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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    "First Rack" ES-345's

    I'm trying to get a sense of the timeline regarding very early ES-345s. The lowest serial that I know of is Tom H's blondie in the A296xx range. These early 345s have some characteristics that later went away but there is some inconsistency (big surprise) in both the serial number sequence and the features. The typical "first rack" features are the smaller bridge pickup rout which necessitates the "short leg" PAF, the sometimes wax potted VT chokes and the humongous neck. I recently sold A 2971x and recently acquired A2995x. The earlier one didn't have a short leg PAF but had the small rout and the huge neck. It didn't have the wax potted chokes. A2995x has the short leg PAF (double white) and the wax potted chokes and the big neck. Here's what really throws it out of whack. The original ES-345 prototype belonged to Hank Garland and had a serial number very close to the one I just acquired. His is A29915. Gibson often used serial numbers out of order, so that's no surprise but it makes the early history of the 345 difficult to research. It would make sense that going forward, Gibson would make changes that made construction easier and more cost efficient. So, the disappearance of the small rout-replaced by the fully cut block made economic sense. Similarly, I would think that the elimination of wax potting would make sense but the A2971x 345 didn't have it and the later serial does. The FON of A2995x is S8537 32. I'll have to check the records on the earlier serial since that one is sold but I think I wrote it down somewhere. So, anybody with a 345 with a serial before A30000, please chime in and let me know what you know in terms of these early characteristics and FONs. If you don't want to post your numbers here, just email me. Here's Hank's documentation


  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member mbowen's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I will have to dig this guitar out to check the Fon -all i remember is it is 59.This one has the biggest neck of any of my old guitars except for a 1968-69-Les Paul Custom which may be a little larger.Anyway here is the serial # A-29952--do not know if that is First or second rack?Got FON -S8537 9 looks like smaller lead pickup route,mine was wired for mono when i got it so do not know about the choke not sure what to look for?.M.B.


    Last edited by mbowen; 06-11-13 at 02:44 PM.

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Yours is from the same rack as mine-S8537. Yours is number 9 in the rack, mine is #32. Interesting that the serial numbers are only 6 apart but the rack number is 23 apart. Is the bridge pAF a "short leg"? Is there any wax residue in the cutout?

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member mbowen's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    Yours is from the same rack as mine-S8537. Yours is number 9 in the rack, mine is #32. Interesting that the serial numbers are only 6 apart but the rack number is 23 apart. Is the bridge pAF a "short leg"? Is there any wax residue in the cutout?
    Do not know next time i change strings on it i will pop the lead pickup and look,Mike B.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I just heard from the gentleman I sold A2971x to and the FON is actually LATER by 1. His is S8538 3. So, the question of the earliest rack number (as opposed to the earliest serial number) becomes a little clearer. The serial number and the rack numbers don't seem to necessarily correspond to each other. I know that the rack numbers are consecutive and that serial numbers often were not. Therefore S8537 9 is earlier than mine S8537 32. But A2971x which is 200 serial numbers earlier is from the next rack of 40 or so guitars built. I spoke to Gil S about it and he explained that he always referred to black VT ring giant neck 345's as "first rack" regardless of whether they actually were from the lowest rack number which makes sense since we're talking about certain features. Anybody else got a number for me? Tom H?
    Last edited by OKGuitar; 06-11-13 at 05:20 PM.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member mbowen's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    I just heard from the gentleman I sold A2971x to and the FON is actually LATER by 1. His is S8538 3. So, the question of the earliest rack number (as opposed to the earliest serial number) becomes a little clearer. The serial number and the rack numbers don't seem to necessarily correspond to each other. I know that the rack numbers are consecutive and that serial numbers often were not. Therefore S8537 9 is earlier than mine S8537 32. But A2971x which is 200 serial numbers earlier is from the next rack of 40 or so guitars built. I spoke to Gil S about it and he explained that he always referred to black VT ring giant neck 345's as "first rack" regardless of whether they actually were from the lowest rack number which makes sense since we're talking about certain features. Anybody else got a number for me? Tom H?
    I have bought a bunch of ES's from Gil S.and yes he always called a Huge neck Black VT ring a first rack Es-345.In reality it looks like that description could be applied to the first two racks or at least the early part of the second rack.Mike B.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member Little Jake's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    The black '59 335 recently posted in the "Love ES" thread is from the same rack as the two 345's discussed above: FON S8537 5; Serial No. A31302. So, earlier FON, much later ser. no.

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jake View Post
    The black '59 335 recently posted in the "Love ES" thread is from the same rack as the two 345's discussed above: FON S8537 5; Serial No. A31302. So, earlier FON, much later ser. no.
    That seems crazy but I had a 59 ES355 with an A306xx serial and a 58 FON. That's what makes this fun. And a little frustrating, perhaps. So who has FON S8536 xx?

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Allegedly Hank Garland had two early ES-345s. I would take anything, and everything, with a grain-of-salt that came from his family or estate. History has been revised several times over the years....if you get my drift.

    I have waded into those waters more than once...

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I owned A29663 for quite awhile. I bought it from Gil. An amazing guitar which I regret selling but, ya know, I just had to have a dot 335! The 345 had the black Varitone ring of course...Unfortunately I can't recall the FON. The guitar had the biggest neck profile I've ever encountered on an ES model, in fact likely the largest profile I'd ever seen on any Gibson electric. It had a full white PAF in the neck position. I believe the bridge pickup had the short leg...I don't recall seeing any waxy residue inside the guitar...

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Here is my 345 on Tom's site. http://www.es-335.net/345/A29846.html

    I just checked my FON. It's S8537 12. The varitone has been removed, but it was wax potted. The neck is exceptional for my tastes. Full, but not a baseball bat. Not sure about the other specs. It's a fabulous guitar. Light, wonderfully alive. The "one" for me.

  12. #12
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    So far A29846, A29952 and A29958 are all from the same rack (S8537) and A29719 is from one rack later (S8538). The black one probably had a finish or grain flaw and was held back and then painted black when the order came in and was given a later serial number despite being part of S8537. And it's a 335 anyway and not relevant to this discussion. It does show that the "racks" were mixed. Interesting that the lowest serial is not the lowest in the rack. Anybody got one with an earlier FON (S8536 maybe?) Gil loves these huge neck monster guitars. Too big for my little hands.
    Last edited by OKGuitar; 06-12-13 at 03:48 PM.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    So far A29846, A29952 and A29958 are all from the same rack (S8537) and A29719 is from one rack later (S8538). The black one probably had a finish or grain flaw and was held back and then painted black when the order came in and was given a later serial number despite being part of S8537. And it's a 335 anyway and not relevant to this discussion. It does show that the "racks" were mixed. Interesting that the lowest serial is not the lowest in the rack. Anybody got one with an earlier FON (S8536 maybe?) Gil loves these huge neck monster guitars. Too big for my little hands.
    As I stated, mine doesn't necessarily have a huge neck. Although it's certainly full.

  14. #14

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    That's A29958 which I bought and was the only bidder.

  16. #16
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    That LOOKS spectacular!

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member mbowen's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    That's A29958 which I bought and was the only bidder.
    You have more guts then i do a seller with 0 feedback scared me.I am glad it was legit and you got the guitar for a super price,Mike B.
    Last edited by mbowen; 06-13-13 at 09:21 AM.

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    You win some, you lose some. This one was a winner. Killer guitar.

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member TomGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    The FON on my blonde is S8539.

    I am not convinced though that FON's were consecutive. Does anyone know that to be fact? I have seen wildly divergent FON's on guitars whose serial numbers, specs, and all other indications of time period were very close.

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    It is my understanding that it is just about the only thing at Gibson that is consistent. The serial numbers and features can be all over the place because the FON simply says that the guitar's construction was begun in a certain "rack". Some would be completed months or even years later. I have a 60 FON on a 62 block neck. For all I know, rack 8537, 8538 and 8539 were all begun on the same day. Your blonde has the lowest serial of any I know of. My question is which early features it has. Wax potted VT? Short leg PAF? I'm trying to get a handle on what features came on the very first ones. Serial numbers are what is messing up my research. I had A29719-rack 8538, no wax potting, no short leg PAF. I just sold A29958, rack 8537, wax potted, short leg PAF. I spoke to Gil about it and he thought he had one from rack 8536.

  21. #21

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    How often do these classic era ('50's) ES guitars lack FONs?

  22. #22
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I generally see only ES 335/345/355 models and I've never seen one without a FON from the 50's. I don't see the 125/225/175/330/350 that often but every one I've had has had a FON as far as I can recall.

  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Esseries Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    I generally see only ES 335/345/355 models and I've never seen one without a FON from the 50's. I don't see the 125/225/175/330/350 that often but every one I've had has had a FON as far as I can recall.
    +1!

  24. #24
    Les Paul Forum Member mbowen's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Giving this thread a bump so it is easy to find so RedSkyDog can post his early ES-345 that he posted in the I love ES's thread.Mike B.
    Last edited by mbowen; 07-15-13 at 01:55 PM.

  25. #25
    RedSkyDog
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    My ES 345 T shipped on April 21, 1959, first in a 'rack' of nine sunbursts, one in 'Special Grey Finish'. It's FON is S8539 5, serial A29662. I've never seen an earlier 345 sunburst serial number, could this one be the first shipped ES 345 T sunburst?



    Some shipping ledger sheets obtained from Gibson years ago showing some April '59 ES shipments:




  26. #26
    Formerly Lefty Elmo Steve Craw's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    OMG!!!!

  27. #27
    Les Paul Forum Member chuckNC's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    That's what I'm talkin about!
    If it sounds good, it is good.

  28. #28
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by RedSkyDog View Post
    My ES 345 T shipped on April 21, 1959, first in a 'rack' of nine sunbursts, one in 'Special Grey Finish'. It's FON is S8539 5, serial A29662. I've never seen an earlier 345 sunburst serial number, could this one be the first shipped ES 345 T sunburst?



    Some shipping ledger sheets obtained from Gibson years ago showing some April '59 ES shipments:



    Beautiful guitar!

  29. #29
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    It's always tricky to assess these things. The FONs are chronological but serial numbers often are not. So, if your guitar has the lower serial, it probably shipped earlier but if it has the earlier FON, it was built earlier (or at least started earlier). I believe the first rack of 345s is S8536 or S8537. Gil S. mentioned to me that he thought he had one from the earlier rack. I've never seen any earlier than S8537.

  30. #30
    Banker
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Serial A29845, FON S8537 14.

    Short leg PAF, no wax potting.




  31. #31
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Esseries Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Minnis View Post
    Beautiful guitar!
    I owned A29663 for many years; huge neck, double-white in the neck position, some nice birdseye grain and it played and sounded wonderfully...the FON on the guitar was S8539 20; like a total idiot I sold it due to the "tone-sucking" Varitone and I just had to have a dotneck 335, right? My '63 factory mono and stoptail 355 is a decent replacement for the 345...

  32. #32

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    The FONs are chronological
    My understanding, from reading the recent Spann Guide to Gibson, is that the FON batch numbers were not strictly chronological, and sometimes jumped around quite a bit during a year. Whether that practice changed in the post-WWII era, I am not sure.

  33. #33
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Anything is possible. Clearly the FON stamp went on before the guitar was actually built and if they are designated as racks, I would logically assume that they stayed together during the assembly process. Whether they stamped rack S8537 at a later date (or later the same day for that matter) than S8536 is a bit of a leap of faith but probable, I think. Whether they actually built them in the order they stamped them is a further leap. I'd love to hear from someone who was actually at Gibson during the late 50's.

  34. #34
    Les Paul Forum Member vintage58's Avatar
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    Quick question: Would "S1350 17" be possible as a 1959 FON?
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    "And it seems to me perfectly in the cards that there will be, within the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making
    people love their servitude, and producing . . . a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact
    have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propa-
    ganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods." Aldous Huxley, 1961

  35. #35
    Les Paul Forum Member Little Jake's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by vintage58 View Post
    Quick question: Would "S1350 17" be possible as a 1959 FON?
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    I say yes: the "S" denotes '59, and there are known es-345's with FON's of S1348 and S1349. Haven't seen anything with S1350, though--you got something?

  36. #36
    Les Paul Forum Member ultra's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I have S1349 2 and "S" denotes that it is a '59. The serial number and oval label are missing on my ES345

    With a S1349 2 FON, what range could the original serial number have been?

    A31xxx or A32xxx?

  37. #37
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I have a pretty good database of FON's and serials. It shows 1350-41 with the serial A31944. Also 1348-31 with the serial A31731. Both were sunburst 345's

  38. #38
    Les Paul Forum Member ultra's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    I have a pretty good database of FON's and serials. It shows 1350-41 with the serial A31944. Also 1348-31 with the serial A31731. Both were sunburst 345's
    Thanks Charlie.

    I would imagine that my serial number would be somewhere in the middle of A31731 and A31944

  39. #39

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I'm reviving this old thread, as I just came across it. I have a '59 es-345 with serial number is A29823, and FON is T7443. This is definitely an early one, as the build apparently started in '58, and it's an early serial number. Great sounding guitar with a fat neck and hot pickups. Question: I understand the tops are thinner on these, and wondering if people agree that this contributes to a more acoustic tone than the later 345's or 335's. I've always found my guitar to be more "hollow" sounding than many of the other old 335's I've played, many of which responded much like Les Pauls.


  40. #40

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Re Above photo: Yes, it's for sale in the classified section. It looks great. At $17.5k, it might be optimistically priced.

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