130 Years Of Gibson – Is There A More Iconic Brand?

Cesar Gueikian, President and CEO of Gibson, describes the brand as “one of the most iconic companies in music.” As they begin to celebrate their 130th Anniversary, at MetalTalk, we cannot think of many in the known universe who would disagree,

Since 1894, when Orville Gibson designed and built his earliest-known musical instrument in his workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Gibson has been shaping the sound of music.

They continue to set the benchmark for craftsmanship, quality, innovation, and sound excellence, and the latest projects they have continue to support the wider music community.

Orville Gibson
Orville Gibson. Photo: Gibson

The skill Orville Gibson displayed still resonates in their instruments some 130 years later. You can still play it, and it sounds better than ever. The innovative and forward-thinking carved top design that revolutionized the mandolin and guitar world, delivering a louder, more durable, more playable instrument, remains the DNA of every Gibson.

Mary Ford and Les Paul play their Les Paul guitars on September 9, 1952. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.
Mary Ford and Les Paul play their Les Paul guitars on September 9, 1952. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.

Over the past 130 years, Gibson’s groundbreaking instruments have been the catalyst for some of the loudest and most resonant moments in pop culture.

Many of these have been genre-defining.

Thinking of Maybelle Carter’s transformative impact on country music with her Gibson L-5™ or Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe and his F-5 mandolin.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe performs with her Gibson SG at the Blues and Gospel Caravan Tour in 1964. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe performs with her Gibson SG at the Blues and Gospel Caravan Tour in 1964. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.

How about Eric Clapton picking up the torch from Blues Fathers Robert Johnson and Freddie King and blazing a new trail with the fabled ‘Beano’ Burst. Or Mother of Rock N’ Roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s SG Custom™?

Then you have Tony Iommi inventing the vocabulary for Heavy Metal with his SG Special Monkey and Jimmy Page defining hard rock in front of a sea of people with a low-slung Les Paul™ and his double-neck EDS-1275.

immy Page playing his Gibson EDS-1275 at Earl’s Court London with Led Zeppelin, May 18, 1975. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.
immy Page playing his Gibson EDS-1275 at Earl’s Court London with Led Zeppelin, May 18, 1975. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.

In the latter days, Slash influenced the generational movement and defied the laws of music with his own Les Paul, and Bob Marley popularised reggae with his Les Paul Special.

Today, female powerhouses such as Lzzy Hale and Olivia Rodrigo are setting new bars for rock and pop stardom with Gibson guitars as their instruments of choice.

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Lzzy Hale of Halestorm performs with her Gibson Explorer – Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

“We are in music, with instruments, sound, and media across our brands,” Cesar Gueikian told us. “We are one of the most iconic companies in music. Artists have chosen us to create genres of music and continually choose Gibson and our brands.

“As we celebrate 130 years since Orville Gibson started making instruments, I firmly believe that our best years are ahead of us. We are Gibson.

“Our craftspeople, our global team, our artists, and our fans, together are Gibson.

“In line with this, and to celebrate 130 years, we have changed our name from Gibson Brands back to Gibson, consistent with our focus and objective to make the best guitars in our history.”

Gibson Garage London main room
Gibson Garage London main room

In downtown Nashville, the flagship Gibson Garage Nashville store continues to be the ultimate guitar experience and destination for music lovers across the globe.

Opened in 2021, visitors can try out the full line of electric and acoustic guitars and take a piece of history home with limited-edition guitars, gear, accessories, and exclusive apparel and merch collaborations.

Visitors can also enjoy live performances, design a dream Made-to-Measure guitar from Gibson Custom, and peruse interactive storytelling and memorabilia exhibits inside the historic 8,000 sq ft space.

Now, in 2024, fans can see this mirrored outside of the USA for the very first time with the Gibson Garage London, which brings an unparalleled experience for music fans to a central location in the U.K. capital.

The Dove Original and Hummingbird Original, and all Gibson acoustic guitars are handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana.
The Dove Original and Hummingbird Original, and all Gibson acoustic guitars are handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana.

There are projects Gibson maintains, too.

The Gibson Marquee Artist program invests in furthering the careers of artists on the rise who reflect the brand’s mission to celebrate and amplify music across genders, genres, and generations.

The newly launched Gibson Artist Spotlight program provides emerging artists from diverse genres around the world with global exposure to new music fans and services committed to their career growth. The Artist Spotlight roster features artists from North and South America, Europe, China, and Japan.

Gibson also continues to support the music community via its philanthropic endeavour, Gibson Gives, assisting non-profit organizations in their efforts to advance musicians, youth-focused music education, health and wellness initiatives, and inclusive musical partnerships.

The Gibson Gives Scholarship program has provided direct financial support to young students with music career aspirations and is on track to help many more players in 2024. Gibson Gives is committed to cultivating and offering steadfast support for all communities.

To date, Gibson Gives has raised over $4.5 million and enabled $46 million in funding for key organizations through product donations and meaningful giving worldwide, with 100 per cent of all donations to and from Gibson Gives going towards providing the gift of music.

MetalTalk will report from Gibson Garage London soon. We can assure you our reporters will not be re-enacting the Enchantment Under the Sea dance scene in the 1985 movie Back to the Future.

Long Live Gibson.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform at the March on Washington Civil Rights rally on August 28, 1963. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform at the March on Washington Civil Rights rally on August 28, 1963. Photo: Gibson/Getty images.
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