The more I think about it, the more I realize that so many of my early tastes in guitar style were shaped by my guitar teacher. It helps that he had impeccable taste in guitars. A beautiful ‘60s SG, a red ES-335 and a lovely Cherry Sunburst Les Paul Deluxe with mini-humbuckers were just a few of the instruments that used to distract me from my lessons.
But the very first electric guitar I ever played was his 1957 Gibson ES-175. Even at such a young age - I was probably about 10 - I could tell that this guitar had significance and a history. I used to dream about owning such a guitar. I haven't yet added one to my collection but I hope that I do some day soon. Some of those feelings came flooding back recently when I was cruising the Gibson Memphis section of the Gibson website and stumbled across the ES-195. It was one of those daydreamy afternoons - work all finished for the day, half an hour to kill, why not spend it checking out guitar models I may have previously overlooked?
The ES-195 jumped out at me straight away because it's built with the same body outline as the ES-175. But whereas the ES-175 has a three-inch-deep body, the ES-195's is 3/4" thinner. To me this gives the guitar a little more of a rockabilly vibe, or perhaps like the kinds of instruments played by the 80s goth-rock guys that helped get me excited about the guitar when I was in grade school. And rather than the traditional Gibson headstock as found on the ES-175, the ES-195 borrows the Firebird-inspired headstock of the Trini Lopez model. Something about the slightly pointy angles of that headstock really seems to sit nicely with the sharp Florentine cutaway. This is obviously an instrument that wants you to play a wide variety of styles on it: some dignified and elegant, some rude and nasty.
The hollow body is made of a laminated maple top, back and sides, with a maple neck and bound rosewood fingerboard, and there are two finishes available: Ebony with chrome hardware, and a more flashy Trans Amber Stain version with Grade-AAA figured maple top and gold hardware.
The Bigsby tailpiece helps to enhance this 'elegantly edgy' vibe. A Bigsby is great for so many things: ambient shimmer, rockabilly-approved teeth-rattling low-E dips, country twang… and of course there's always a great synergy between the immediate attack of a Bigsby and the enhanced midrange and musical treble of a fully hollow body.
The pickups are a pair of P-94 single coils. These unique pickups are designed to give you the traditional P-90 sound but are housed in a full-sized hum bucker casing. They use the same enamel-coated vintage wire and Alnico magnets as regular P-90s, and are available in calibrated bridge/neck sets for perfect balance. They also cancel hum when used together. The controls are the standard four-knob layout: separate volume and tone controls for each pickup, and a three-way pickup selector. The tuners are Grover Minis and the bridge is a Roller Tune-O-Matic designed to work perfectly with the Bigsby.
Whenever I enter this 'daydream mode' I like to think about what kinds of songs the object of my 'guitar crush' wants to have played on it. I imagine that this one would be right at home on a certain strain of songs I've been writing lately in a The Cure/The Cult vein. Or for pedal steel-like melodies and low twangy phrases in country music. Or delicate finger-style jazz. I like how different guitars suggest different attitudes and approaches, and this one seems to have enough familiar elements and enough new or unusual ones to prompt a few new ideas while also feeling at home on established, traditional styles.