Coordinates: 36°07′48″N 86°43′33″W / 36.1298758°N
86.7257458°W / 36.1298758; -86.7257458
Gibson Brands, Inc. (formerly
Guitar Corp.) is an American
manufacturer of guitars, other musical instruments, and consumer and
professional electronics now based in Nashville, Tennessee. The
company was formerly known as
Guitar Corp. and was renamed
Gibson Brands, Inc. on June 11, 2013.
Orville Gibson founded the company in 1902 as the "Gibson
Guitar Mfg. Co. Ltd." in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to make
Gibson invented archtop guitars by
constructing the same type of carved, arched tops used on violins. By
the 1930s, the company was also making flattop acoustic guitars, as
well as one of the first commercially available hollow-body electric
guitars, used and popularized by Charlie Christian. In 1944, Gibson
was bought by
Chicago Musical Instruments
Chicago Musical Instruments (CMI), which was acquired in
1969 by Panama-based conglomerate Ecuadorian Company Limited (ECL),
that changed its name in the same year to Norlin Corporation.
Gibson sells guitars under a variety of brand names and builds one
of the world's most iconic guitars, the
Gibson Les Paul. Many Gibson
instruments are highly collectible.
Gibson was at the forefront of
innovation in acoustic guitars, especially in the big band era of the
Gibson Super 400
Gibson Super 400 was widely imitated. In 1952, Gibson
introduced its first solid-body electric guitar, the Les Paul, which
became its most popular guitar to date— designed by
Ted McCarty and
Gibson was owned by the Norlin Corporation from 1969 to 1986. In 1986,
the company was acquired by its present owners.
Gibson is a privately
held company that is owned by its chief executive officer Henry
Juszkiewicz and its president David H. Berryman.
In addition to guitars,
Gibson offers consumer electronics through its
Gibson Innovations (Philips brand), TEAC Corporation
(Teac and Esoteric brands),
Onkyo Corporation (
Onkyo and Pioneer
Cerwin Vega and Stanton, as well as professional audio
equipment from KRK Systems, pianos from their wholly owned subsidiary
Baldwin Piano, and music software from Cakewalk.
1.3 Recent history
1.3.1 FWS raids & Lacey Act violation
4 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Orville Gibson, founder
Gibson line of
Mandolin orchestra instruments, early 1900s.
Orville Gibson patented a single-piece mandolin design in 1898 that
was more durable than other mandolins and could be manufactured in
Orville Gibson began to sell his instruments in 1894 out of
a one-room workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1902, the Gibson
Guitar Mfg. Co. Ltd. was incorporated to market the
instruments. Initially, the company produced only Orville Gibson's
original designs. Orville died in 1918 of endocarditis
(inflammation of the inside lining of the heart chambers and
Gibson mandolin with Russian pickup in Glinka's museum (Moscow,
(based on L-50)
(based on L-4)
Super 400 CES
The following year, the company hired designer
Lloyd Loar to create
newer instruments. Loar designed the flagship L-5 archtop guitar
Gibson F5 mandolin that was introduced in 1922, before leaving
the company in 1924. In 1936,
Gibson introduced their first
"Electric Spanish" model, the ES-150, followed by other electric
instruments like steel guitars, banjos and mandolins.
During World War II, instrument manufacturing at
Gibson slowed due to
shortages of wood and metal, and
Gibson began manufacturing wood and
metal parts for the military. Between 1942-1945,
Gibson employed women
to manufacture guitars. "Women produced nearly 25,000 guitars during
World War II
World War II yet
Gibson denied ever building instruments over this
period," according to a 2013 history of the company.
has also claimed its guitars were made by "seasoned craftsmen" who
were "too old for war."
Les Paul Goldtop
Les Paul Custom
Les Paul Standard
Les Paul Junior
non-reverse (left) & reverse Firebird
Gibson was purchased by Chicago Musical Instruments. The
ES-175 was introduced in 1949.
Ted McCarty in 1948, who
became President in 1950. He led an expansion of the guitar line with
new guitars such as the "Les Paul" guitar introduced in 1952 and
designed by Les Paul, a popular musician in the 1950s and also a
pioneer in music technology. The
Les Paul was offered in Custom,
Standard, Special, and Junior models. In the mid-50s, the Thinline
series was produced, which included a line of thinner guitars like the
Byrdland. The first Byrdlands were slim, custom built, L-5 models for
guitarists Billy Byrd and Hank Garland. Later, a shorter neck was
added. Other models such as the ES-350T and the ES-225T were
introduced as less costly alternatives. In 1958,
the ES-335T model. Similar in size to the hollow-body Thinlines, the
ES-335 family had a solid center, giving the string tone a longer
In the 1950s,
Gibson also produced the
Tune-o-matic bridge system and
its version of the humbucking pickup, the PAF ("Patent Applied For"),
first released in 1957 and still sought after for its sound.[citation
needed] In 1958,
Gibson produced two new designs: the eccentrically
shaped Explorer and Flying V. These "modernistic" guitars did not sell
initially. It was only in the late 1960s and early 70s when the two
guitars were reintroduced to the market that they sold well. The
Firebird, in the early 60s, was a reprise of the modernistic idea,
though less extreme.
In the late 50s, McCarty knew that
Gibson was seen as a traditional
company and began an effort to create more modern guitars. In 1961 the
body design of the
Les Paul was changed due to the demand for a
double-cutaway body design. The new body design then became known
as the SG (for "solid guitar"), due to disapproval from Les Paul
Les Paul returned to the
Gibson catalog in 1968.
On December 22, 1969, the
Gibson parent company Chicago Musical
Instruments was taken over by the South American brewing conglomerate
Gibson remained under the control of CMI until 1974 when it
became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments. Norlin Musical
Instruments was a member of Norlin Industries which was named for ECL
president Norton Stevens and CMI president Arnold Berlin. This began
an era characterized by corporate mismanagement and decreasing product
Kalamazoo in 1984, then previous factory became Heritage
Gibson Showcase at Nashville
Gibson Factory at Memphis
Between 1974 and 1984 production of
Gibson guitars was shifted from
Kalamazoo to Nashville, Tennessee. The
Kalamazoo plant kept going for
a few years as a custom-instrument shop, but was closed in 1984;
Gibson employees led by plant manager Jim Duerloo established
Heritage Guitars in the old factory, building versions of classic
The company (Gibson) was within three months of going out of business
before it was bought by Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman, and
Gary A. Zebrowski in January 1986. New production plants were
opened in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Bozeman, Montana. The Memphis
facility is used for semi-hollow and custom shop instruments, while
the Bozeman facility is dedicated to acoustic instruments.
Gibson sued Hoshino/Elger for copying the
Gibson Les Paul.
Fernandes Guitars in a Tokyo court for allegedly
Gibson did not prevail.
Gibson also sued
PRS Guitars in 2005, to stop them from making their Singlecut model.
The lawsuit against PRS was initially successful. However, the
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the
lower court decision and ordered the dismissal of Gibson's suit
Garrison Guitars in 2007. In mid 2009 Gibson
reduced its work force to adjust for a decline in guitar industry
sales in the United States.
Gibson filed a lawsuit November 18. 2010 in Federal court, the Central
District of California, against
WowWee USA and their Paper Jamz
battery operated guitar toys charging trademark infringement.
The lawsuit claimed the
Paper Jamz toy guitars copied the looks of
some of Gibson’s famous guitars, the
Gibson Les Paul, the Gibson
Flying V, the
Gibson Explorer, and the
Gibson SG. On December 21, 2010
Gibson was granted a request for an injunction against
retailers in the United States which were selling
Paper Jamz guitars:
WalMart, Amazon (company),
Big Lots stores,
Kmart Corporation, Target
Corporation, Toys “R” Us, Walgreens, Brookstone, Best Buy, eBay,
Home Shopping Network
Home Shopping Network (HSN) The case was
dismissed with prejudice (dismissed permanently) January 11, 2011 by
Federal Judge R. Gary Klausner.
Gibson acquired the Stanton Group, including Cerwin Vega, KRK
Systems and Stanton DJ.
Gibson then formed a new division,
Audio, which will deliver professional grade audio items, including
headphones, loudspeakers and DJ equipment.
Gibson announced a partnership with the Japanese-based Onkyo
Corporation in 2012. Onkyo, known for audio equipment and home theater
systems, became part of the
Gibson Pro Audio division.
Gibson acquired a majority stake in TEAC Corporation.
Gibson acquired the consumer electronics business of Royal
In October 2017
Gibson brands is set to relocate its
Memphis operations to a smaller location and plans to sell the massive
facility that it currently calls home.
The Nashville-based guitar maker opened the Memphis facility 18 years
ago, which currently occupies just a portion of a massive 127,620
square foot complex. According to the Memphis Daily News,
to search for a new facility for its Memphis operations and will stay
in the current spot for the next 18 to 24 months. The facility, which
sits across from Fedex Forum along South B.B. King Boulevard, is
expected to list for $17 million.
Since its opening, the
Gibson Memphis shop has mostly focused on
building hollow and semi-hollowbody guitars, such as the famed ES
series. Presumably, this shuffling of assets is meant to address
Gibson's well-publicized financial troubles.
Gibson issued a press release about the move, with CEO Henry
"We are extremely excited about this next phase of growth that we
believe will benefit both our employees, and the Memphis community. I
remember when our property had abandoned buildings, and Beale Street
was in decline. It is with great pride that I can see the development
of this area with a basketball arena, hotels, and a resurgent pride in
the musical heritage of the great city of Memphis. We continue to love
the Memphis community and hope to be a key contributor to its future
when we move nearby to a more appropriate location for our
manufacturing based business, allowing the world the benefit of our
great American craftsmen." 
FWS raids & Lacey Act violation
Gibson's factories were raided in 2009 and 2011 by agents of the
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In November 2009
authorities found illegally imported ebony wood from
Madagascar. A second raid was conducted in August 2011,
during which the FWS seized wood imports from India that had been
mislabeled on the US Customs declaration.
filed a motion in January 2011 to recover seized materials and
overturn the charges, which was denied by the court.
United States Department of Justice
United States Department of Justice found emails from 2008 and
2009 in which
Gibson employees discussed the "gray market" nature of
the ebony wood available from a German wood dealer—who obtained it
from a supplier in Madagascar—as well as plans to obtain the wood.
It filed a civil proceeding in June 2011, the first such
case under the amended Lacey Act, which requires importing companies
to purchase legally harvested wood and follow the environmental laws
of the producing countries regardless of corruption or lack of
Gibson argued in a statement the following day that
authorities were "bullying
Gibson without filing charges" and denied
any wrongdoing. Arguing against the federal regulations and
claiming that the move threatened jobs, Republicans and tea party
members spoke out against the raids and supported Juszkiewicz.
The case was settled on August 6, 2012, with
Gibson admitting to
violating the Lacey Act and agreeing to pay a fine of $300,000 in
addition to a $50,000 community payment.
Gibson also forfeited the
wood seized in the raids, which was valued at roughly the same amount
as the settlement. However, in a subsequent statement Gibson
maintained its innocence with Juszkiewicz claiming that "
inappropriately targeted" and that the government raids were "so
outrageous and overreaching as to deserve further Congressional
investigation." Juszkiewicz continued to state, "We felt compelled to
settle as the costs of proving our case at trial would have cost
millions of dollars and taken a very long time to resolve."
The case raised concerns for musicians who lack documentation of
vintage instruments made of traditional, non-sustainable
materials. However, officials from the Justice Department and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have stated that musicians who
unknowingly possess instruments made from illegal wood would not be
treated as criminals.
Gibson was able to reclaim some wood stock which was confiscated
during the raids, and produced a new series of guitar marketed to
draw attention to the raids and seizures.
Gibson Guitar Corporation
Gibson Guitar Corporation product list
Gibson also owns and makes instruments under brands such as
Epiphone, Kramer, Maestro, Steinberger, and
Tobias,—along with the ownership of historical brands such as
Kalamazoo, Dobro, Slingerland, Valley Arts, and
Baldwin (including: Chickering, Hamilton,
Although it is well known for its guitars, Gibson's largest business
is in fact electronics.
Gibson offers consumer audio
equipment devices through its subsidiaries
Gibson Innovations (Philips
Onkyo Corporation (
Onkyo and Pioneer brands), TEAC Corporation
(Teac and Esoteric brands),
Cerwin Vega and Stanton, as well as
professional audio equipment from
KRK Systems and TEAC
TASCAM and music software from Cakewalk.
Gibson makes authorized copies of its most successful guitar designs.
They are less expensive than those bearing the
Gibson name. A former
Epiphone was purchased by
Gibson and now makes
Gibson models, such as the
Les Paul and SG, sold
Epiphone brand, while continuing to make
Epiphone-specific models like the Sheraton, Sorrento, and Casino. In
Orville by Gibson
Orville by Gibson once made
Gibson designs sold in that
Gibson has sought legal action against those that make
and sell guitars
Gibson believes are too similar to their own.
Gibson introduced the serial numbering system in use until
2006. An eight-digit number on the back shows the date when the
instrument was produced, where it was produced, and its order of
production that day (e.g., first instrument stamped that day, second,
etc.). As of 2006, the company used seven serial number
systems, making it difficult to identify guitars by their serial
number alone. and as of 1999 the company has used six distinct
serial numbering systems. An exception is the year 1994, Gibson's
centennial year; many 1994 serial numbers start with "94", followed by
a six-digit production number. The
provides a book to help with serial number deciphering.
Gibson introduced a nine-digit serial number system replacing
the eight-digit system used since 1977, but the sixth digit now
represents a batch number.
Gibson debuted its Ethernet-based audio protocol,
MaGIC, which it developed in partnership with 3COM, Advanced Micro
Devices, and Xilinx. Replacing traditional analog hook-ups with a
digital connection that would, "...satisfy the unique requirements of
live audio performances," may have been the goal of this project.
This system may require a special pickup, but cabling is provided
by a standard Cat-5 ethernet cable.
Gibson "self-tuning guitar", also known as a "robot model", an
option on some newer Les Paul, SG, Flying V and Explorer instruments,
will tune itself in little more than two seconds using robotics
technology developed by Tronical GmbH. Under the tradename
Min-ETune, this device became standard on several models in 2014.
Interior of Gibson, Inc. factory on Parsons Street. 1936
Gibson introduced the Government Series of Les Paul, SG,
Flying V, Explorer &
ES-335 guitars which were constructed solely
of tonewood the US government seized but later returned to Gibson
after the resolution of the company's Lacey Act violation in 2011. The
guitars were finished in "government grey" and also featured
decorations which intended to draw attention to the issue of
government. A year later in 2014,
Gibson released the Government
Series II of guitars, which were essentially the same as the first
series, only finished in a new color: "government tan".
All Gibson-brand guitars are currently made at three facilities,
depending on the type of guitar. Solid body electric guitars such as
Les Paul and the
Gibson SG are made in Nashville,
Tennessee. Semi-acoustic guitars such as the
Gibson ES Series
Gibson ES Series are made
in Memphis, Tennessee. Full acoustic guitars such as the
Series are made in Bozeman, Montana. The Nashville and Bozeman
facilities are off-limits to visitors, but the Memphis facility gives
regularly scheduled factory tours.
Gibson instruments are made in USA. Below are some of the
facilities used to produce
Gibson instruments, along with years of
Years of Operation
114 So. Burdick, Kalamazoo, MI.
This was the "business location" of "O. H. Gibson, Manufacturer,
104 East Main, Kalamazoo, MI
This was Orville Gibson’s residence, and he built instruments on the
2nd floor of this location.
114 East Main, Kalamazoo, MI
Guitar Manufacturing Co, Ltd." was established in
1902. This building, said to be infested with cockroaches, was
probably the former Witmer Bakery.
114 East Exchange Place, Kalamazoo, MI
Located quite close to the previous location, in Kalamazoo’s
521–523 East Harrison Court, Kalamazoo, MI
Located about .5 miles from previous location. The building was next
to the Michigan Central Railroad, and stood for many decades, until it
came down in the late 20th century.
225 Parsons St, Kalamazoo, MI, 49007
Also located next to railroad tracks, this facility had major
expansions in 1945, 1950, and 1960. Various brands were produced
there, including Gibson, Epiphone, (1957–1970) and
Kalamazoo. During the depression of the 1930s, children's toys were
produced there, and during WW2 it produced materials to support the
war effort in addition to producing guitars. Between 1974 and 1984
Gibson moved its manufacturing out of this facility to Tennessee. Most
of this move happened in 1974, leaving only acoustic and some
semi-acoustic production for this plant. In 1985, Heritage Guitars
began production, renting part of this facility.
641 Massman Drive, Nashville, TN, 37210
This is Gibson's facility for production of their main solid body
models, such as the
Les Paul and the SG.
145 Lt. George W. Lee Av, Memphis, TN 38103
This is Gibson's facility for production of their semi-hollowbody
electric guitars. This facility shares the same building as Gibson's
Retail Shop and Beale Street "Showcase" location.
1894 Orville Way, Bozeman, MT, 59715
This facility is dedicated to acoustic guitar production.
David Harvey (luthier)
Jim Triggs (luthier)
Lloyd Loar (luthier)
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Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty’s Golden Era
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Gibson L5: Its History and its Players.
Anaheim, CA: Centerstream Pub. ISBN 978-1-574-24047-4.
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Amplifiers 1933-2008. Minneapolis, MN:
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Thomas, John (2012).
Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women
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Fox, Paul (2011). The Other Brands of Gibson. Centerstream Publishing.
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