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  1. #41

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Re My much earlier post (#14): My 1959 ES345 has no FON (as far as I can tell) and lost its orange label before I got it. However, it is unmistakably a '59. It has the black Varitone ring, shallow neck angle, short legged treble PAF, and no wax potting. Both PAFs are double black. The neck is full yet fast. I don't think it's a `first rack' but then again, it has no FON. The pot (treble tone, the only one no in a can) dates to the 26th week of 1959 (IIRC). It has gold Schallers (thank you 1970s!). I did the black light thing once out of curiosity and everything light up correctly. It has minimal to virtually no checking. The Varitone is intact and I use it. I love the OOP sound.

    I know the black Varitone ring indicates 1959 and sometimes early 1959. What is the understanding of black Varitone rings and first-rackness?

  2. #42
    Les Paul Forum Member Little Jake's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by Gravelrocks View Post
    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.



    That's the earliest FON that I'm aware of for an early ES-345. I own the '59 345TD one serial number away with FON S8538, which is right in the middle of the FONs commonly considered "first rack" 345s (S8537, S8538, S8539). Does the guitar have other "first rack" features, such as the varitone choke positioned directly below a short-legged bridge pickup?

    Another apparent anomaly is the single-ply top binding, as on a 335, rather than the usual three-ply top binding on 345's.

  3. #43
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jake View Post
    That's the earliest FON that I'm aware of for an early ES-345. I own the '59 345TD one serial number away with FON S8538, which is right in the middle of the FONs commonly considered "first rack" 345s (S8537, S8538, S8539). Does the guitar have other "first rack" features, such as the varitone choke positioned directly below a short-legged bridge pickup?

    Another apparent anomaly is the single-ply top binding, as on a 335, rather than the usual three-ply top binding on 345's.
    Good eye on the binding! I hadn't noticed that before. This is just pure conjecture on my part, but I wonder if that guitar could've possibly started as a 335 given the binding and the FON. Very cool!

  4. #44
    Les Paul Forum Member Little Jake's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Minnis View Post
    Good eye on the binding! I hadn't noticed that before. This is just pure conjecture on my part, but I wonder if that guitar could've possibly started as a 335 given the binding and the FON. Very cool!

    That was my initial thought, too. But if it started as a regular 335, I assume it would have been assembled with an intact center block, which would make later conversion for varitone a challenge. I'm aware of one late '58 335 and one early '59 335 that have the varitone circuit (presumably custom orders), so perhaps a more reasonable explanation is this guitar started as a custom order 335 with varitone but ended up with a 345 fingerboard and gold hardware.

  5. #45
    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
    That was my initial thought, too. But if it started as a regular 335, I assume it would have been assembled with an intact center block, which would make later conversion for varitone a challenge. I'm aware of one late '58 335 and one early '59 335 that have the varitone circuit (presumably custom orders), so perhaps a more reasonable explanation is this guitar started as a custom order 335 with varitone but ended up with a 345 fingerboard and gold hardware.
    Lots of possible scenarios. It could have been a 335 body that got mixed in by accident with 345's. It could have been a special order or it could have been a prototype. The supposed first 345 is Hank Garlands with a later serial number but serial numbers don't seem to mean much. Apparently, nor do the archives of the Garland family-there has been some question about that particular 345 (A29915) being the actual prototype.
    I have the previous serial, A29914, in my database as S8537-7.

    I've had at least a dozen very early 345's (including two black ones) all in the S8537, 8538 and 8539 FON range. The serial numbers were all over the place though. Most were in the A29660-A299xx range but the black one with the Bigsby (FON S8539-29) was A30576. To confuse things even more, rack S8537, which was mostly 345's, included at least one 335-a black stop tail (S8537-5) that had an even later serial number A31302. It also appears that S8539 has consistently earlier serials than S8537 and S8538 with some exceptions. My opinion is that perhaps the actual "first rack" was S8539. It doesn't really matter since the term generally applies to any early 345 with ALL of the "first rack" attributes-short leg PAF, small choke rout, huge neck and, of course black VT ring. The wax potting of the choke shows up in some but not others. The more you learn, the less you know.

  6. #46

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I figure it's about time to resurface this thread as another "First Rack" surfaced. Admittedly, I had never heard of that term before, but after having a great discussion with Charlie yesterday (thank you!), I feel fortunate to know that this is one. I got this from the owner who purchased it in 1959 and the SN is A29667 (the 7th 345 on the S/N log posted in a thread above). It has the humungous neck and the other "First Rack" features. It has a double-black PAF in the neck and Zebra (hot....9.3k) in the bridge. I find all of this history super fascinating and haven't stopped playing it! Cheers everyone and thanks to all for the info here! - Trey


  7. #47
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's


  8. #48
    Les Paul Forum Member ourmaninthenorth's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by treyrab View Post

    Will you look at that...absolutely bloody gorgeous.

    Thanks for posting Trey, it's a day maker.

    Shakespeare walks into a pub, the Landlord says "get out, you're Bard"

  9. #49

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Jeebus! That thing is gorgeous!!! We need more pics!

    Quote Originally Posted by treyrab View Post
    I figure it's about time to resurface this thread as another "First Rack" surfaced. Admittedly, I had never heard of that term before, but after having a great discussion with Charlie yesterday (thank you!), I feel fortunate to know that this is one. I got this from the owner who purchased it in 1959 and the SN is A29667 (the 7th 345 on the S/N log posted in a thread above). It has the humungous neck and the other "First Rack" features. It has a double-black PAF in the neck and Zebra (hot....9.3k) in the bridge. I find all of this history super fascinating and haven't stopped playing it! Cheers everyone and thanks to all for the info here! - Trey


  10. #50
    Les Paul Forum Member GuitarMikey's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Beautiful guitar Trey and good to have you here!
    I believe you are the gentlemen I was messaging on instagram yesterday.

    Mike
    GuitarMikey

  11. #51

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarMikey View Post
    Beautiful guitar Trey and good to have you here!
    I believe you are the gentlemen I was messaging on instagram yesterday.

    Mike
    Thank you so much Mike for turning me on to the term and for starting my research!

  12. #52
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Beautiful guitar! As a first rack owner, congratulations! Do you mind sharing the FON?

  13. #53

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by GotTheSilver View Post
    Jeebus! That thing is gorgeous!!! We need more pics!
    Ask and you shall receive! Cheers mate!










  14. #54
    Les Paul Forum Member Xpensive Wino's Avatar
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    Esseries Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    That's the kind of top I like.

    Flames belong in the fireplace.

  15. #55
    Les Paul Forum Member Little Jake's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Congrats from another first racker. Very nice guitar -- enjoy!

  16. #56
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    How did I not end up with that guitar? It's stunning and that neck looks like a Louisville Slugger. Just a note-I know of two much earlier 345's. The "first rack" 345's were shipped in April. There are at least two (and probably more) shipped in February. Serials are A29132 and A29133. Both have 58 FONs T7303 which is very late 58.

  17. #57
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    congrats! that is gorgeous!

  18. #58

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Goodness gracious that is unbelievably nice! Congrats!

  19. #59
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Good heavens, that's a keeper.

    Congratulations.
    The artist formerly known as "A-hole".



  20. #60
    Les Paul Forum Member latestarter's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    I swore....in a good way. Well done. Thanks for the photos!
    Otherwise known as Grant.

  21. #61
    Les Paul Forum Member marshall1987's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    That '59 ES-345 is just about as nice as they get! What a beautiful instrument. I'll bet it plays and sounds fantastic. Congratulations.
    "Scan not a friend under a microscopic glass; you know his faults so let his foibles pass".

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  22. #62
    Les Paul Forum Member GuitarMikey's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    We should start a list of all these first racks with FON/SN.
    GuitarMikey

  23. #63
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarMikey View Post
    We should start a list of all these first racks with FON/SN.
    Should I include the "myserious" first rack black 335?
    The artist formerly known as "A-hole".



  24. #64
    Les Paul Forum Member GuitarMikey's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by F-Hole View Post
    Should I include the "myserious" first rack black 335?
    Absolutely! Probably my favorite 3X5 of all
    GuitarMikey

  25. #65
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarMikey View Post
    We should start a list of all these first racks with FON/SN.
    Already done that. I have perhaps 20-25 logged that I've owned or that have been sent by readers. That includes the "mysterious" black 335 that came out of an early 345 rack. I will post that section of my database on my site over the weekend. There are a number of variations among these "first rack" 345's. Some have the chokes wax potted, some don't. Many have zebras or double whites and a few have reverse zebras. All have the "short leg" PAF in the bridge. All have the small rout for the chokes. Most, but not all, have the humongous neck profile. Most are sunburst. No red ones. There are at least 2 black first racks, at least 3 blondes and an Argentine Grey. The quintessential "burst killer".

  26. #66
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner and Moderator CDaughtry's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Someone should start a thread on here. It would be fun and informative, and we all love looking at those beauties!

  27. #67
    Les Paul Forum Member GuitarMikey's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    If someone starts it, I'll be glad to submit my photos, serial and FON.
    Charlie might be the best candidate
    GuitarMikey

  28. #68
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Trey, that is one beautiful guitar. Congratulations.
    "As soon as man does not take his existence for granted, but beholds it as something unfathomably mysterious, thought begins." Albert Schweitzer

  29. #69
    Formerly Lefty Elmo Steve Craw's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    IMO, the ES-345 is THE most beautiful guitar ever built.

  30. #70

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Thanks Charlie for the blog post on your site with the First Rack database and info!

  31. #71
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Considering each rack is usually 35 guitars and there are three racks that have the "first rack" characteristics, there are over 100 of them out there somewhere. My database is a good start at 24 guitars but where are the rest of them? Under a bed? In a closet? At Grandma's house in the basement since Grandpa died in '86? Let's see how many more we can turn up. Send me (or post) yours if it isn't already in my database. All I need to know is the FON, finish color and serial. The other information (wax potting or not, neck profile, tailpiece, bobbin colors, condition, etc) is optional. The first rack database is posted in my site. If you have one and it isn't listed, please send me your information. No names will be posted.

  32. #72

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by OKGuitar View Post
    Considering each rack is usually 35 guitars and there are three racks that have the "first rack" characteristics, there are over 100 of them out there somewhere.
    Hi Charlie - Do all racks include the same model (i.e., would all (or most) of the 35 in a rack be 345s)? Just thinking out-loud, but if only 478 ES-345s shipped in '59 (at least per the shipping totals), 100+ in April '59 alone seems high.

  33. #73
    Les Paul Forum Member OKGuitar's Avatar
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    They were usually the same guitar model within a rack. Yes, 100 345's in April would seem high except that the ship dates were spread out over a much longer period. My database shows first rack 345's were shipped well into June and possibly much later seeing as I only show about a quarter of the first three racks in my database. The next 345 rack in my database didn't ship until August. So, if the first 3 racks (105 guitars) lasted 3 to 4 months, it starts making sense. Assume only a few were shipped before April and 105 were shipped from April to, say, the end of July, then another 375 0r so were shipped from August to December or approximately 10 more racks. There were definitely more 345's shipped late in the year judging by the large number of late 59's that show up on the market (gold VT ring). My database contains around 200 guitars from 58-60. I show 13 racks that were built after the first three. That would be 455 guitars which when added to the 105 from the first three racks add up to 560 guitars, That's about 85 more than were shipped in 59. There are a fair number of 59 FON 345's with 60 serial numbers and 85 of them would not be out of the question.

  34. #74

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    [QUOTE=OKGuitar;2800028]They were usually the same guitar model within a rack. /QUOTE]

    Thanks! I knew there had to be more to it than my simple approach. Appreciate the info as always!

  35. #75
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    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Quote Originally Posted by Gravelrocks View Post
    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.

    Yes, I think the thin top of these early 345s is a significant component of their fabulous tone! And, HOT PAFs!

  36. #76

    Re: "First Rack" ES-345's

    Serious Growl

    Nutting like it,


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