Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gibson Everly Brothers Guitar

In the 1960's Gibson Guitars was owned by CMI (Chicago Musical Instruments). During this era CMI/Gibson produced many guitars endorsed and possibly designed by artists of the day, such as Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow and Barney Kessel. Gibson had struck gold with Les Paul's design and endorsement, perhaps it may strike again.

The Everly Brothers started making hit records in the late 1950's with such songs as Bye Bye Love, Bird Dog and Wake Up Little Suzie.

At the time they were both playing Gibson J-200 models.
CMI/Gibson recognized their fame and built a distinctive guitar for the brothers.

It was similar to Gibsons J-185, except the body was thinner and the twin tortoise shell pickguards covered a good portion of the guitars top. The fret makers on the rosewood fingerboard were pearl stars.

The J-200 was 17" at the lower bout, while the Everlys' guitar was only 16". The bridge was adjustable.

This is a characteristic that some people dislike, because they say it impacts the sound. The strings ran through the bridge instead of using bridge pins.

The guitars top was made of spruce. The back and sides were maple and the neck was mahogany. The finish was black during these years. It was designed to be a visually striking instrument. The headstock was also finished in black with a Gibson decal and a star decal.

The two ply truss rod cover was black with white trim with the inscription Everly.

As mentioned already, some guitar aficionados do not like the height adjustable bridge saddle.

Others are adverse to the large pickguards and their effect on the sound quality. Many collectors believe Gibson acoustic instruments produced in the 1960's were inferior to those built in the 1950's and earlier.

The guitar was manufactured from 1962 through 1979. It was reissued in 1986 under the name J-180. In 1992 it once again was designated The Everly Brothers Guitar until 1994 when the name went back to the J-180.

Phil and Don Everly were raised in a western Kentucky town called Brownie which was located in Muhlenberg County. Their father, Ike Everly, was a popular finger style guitarist.

In their home state of Kentucky the style is known as thumb picking. A fellow named Mose Rager has been called the first to play in this style. Mr. Rager also lived in Muhlenberg County.
Rager passed the style on to Merle Travis. Merle grew up in this same area.

One of Ike's friends and fellow guitarist was Merle Travis,  As a young man, Chet Atkins listened to recording of Travis and took the style a step further.

Currently Eddie Pennington, who hails from Princeton Kentucky learned the style from Mose Rager. Eddie is still playing guitar and holds a festival each year in Western Kentucky.

Ike Everly formed a family band with his wife and two sons. The family's repetoire was a mix of country western, Appalachian folk music and Gospel songs. They had their own radio show in Iowa. Ike Everly was fond of the Gibson J-200.

He taught his sons to play, in a style that has becme known as Travis picking and how to play guitar tuned to open chords. Don played some of the Brothers songs in open G tuning.

Many of the Everly Brothers greatest songs were written by the husband/wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. This couple was part of the Acuff-Rose organization. The official state song of Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee, was written by the Bryants.

Boudleaux decided their songs would sound great if sung by a duet. Columbia records main producer in the 1960's was Chet Atkins.

Chet gave the Everly Boys an opportunity to cut a record. Chet even played guitar on their recordings. The rest is history.

Although the standard Everly Brothers model is black with tortoise shell pickguard, the guitar was also produced with blond pickguards on a black body. I have seen models with a natural finish and black pickguards. Some were manufactured in a sunburst finish.

Even Elvis owned an Everlys' mode in a natural finish with a single tortoise shell pickguard and a naturally finished headstock. "Thank you, thank you very much"


Anonymous said...

Everly Brothers? Early 60s?

Bye Bye Love was a hit in 1957.

Roland said...

Somebody else has mentioned it. The Everly Bros took off in a big way in 1957 and had a string of hits BEFORE 1960. Their last hit was in 62 (Old Fashioned).

Martial F. Bekkers said...

Very good and interesting blog!!

There is more material like this on the Everlys' guitars, Gibson as well as Steinegger, on the EBI WebSite

Click on FILE in the menu on the left and then go to GUITARS.

I am the International Coordinator of Everly Brothers International and I kindly suggest this for your further enjoyment!!

Kindest regards,
Martial F. Bekkers

Moderator of Everly Brothers yahoo! Group

Administrator and Resident Guru of Facebook Everly Brothers Music Group

Kentucky Colonel and so proud of it!

Glenn Z said...

I own a 1963 Gibson Everly! I love it and what a great investment. There were only 148 made and owners include Paul McCartney, Roger Daltry, Jimmy Page and Graham Nash.

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