Well, I think I feel a song coming on. Of course how many of you are going to remember the film “The Blue Angel” with Marlene Dietrich singing it? It was 1930 and not even I’m that old. It goes like this:
Falling in love again
Never wanted to
What am I to do?
I can’t help it
Well, that’s kind of the story of the guitar at the top. And it’s a 1969-way out there at the edge of the “Golden Era” universe. Those who read me regularly know that I don’t collect guitars. I love to find them, I love to play them and I ultimately sell them. No falling in love allowed. That gorgeous birdseye 58 335? Gone. The red 59 345? Gone twice. The watermelon 60 dot neck that I’ve had for all of two weeks? Gone. But fall in love I do because I love the blondes, I love mono 355’s and I love the rare stuff. This one is particularly interesting to me because I so rarely see any 3×5’s later than 68.
69 was the beginning of the end for the classic 335. The one piece neck went to three piece. The headstock grew a volute (that reinforcement bump at the base of the headstock that everybody hates although I’m not totally sure why). The long neck tenon went away and, horror of horrors, the dot in the “i” in Gibson disappeared. Have they no shame? Seriously, though, 1969 has so many variations that you need a score sheet to know what you’re getting. Let’s see… three piece neck but not volute but long tenon. short tenon one piece neck no volute. There must be 20 different configurations. And what about the “Made in USA” designation? That happened in 69 as well. But I digress. This was about a particular 69.
In my years as an ES fan, player, hobbyist buyer and now dealer, I’ve seen perhaps five, maybe six blonde ES-355’s. One, a lefty, was almost certainly a refinish, so lets say five. There’s a beautiful 59, a stunning 64, my guitar bud Gil had a 60, I had a 64 that was re-necked and my friend Mike has one with an ebony block tailpiece from 63, I believe. Then there’s this 69. All of the others, if memory serves (and it often doesn’t) were stereo. I know the 59, the 60, the 64 and the re-neck were. I’m pretty sure the other one is as well. That makes this 69 the only mono blonde 355 that I know of. There’s probably another one but I don’t know where it is. There were a few interesting features that made me buy this one.
Of course, a blonde mono 355 is a rare and wonderful thing but it’s still a 69. By 69, the blondes were birch plywood (like the 68 335 blonde I wrote about recently). This one is maple (and nicely figured, thank you). A lot of 69’s have three piece necks. This has a one piece (no volute, no made in USA). A lot (and I mean most) 69 355’s have a Maestro tailpiece, which most of you know I don’t particularly like on an ES. This one has a Bigsby. I’d be willing to bet the ranch that those are pre T-tops in there but they’re sealed and I’m not about to crack them open. Every gold hardware 68 I’ve ever opened had pre T’s. This is the first gold hardware 69 I’ve ever owned. It’s got a nice fat neck- a lot like a 64 but with a narrow nut. Bound f-holes are pretty cool too. It makes the oversize late 60’s big f-holes (which look wrong to me), look a little less oversized. So there’s a lot to like here.
I can play a narrow nut-I can’t play it all night long but I can adapt pretty quickly. This guitar has some wonderful tone and it’s enough to make me re-think my emphasis and start writing more about the 66-69’s. I’m not a snob. I specialize in the early ones but I really appreciate a lot of the 66-68’s (and this 69). And there are a lot of them and they are not priced that much higher than the reissues. So, here’s to falling in love with a younger girl. Not much younger but to a lot of us those 5 years between 64 and 69 were perhaps the best years to be a musician in the history of musicians.