Rarely do we see one company influence the music world the way Gibson has. The legendary guitar manufacturer produced some of the most iconic 6-strings of the last century. The Gibson guitars that you see today, such as Les Pauls, SGs, Explorers, Flying Vs, and many other models, are a culmination of decades of hard work as well as some pretty ambitious experimentation. The demands of the market throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s led the company to produce some rather unconventional instruments. Here are some of the weirdest Gibson guitars you can find out there.
The 1950s saw some significant experimentation over at Gibson. In addition to the established Flying V and Explorer models, one of the guitars designed back in 1957 was the Moderne model. However, as the company was focused on the V back then, it was only in 1982 that they launched this guitar.
The 80s were indeed a better time for this model, due mostly to its unusual shape for the times. What makes it interesting is the peculiar Gumbyesque headstock and the body shape that could only be described as a mutated Flying V. Produced in 1982 and ’83, the guitar featured two humbuckers, two volume pots, and only one tone pot which was not typical of Gibsons with such pickup configurations.
The Modern was re-issued in 2012 and in 2013 a Zakk Wylde signature model was introduced.
Les Paul Recording
One of Gibson’s rare gems is the Les Paul Recording model; if you manage to stumble upon one, know that the prices are over $2000 on the market. Made between 1971 and 1979, this instrument was quite innovative for the era. Instead of the regular two humbuckers, two volume and two tone pots, Les Paul Recording has some extraordinary features.
The first notable difference is the low-impedance pickups, something Gibson started experimenting with on 1969’s Les Paul Personal and Les Paul Professional series. This means that the guitar could be plugged directly into the mixing desk.
Aside from the pickups that gave players way more diversity in their tone, it included a front panel packed with a whole bunch of controls: volume, bass, treble, microphone volume, decade, tone switch, pickup selector, and a phase switch. You can just imagine how advanced this was for the times and how delighted guitar players were with these options.
Aside from these weird features, the guitar had that classic Les Paul shape, mahogany body and neck, tune-o-matic bridge with a stopbar tailpiece, and a rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets.
The Marauder features the headstock of a Flying V, a body shape similar to Les Paul, and an overall vibe of a Telecaster. With Fender as their main competitor, Gibson wanted to try out something new to attract more customers. The Marauder was produced between 1975 and 1979, with occasional pieces built all the way until 1982. The guitar had a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, and a body made of either mahogany, alder, or maple. While it featured a usual humbucker on the neck position, the bridge had a smaller one placed at an angle, resembling the single-coil bridge pickup on a regular Telecaster or a Strat.
The most interesting feature came with some of the later versions – a potentiometer instead of the traditional 3-way switch. This way the player was able to blend and mix the signal of both pickups, giving them more options in creating their own distinctive sound. Aside from the usual stopbar, the guitar had a “Harmonica” style tune-o-matic bridge.
It’s rather unusual to see a Gibson logo on a Superstrat type of guitar; but as the two companies were competing in the 70s and 80s, everyone tried to get the best of both worlds – Gibson’s crushing heavy sound and Fender’s playability and slick designs. It was the only obvious move after the metal guitar virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen overtook the scene.
The resulting guitar from this idea was the Victory, featuring a modified Strat shape with the humbucker-single-humbucker configuration. There were two models, MV2 and MVX. The MV2 had a three-way pickup selector, while the MVX had a five-way one. Certain versions also had a Kahler tremolo bridge.
Gibson’s Corvus has, without a doubt, one of the weirdest shapes in the whole history of electric guitars. This particular name “Corvus” is Latin for “crow,” and if you do turn the guitar sideways, it’s supposed to look like a crow. But guitar lovers had a more appropriate name for it – the “can opener.”
Manufactured from 1982 to 1984, there were three different models built. Corvus I was the simplest one with only one humbucker, one volume, and one tone pot. The Corvus II featured two humbuckers, one volume, and one tone pot. But things get really weird with Corvus III which had three single coils, volume and tone pots, and a five-way switch, somewhat resembling the classic Fender Stratocaster controls and features.
Knowing that the guitar had an alder body, bolt-on maple neck, and a 6-in-line headstock, it’s most likely that Gibson wanted to get some of those Fender users on their side. But although Corvus was well made, it didn’t achieve much of a commercial success.
Now, this is where things got really, really weird. Gibson’s Map guitar is shaped like the map of the United States of America. Yes, somebody actually had that idea in mind. Although it was produced by Gibson, it was first sold under the Epiphone brand. Surprisingly enough, it actually sold well. And after witnessing its success, Gibson decided to put their name on the headstock. The original builder of this guitar was James Hutchins.
Aside from its non-ergonomic shape, the guitar has classic features, like two volume and two tone knobs, and two humbuckers. There were, however, certain versions with three knobs. These were produced back in 1983 and 1984 and featured mahogany bodies and maple necks.
Unfortunately, Gibson’s Map guitar does not include Alaska and Hawaii.
The Nighthawk was another one of Gibson’s attempts to try and cover Fender territory. What makes it so interesting and unusual is the modified Les Paul shape and humbucker-single-humbucker configuration with a 5-way switch. There were also two humbucker versions as well, but they still had the 5-way switch, giving players those twangy coil-split options. But the H-S-H also had a coil split over at the tone knob which gave 10 combinations in total.
The body on the Nighthawk was the usual mahogany with maple top, and it had a mahogany neck and a rosewood fretboard. Aside from that, it featured some pretty neat color options, like fireburst, translucent amber, and antique natural. It was introduced in 1993 and discontinued 1998, but was brought back in 2009. A very unusual one for Gibson, but rather diverse.
Reverse Flying V
Made in 2007 and 2008, the Reverse Flying V was manufactured in honor of the Flying V’s 50th anniversary. Despite the odd shape, the guitar was rather successful. After the initial series of 400 guitars, Gibson made an additional 900 pieces in 2008, 300 each in: Classic White, Natural, and Ebony Black.
The guitar’s headstock was “borrowed” from the old Futura/Explorer design conceived back in the late 1950s; it somehow went well with the reverse V shape. The rest of the features are the same as the classic V, although there were some minor differences between the 2007 and 2008 series.
Gibson Firebird X
Gibson’s Firebird is one of the company’s most respected models, with players like Johnny Winter contributing to its legacy. But Gibson had some heavy experimentation with the Firebird X, including the infamous Robot Tuners and an actual effects processor with an updateable software and Bluetooth control. Combine all this with an astronomically high price tag, it wasn’t exactly popular among classic Gibson lovers.
As for the pickups, the Firebird X had FBX Alnico V on the neck, FBX Ceramic in the mid position, and an FBX Alnico II on the bridge. One additional feature that turned out to work well was the 6-pickup piezo bridge, making this one very versatile guitar. But, again, it was kind of criticized for its processor and distortion tones.
Modern Flying V
The Modern Flying V could be described as one of the most controversial guitars ever built by Gibson. Gibson decided to reveal the Modern Flying V guitar in 2018. With some having choice words for the guitar, it had a modified shape resembling something Star Trek geeks would like. Controversy aside, the guitar has found some fans.
It has 496R and 500T ceramic pickups, some neat features as well, but the weird shape and the overall impression, it deserves to be on such a list.