Chuck Berry, B.B. King, and other formative players in the evolving early days of rock and electric blues had already immortalized the Gibson ES-335 when the company’s engineers fine-tuned the guitar in 1963. Today’s Custom Shop ES-335 Block Inlay Reissue model reflects those original refinements, which enhance the guitar’s playability and beauty.
The popularity of the ES-335 was already secure and continued to grow, but in1963 when the first generation of the revamped ES-335s left Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory sales peaked. That year the dots on the fingerboard of the standard ES-335 inaugurated in 1958 were replaced with the block inlays that give this Custom Shop model its name. They provided easier visibility in live playing situations, where lighting is often less than ideal, and an extra touch of eye-catching class. The other refinement to the ’63 was the use of the tapered, thinner-profile neck common to Gibson’s built in the ’60s.
The ES-335 Block Inlay guitars made by Gibson’s Custom Shop in Memphis today benefit from the exacting standards of contemporary guitar building technology, resulting in a much more consistent instrument than those that originally rolled off the assembly line. And before each finished guitar leaves the Custom Shop floor it is examined and adjusted by one of the company’s state-of-the-art Pleck machines, so it leaves set up for maximum playability.
To recreate a vintage look, the plain maple top, back, and rims of the ES-335 Block Inlay come finished in antique red or antique teaburst. Like the Fat Neck model, it has a lightweight maple centerblock to provide its classic semi-hollowbody resonant and tonal characteristics. Unlike the all-maple 1963 ES-335 Block reissue model, the ES-335 Block Inlay has a three-ply maple/poplar/maple body construction. There’s single-ply cream binding on the top and back and a five-ply ’63 style long pickguard. The hardware is nickel, with an ABR bridge and stop tailpiece.
The ES-355 Block Inlay models’ neck is one-piece mahogany shaped to a 1963 slim taper profile that’s 24 ¾”-inch scale length and 1 11/16th-inches wide at the nut. The guitar has a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard with pearloid small block inlays and single-ply cream binding. The tuners are vintage tulip shaped, handsomely complimenting the headstock.
Unlike the Custom Shop 1963 ES-335 Block reissue, which has a pair of Gibson ’57 Classic humbuckers, the ES-335 Block Inlay comes with Burstbucker Pro 1 and 2 pickups. They are controlled by two volume pots, two tone pots, and a three-way selector switch. And these guitars leave the factory strung with Gibson Brite Wire .010 strings inside a black levant case, to enhance their historic feel and presence.