In the hands of LA session guitarists like the legendary Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour, the Gibson ES-335 took on a new lease of life in the 1970’s as an instrument of choice for jazz rock players seeking to combine the vocabulary of rock with the intricate harmonies of jazz.
The ES-335 was a perfect choice for recording musicians like Carlton and Ritenour as it gave them a rock/blues tone but with the articulation and feel of more traditional jazz guitars. It recorded beautifully and virtually became the ‘LA guitar sound’ of the 1970’s.
Clean or overdriven, the ES-335 delivers in all tonal respects, making it an ever popular choice for guitarists who have to cover a lot of tonal ground in their playing. Equally, if classic rock/blues tones are your chosen sonic territory, then you won’t be disappointed with a 335 either. Eric Clapton certainly proved this with his ground-breaking guitar work with Cream and current virtuosos like Eric Johnson still turn to their 335’s when they want ‘that sound’.
Other famous ES-335 players include: Otis Rush, Alvin Lee, Chuck Berry, B.B.King, Roy Orbison, and many other guitar legends.
Interesting facts about the ES-335:
Gibson design legend Ted McCarty felt the ES-335 was right behind the Les Paul solid body as his most important body design. “I came up with the idea of putting a solid block of maple in an acoustic model. It would get some of the same tone as a regular solidbody, plus the instrument’s hollow wings would vibrate and we’d get a combination of an electric solidbody and a hollowbody guitar.”
The most expensive Gibson ES-335 ever sold remains the one auctioned by Eric Clapton in 2004. His Cherry Red 1964 Gibson ES-335 TDC (bought by EC in that very same year) sold for $847,500 at Christie’s.
Alvin Lee of Ten Years After played one of the most iconic ES-335s. Daubed in stickers and with an added single-coil between the humbuckers, Lee made his “Big Red” famous at the 1969 Woodstock festival.
The ES-335 was fitted with the famous Gibson PAF Humbucking pickups or PAF (“Patent Applied For”) 54s – they were used on the guitars until 1962