The 1970s were a decade of cool innovation but also declining quality for both the Gibson and Fender guitar companies. Large scale factory production took a toll on what once was instruments made by hand . Both brands were owned by investor companies more interested in great profits than great products. Still, there were some very cool things going on and some innovative new models sneaked out of Kalamazoo and Fullerton. Gibson and Fender both introduced a model each that we will lump together in a category we’re calling “assymetrical thinline archtop” electric guitars. Neither were commercially successful but both are professional instruments with vintage market demand.
Cover image of 1976 Fender Starcaster from 12fret.com.
Gibson’s Les Paul Signature came about during the second wave of its partnership with Les Paul. The first wave of electric guitars bearing Lester’s name was gaining popularity quickly during the late 1960s and early 1970s and guitarists were calling for Gibson to reissue new models like the old ones. Gibson couldn’t exactly pull off what players wanted but they did come up with new models inspired by the ones from the 1950s. The Les Paul Signature was essentially an ES-335 but with a treble cutaway like a solid body Les Paul, finished in an attractive 1950s style gold finish or Sunburst. The guitar was fitted with low impedance pickups at Paul’s direction but with a transformer to allow for use as low or high impedance. It also featured a phase inversion switch to allow for a really wide range of tones. Want to read more about the vintage Gibson Les Paul Signature? Check out the Gibson Electric Guitar Book: Seventy Years of Classic Guitars by Walter Carter.
Fender’s entry seems to have a bit more interest from the vintage guitar market than the Gibson example. The Fender Electric Guitar Book by Walter Carter suggests that it was introduced in 1976 but we find examples with features indicating as early as 1974. The body is clearly inspired by Gibson’s popular ES style but with a hip Fender twist. The Offset Waist was a Fender style cue starting with the Jazzmaster in 1958 (coincidentally the same year that the thinline archtop body was introduced by Gibson on the ES-335!). Fender blended the two styles together to create an assymetrical thinline archtop with offset waist and a center T shaped interior structure. The pickups were another Gibson twist: the Seth Lover designed “Wide Range Humbucking Pickup” which utilized a similarly offset row of magnetic poles instead of a bar magnet underneath. The rest of the electronics were fairly traditional with the exception of the master volume knob.
We are actively looking to buy nice examples of both the Gibson Les Paul Signature and the Fender Starcaster from the 1970s. We think they are some of the coolest guitars to come out of both factories. Are you looking to sell your Gibson Les Paul Signature or Fender Starcaster? You can reach out to us here: sell my guitar page. We would love to check out your guitar.
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