- Sep 12, 2014
Great questions! So a bit of historical context here...the original style Firebird (reverse) was designed outside of Gibson (by Ray Dietrich but you know this) in 1962 and it was up to Larry Allers and his team to figure out how to build the thing. They hadn't done anything like it, and the 9-ply centerpiece came about after two-piece centerpieces literally came apart. There was a wing redesign too. Anyway with the length of wood required for the neck-through and the complexity of the build made the model the scourge of the factory. It impeded throughput and with the introduction of the Thunderbird bass, the factory literally had to rearrange how they channeled these extremely long models through production. However players loved it and it was a commercial success, based on how many they were able to produce with such complexity.Mat,
Glad to have your expertise available to us. Hope you don't get hammered too bad!
My question pertains to USA Production Firebirds. Rumor floating around that they are going to be discontinued. What can you tell us about that? Additionally, how were the finish choices selected for the recent Birds, going back to say 2015? One year only Ebony, other years, Vintage Sunburst and a custom color.
If the Firebird will continue to be a regular USA production model in 2022 and beyond, any chance one of the finishes would be White?
Another question, 2018 was the last year the sculpted headstock was used on the USA Firebirds. Why did Gibson move away from that headstock and instead use the flat one with the Mini Grovers? I have my theory but I'd like to know from the company perspective.
Finally, in regards to the Mini Grovers, on the Gibson Birds, the tuner buttons are very close together; difficult to tune sometimes. The new Inspired by Gibson Epiphone Firebird uses the same tuning machines but their spacing is different and much easier to tune. Any chance that Gibson would A, go back to the sculpted head stock with banjo tuners and B, if the flat one is used, would Gibson make a change to the tuner spacing like is on the Epiphone Bird.
Thanks in advance for your response and thank again for taking on such an undertaking.
When all was said and done, the original style Firebirds and Thunderbirds were not made for more than two years. The Non-Reverse Firebird took its place as a much easier-to-build model with the classic set neck construction. It too was a commercial success, even moreso given the ability to fill an order book efficiently.
Cut to today. Still a very difficult guitar to build. So difficult that it prompted that headstock change at USA (not at Custom Shop where a Historic Reissue is a Historic Reissue) and eventually let to the *temporary* discontinuation of it and the Thunderbird as you said. But we will have reverse Thunderbird artist models coming up, and we introduced Non-Reverse Thunderbirds which are killer. Non-Reverse Firebirds are next. The goal is to have a more manageable product life cycle...it helps the overall mix. So in a couple years we'll go back to the classic Firebird at USA, perhaps with some concessions like fewer body ply and definitely different tuner spacing. Great idea there, so thank you.
White is the hardest color to get through a nitrocellulose guitar factory, bar none. But we are hard at work trying to make that and all lighter opaque colors factory-friendly at Gibson USA. Although white paint has been a battle since the Les Paul Custom in '61. Just very susceptible to airborne debris and aniline dye floating through the air and it's not easy to repair and rework. But people expect perfection, and that is what we aim for...just going to take some careful planning (and cleaning).
That said, Custom Shop went through the same woes with white paint and came out on the other side better than ever. We're running a lot of white guitars there. AND I'm happy to announce that we have a Polaris White Johnny Winter Firebird V out of Murphy Lab dropping later this year which may be of interest to you. They are turning out killer!