As a postscript to my weeks-long acoustic archtop window shopping, let’s talk about two electric archtop guitars I think are just swell.
First up, the Gibson ES-150, the unofficial “Charlie Christian” model, whose defining characteristic I’ve written about before.
One of things I find interesting, which regrettably wasn’t examined much when the guitar players and builders working at the dawn of the electric era were still alive and giving interviews, is speculating on the reasons behind placing the electric guitar’s pickup in the neck position, giving it a far more bass-heavy sound than if it has been placed near the bridge. Gibson experimented a bit with electrics than had bridge pickups in the early days, but those were abandoned in favor of the neck-pickup guitars. Why? Was a mellower, darker sound more palatable to pre-WWII ears? Would a comparatively harsher, brighter tone have changed Christian’s single-string solo flights?
I still find it utterly bizarre that Gibson doesn’t make this particular guitar more available, with stories circulating that their own custom shop discourages guitar maniacs with thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on a guitar from ordering an ES-350-T. I imagine doing business with Berry would discourage any company from producing an official signature model, but not everyone can afford the model’s upscaled sibling, the Byrdland. Free the 350T!