’86 Nightbird GG

It took me thirteen years to find this beauty after failing to persuade the engineer at a studio I used to use to sell me his despite my repeated begging. Just when I had given up, one of my mates saw one advertised. One call and it was mine.

Less than 200 of these were made between ’86 and early ’87, though several colourways were offered.  They hardly ever come up for sale and like many older Guilds, they’re extremely well-made and finished. This model was co-designed by vintage doyen, Nashville’s George Gruhn, and incorporates a lot of his experience of handling top-level vintage instruments.

Although it is slightly larger than a Les Paul, and is chambered, I regard it as my LP Custom, only better. It’s an early one, but not one of the first batch which were fitted with Seymour Duncan pickups.  This has the twin active EMG humbuckers which were factory-fitted on all subsequent production.  Their coils can be tapped and their phase reversed, but this sucks tone for my taste (a bit like the Varitone on Gibson’s high-end semis).   I like the regular untapped/in-phase sounds, which can be warm and jazzy, but can also articulate for fusion and blues.

There’s some relevant info at The Nightbird Pages web site.  It’s near mint, with original matching fitted hard case, also in excellent condition.

17 Responses to ’86 Nightbird GG

  1. gary says:

    is this for sale? I can’t figure it out–i too have always wanted one and then got one last year with the passive pick ups–the kent armstrongs–now i’d like to add another with the actives just to have fun with both–thanks, gary

  2. Rockbeare says:

    Hi, Gary, thanks for your post. After taking me those thirteen years to find some time back, I’m afraid my mint black Guild Nightbird GG is absolutely not for sale! Good luck with yours and your hunt for your next one.

  3. Andrew says:

    Hi, I bought a spruce top mahogany body Guild Nightbird GG after reading the product review in a Guitar Player magazine in 1986 ( 87, 88 ?) It had Kent Armstrong pickups that after a few years were traded for Dimarzio PAF pros. Anyway I was wondering if the push pull tone control was neck pickup series/parallel or a neck pickup coil cut or something else. Mine does not have the mini switch. Are the Kent Armstrongs still available? Thank you for any help, Andrew

  4. Rockbeare says:

    Hi, Andrew and thanks for your post. I’m not sure what the electronic function of either the push-pull or the mini toggle are. Sonically, they each thin the sound our progressively, so I regard them rather like a Gibson Varitone – a not-for-me tone sucker! But the basic instrument is fantastic, certainly holds its own amongst some of my much more valuable and revered vintage kit.

    As to dropping an original set of Kent Armstrong’s back in, I think it’s fairly unlikely that you will find a set, but Kent still winds and could make you an authentic replacement set. He made a replacement, aftermarket humbucker for my Dan Armstrong which is perfect. Good luck and keep enjoying your lovely Nightbird! Maybe send me a pic sometime ([email protected])?

  5. Will says:

    Hello, I am the lucky owner of n 86 Nigh Bird
    As mentioned above the first few had seymours, then along came Krammer guitars and the boom of high power pickups in the mis 80s so Guild could not get hold of
    Hence Kent in the early days and EMG.
    Early Night birds also had Kim Walker involved in th builds amazing builder check out http://www.walkerguitars.com
    I’m a huge fan of EMG but they are not great on the nightbird, after months of experimentation I’ve settled for Seymours SH2 and SH4 combination, I’ve played for 35 years and have many very good guitars, but this is the best by far in both playability and sound. These really are players guitars and for me a rare find as I’m left handed.

  6. Vinceland says:

    I have some information on the mini toggle. Back in ’89, I called Guild and was able to speak with Kim Walker, I believe. He not only explained what it was but mailed me a sketch which I am looking at right now. It is a coil tap which puts the pickups out of phase to each other or themselves, I’m not sure which. That is what he stated on the phone and what shows on his sketch.

    Like others on this site, I did not care for the EMG’s and installed Seymour Duncans Alnico Pro and Duncan Custom . Exactly what I needed for my tastes—everything from sweet Mike Bloomfield ’59LP tones to Metheny to Kenny Burrell. The ambiance, or timbre, of this instrument is IMO superior to everything I have played and owned for 50 years. It somehow just comes thru along with the pickup output. Also, the neck runs all the way through the chambered body to the bridge connection.

    If I had to be removed from all my very high end guitars except one, I would keep my Nightbird II. Enjoy yours, they are very precious!

  7. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks for this comment. I’ve been using mine a bit more again lately and have been reminded how good it is. On your advice, I may drop in a set of different pickups, perhaps some Lollar Imperials, and see how it sounds. Enjoy yours – what finish is it?

  8. Lazlo Prawn says:

    I’ve got a ’87 Guild Nightbird GG Flame Top. Any of you cats know what the asking price is for these gems? It’s in damn near mint condition. EMG p/u and coil tap switch.

  9. Will says:


    Your guitar is valuable , might be worth posting this question on the let’s talk guild forum, they are desireable and hard to find so hard to give a price! might be someone on the forum that has recently purchased, I purchased my 86 left handed model in the states for £900 around 7 years ago, they only made a couple so I’m very lucky



  10. johnny says:

    I have a red 85 nightbird gg w/kent armstrongs in it bl100132 im in toronto and would sell or even trade for something really special.

  11. johnny says:

    Heres my e mail [email protected]
    85 nightbird gg bl100132 sell or trade

  12. Rockbeare says:

    Thanks. I’m not in the market for another of these right now, but perhpas another reader might be, in which case they cab make direct contact.

  13. johnny says:

    I have a 85 nightbird gg & just wandering how can i tell for sure what pick ups are in my guitar other than yanking my pick ups out.

  14. Rockbeare says:

    You really have to have them out to be sure, but if they’re original and look like nickel/chrome plated humbuckers with six adjustable polepiece screws, then they should be Seymour Duncans. If they’re plain black plastic covers with EMG embossed in gold, then they’re (duh) EMG’s! Anything else is a retrofit, might sound fine though….

  15. George sindelar says:

    Played one last week and I loved it.
    It was a band mate’s who has no intention on selling. What I loved were the pickups. He said they were dimarzio… was there ever a time they were used in nightbirds? If so what kind were they? Thanx

  16. Rockbeare says:

    Apologies for my sloth, travelling. I only know of (earlier) Seymour’s and (later) EMG’s. DiMarzios could have been retrofit…

  17. Andrew says:

    I have an ’85 or ’86 GG Nightbird and after about ten years the frets needed to be replaced. The work was excellent but the fret size just didn’t feel the same. The original frets seemed to be wider and lower. Could someone please identify the fret size on a GG model? Thanks

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