Friday, October 9, 2009

Trini Lopez Guitars

In the history of Gibson Guitars there is a limited group that was good enough or popular enough to have Gibson put their name on a signature guitar. There are only a handful that have their name on more than one model. Les Paul is the obvious choice in this category.

Howard Roberts had three Gibson models and one Epiphone (built by Gibson) model that featured his signature.

Surprisingly Trini Lopez has two models named after him.

Yes, Trini is the actor from The Dirty Dozen and a music performer that Peter, Paul and Mary once quipped, "Our next album is going to be called 'Trini Lopez' Greatest Hits', since many of Lopez' popular songs were covers of Peter, Paul and Mary recordings.

Trini was a Latin performer that liked to sing the folks songs of that era. He infused a distinct Hispanic rhythm to the tunes and accompanied himself on electric guitar. He added a bass and drums to achieve his sound.

When he first started his guitar of choice was a Gibson Barney Kessel Model (Barney only had one Gibson model), with it's dual Florentine cutaways.

A light bulb went off with Gibson designers and Trini was asked for his input in designing a signature model.

What emerged was the Gibson Trini Lopez Deluxe. The body of this guitar was essentially a Barney Kessel Model with a 6 on an unusual side reversed head stock and bound diamond shaped "F" holes. The guitar also had a standby switch on the upper bout, the fret markers were diamond shaped and the bound neck seems to have an ebony fretboard. The pickguard was also unique to this model. There were only 2 built in 1964. Though the photo states it was a 1965 model it may have been from 1964.

Trini has been photographed with at least 3 different variations of his signature instrument.

The Trini Deluxe that was used by Mr. Lopez on 1960's TV shows had a large diamond shaped pick guard.

The more recent model shows a diamond pick guard that is much smaller. The model sold to the public had a much different pick guard that was contoured to access the controls.

The Deluxe model was available in Cherryburst and Sunburst.

Gibson took things a step further in 1964 with the introduction of the Trini Lopez standard model.

This was essentially an ES-335 with a 6 on a side headstock and neck more like the one found on the non-reverse Firebird.

The thin neck was bound with a rosewood fretboard and diamond position markers. The "F" holes were diamond shaped and bound like on the Deluxe.

The standard was made in transparent red, metallic blue and black finishes.

I have seen one Trini Lopez standard that had the neck reversed so the tuners are on the bottom. Some of them were made that way the first year Gibson issued them in 1964. In the picture above, you can see Trini with his first Deluxe model that has the reverse headstock, and the current model.

Note also on the Deluxe models, the evolution of the pickguard. It started out with a pickguard similar to the one on the Gibson Barney Kessel model. (Trini played this model before Gibson made signature guitars for him.) It then later given the diamond shaped. The second picture that I posted has another completely different shape. I don't know if that was at any time standard, or was a one-off situation.

Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters frequently played a Trini Lopez standard.

 In 2007 Gibson once again started producing the Trini Lopez standard, only now called it The Dave Grohl Model.  Instead of a trapeze tailpiece this featured a stop bar.

In 2009 Gibson changed the name back to The Trini Lopez Standard. It is available with a trapeze or stop bar tailpiece as long as you can cough up around $4700.

The standard finish is transparent red, but also is available in black or metalic blue. One key difference is the "F" holes are no longer bound on either the Dave Grohl or 2009 Trini Standards.

The Trini Standard with the stop bar tail piece looks a lot like the Dave Grohl model to me.

1967 Gibson Trini Lopez
For anyone who owns a Trini Lopez Standard, I have a word of caution. I have a Bigsby Vibrato on my 1967 model. The vibrato is from the same era, so it does not diminish the value of the instrument. However the length from the peg end of the vibrato to the top tuner for the 1st string is longer than 1st strings in most sets.

I've found using a banjo string will work just fine.



toby said...

loving your blog, mate. I love weird and unusual guitars. I've been lusting after a Trini standard for a while. Is your bigsby a B3? maybe a B7 would be okay re. string length.

frank87 said...

Hello, I own a 1960s trini lopez (black). Belonged to uncle. Just curious where would I be able to go to get top dollar for it. Thanks in advance.

Arthur Forni said...

Hi Frank,

Please contact me at


panrixx said...


Did you sell your uncles guitar and get a good price for it?

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Timothy Flyte said...

Interesting blog and the information I was looking for. Now if only epipEpip would make one lol.