on the melody maker? thanks

    1. You are probably thinking about the Les Paul Jr. which did have a P-90. It also had the standard thick body as well as the wings on the headstock. They are really great guitars and bring a couple thousand dollars more than the Melody Makers on average. Thanks for reading my blog! Your books are so cool!

  2. Beautiful guitar. I currently have the slightly newer version, a 1964 (doublecut see here, but I am familiar with these early single cuts. They just play so well. I'm not a massive fan of the PU380 pickup (I also have one fitted to my Epiphone Granada) but the wood/construction is just superb. Cheap Gibsons used to be amazing wood and finish but lesser pickups. Now they are cheap wood and finish, but standard pickups. I'll chose an old one every time.

    1. Lovely guitar and nice blog :)
      I had a chance at one of these many years ago when I was in a 'Punk" band...the guy wanted $250 for a Melody Maker and a seventies Fender Twin....fool me was into Les Pauls and Marshalls so turned the deal down.
      Again FOOL ME!!

      Keep up the nice work on the blog



  3. I think I have a 1960 Melody Maker Serial No. 223, my Dad bought it new when I received it in 1992 we both played it for years. When he gave it to me it was in bad shape I had to buy new pickguard, wiring harness,volume,tone knobs, pickguard screws, well more things to get it back in shape. The bad thing he did to it was he moved the pickup under the neck I filled the hole back up with wood and bondo looks pretty good. Will show you picture. Thanks Jack