If you’ve visited my wants page, you’ve seen that I’m looking for a good condition Firebird 1 from ’63-4. But not only do these things now go for silly money, but most are either very badly worn or have structural damage, typically a break at the headstock-neck join.
(Guy leans it up against his amp, the asymmetric body won’t stand up, it falls over and lands on the straight-through tuners sticking out from the back and crack! Or he leaves it resting ‘safely’ on the floor where it rests on its two ends only. and someone stumbles and lands on it after a few beers. You know the stories).
Meanwhile, I’d read good things about about a run of reissues apparently commissioned by a leading US dealer so when a friend, a first-call session and tour player, told me he knew of one for sale, I was interested.
It’s a great guitar – very light, huge neck, real screamer, wants to rock and as far as I can see it is the most accurate reissue (some have stop tailpieces, for chrissakes). It’s my first recent Gibson since the ’72 SG Deluxe my dear old dad bought me as my first serious guitar back in ’72!
The pickup measures about 7k, so it’s in vintage, not modern, territory. Further research with Gibson, Dave Rogers of Dave’s Guitars in Wisconsin (many thanks, guys) confirms that it was specified with the Lollar Firebird pickup it has today. A really nice surprise – see my page on my ’05 Fender Eric Johnson Strat and you’ll see I’m a fan of Lollar pickups. Here’s a really good link to a reprint of a piece on Jason Lollar’s Firebird pickups from The Tonequest Report. This Firebird pickup compares very well with vintage ones.
I’d never noticed the detail of these sixties wraparound ‘lightning’ bridges. The bass side is more deeply recessed than the treble side, so it sits much lower on the body at the bass side, making it much more comfortable to play.
Then just recently I got a bit fed up with the original classic tuners so I researched whether a set of Steinbergers from StewMac would drop straight in reversibly, which they did. The last two pix in the gallery show the result, a considerable improvement to performance, balance and bulk!
Some years later, I was privileged to join Eric Clapton’s core team for his Crossroads 2019 fundraiser in Dallas. We had a summit there where I got to hear EC play this guitar, my client’s identical one and his original ’64 and several of the then-brand new EC ’64 reissues…