The first ES guitar to be fitted with three pickups, and was initially intended solely for jazz players
"The ES-5 combines the acclaimed features of the L-5 with the finest method of electronic guitar amplification. Three separately controlled, adjustable magnetic pickups reproduce the full, rich tones and harmonics to make the ES-5 truly ‘the instrument of a thousand voices.'" — Gibson catalog, circa 1951
The Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster was truly a guitar ahead of its time. First introduced in 1949, the ES-5 Switchmaster was the first ES guitar to be fitted with three pickups, and was initially intended solely for jazz players. It was dubbed the “supreme electronic version” of Gibson’s L-5 and offered a unique four-knob control circuitry that allowed players to manage pickup selection by adjusting the volume of each pickup, thus eliminating the pickup selector switch. Yet despite its pioneering circuitry and three-pickup layout, the ES-5 Switchmaster was not immediately embraced by jazz players while competing guitar manufacturers rushed to introduce their own similar models, including the Epiphone Zephyr Emperor of the early 1950s and the Fender Stratocaster in 1954.