The Golden Age of Innovation
In the years after World War II, the electric guitar came of age and Gibson entered a golden of age of innovation. The P-90 pickup, introduced in 1946, gave guitarists new power and versatility. Under the aggressive leadership of company president Ted McCarty, Gibson debuted two new concepts in 1949 with the ES-5, the first three-pickup guitar, and the ES-175, the first guitar with a sharply pointed cutaway bout.
The advent of the solidbody electric guitar posed a new challenge for Gibson. Like the ES-150 in 1936, Gibson's first solidbody electric had to uphold Gibson tradition while going a step beyond all other guitars of its kind. A carved contoured top harkened back to the very first Orville Gibson instruments of the late 1800s, and a gold finish signified a value above all others. With the endorsement of the most popular guitarist of the time, Gibson introduced the Les Paul Model in 1952. The Les Paul quickly grew into a family of four models-the Junior, Special, Standard and Custom - all of which would become Gibson classics. Gibson's top models sported McCarty's new tune-o-matic bridge, which was introduced on the Les Paul Custom in 1954 and is still the standard Gibson electric guitar bridge. In 1958 McCarty debuted not one, but two radical new ideas-a semi-hollowbody electric and a group of exotic, futuristic solidbodies. The ES-335 was an instant success, combining traditional archtop styling with modern, solidbody construction. The Flying V, Explorer and Moderne proved to be decades ahead of their time.
Gibson pushed on into the 1960s with two more bold, modern solidbody lines-the double-cutaway SG models of '61 and the reverse-body Firebirds of '63. By the time the McCarty era ended in 1965, a foundation of classic models had been laid that would carry Gibson through the rest of the century.