Gibson ES-355 Electric Thinline Guitar
Description: Gibson ES355 Electric Thinline Archtop guitar.
Available: 1959 to 1982
Case: Brown hardshell case with a pink lining was the top-end
Gibson case from 1959 to 1961. Then in 1962 the case changed to a black outside
with a yellow plush interior.
Collectibility Rating: 1959-1960 models: B, 1960-1964 models: C+,
1965 to 1969 models: C-. The stereo varitone limits the popularity
of this model. A vibrato tailpiece on the 1959 to 1964 models hurts
demand of this guitar too.
The Gibson ES-355 guitar with its semi-hollowbody construction has a
solid maple block down the center of the body minimizes feedback,
but the hollow body wings gives good sustain, tone and weight.
This model is most desirable with a stop tailpiece and a large neck size.
Unfotunately the Stereo Varitone and Lyre vibrato makes the
Gibson ES-355 guitar less popular than its cousin the
Gibson ES-335 and
The worse part of this model is the
Varitone. Though it gives the guitar more tone colors, the two
transformers located underneath the lead pickup add weight to the
guitar. Also the different tone variants are frankly not that useful
in my opinion. The Stereo part is pretty useless by today's standards
too. Though the output jack can be easily changed to a mono type,
this makes the two volume knobs act as a master volume. Hence
turning the treble pickup volume to "one" while playing the neck
pickup, will make the guitar silent.
There are some 1959-1960 Gibson ES-355 models with just a stop tailpiece
and no stereo varitone - this would be the most desirable variant of the
Gibson ES-355, but unfortunately this version is rare (figures, as it's
the version I would like to find!)
Though the Gibson ES-355 is a fancier version of the Gibson ES-345 or ES-335,
it is far less collectible because the added gold hardware, binding,
Varitone, Stereo, vibrato, etc. just clutter the guitar. The simplicity and elegant ease
of use of the ES-335 is why that model is more respected than the
Still the Gibson ES-355 is a very nice model with
the basic sound and feel of the ES-335.
B.B. King is often associated with the Gibson ES-355 guitar, as it's
the model his Lucille is based upon (BB King has had many "Lucille" guitars
through the years, but generically speaking the ES-355 is B. B. King's Lucille).
If you need to figure out the exact year of your Gibson ES355, use the serial number.
This is located inside the body, on an orangle label inside the body's bass-side "f" hole.
See the Gibson Serial Number Info web page
for help determining the exact year.
If you have a vintage Gibson ES-355 guitar for sale, please contact me at
- 1959 Gibson ES-355 introduction specs (10 examples shipped in 1958,
but not officially introduced till 1959):
- Thinbody, double cutaway,
semi-hollow body with solid maple block down center, stereo electronics
with Vari-tone rotary tone switch standard (mono electronics available),
2 humbucking pickups, 2 volume and 2 tone knobs and a switch,
tune-o-matic bridge, Bigsby vibrato (stop tailpiece examples very rare),
multiple bound tortoise pickguard that extends below the bridge, multiple
bound top, triple bound back, single bound ebony fingerboard, unbound F-holes,
block fingerboard inlays, neck joins body at 19th fret, 5-piece
split-diamond peghead inlay, gold plated parts, Grover rotomatic tuners,
- 1960 Gibson ES-355 specs:
- Shorter pickguard that does not extend past
bridge pickup, sunburst and natural finish available.
- 1961 Gibson ES-355 specs:
- Vibrato with side-to-side action. Mono electronics
become much rarer.
- 1963 Gibson ES-355 specs:
- Gibson vibrato with lyre on coverplate.
Tuners change to ribbed back gold Kluson tuners with metal buttons.
- 1969 Gibson ES-355 specs:
- Walnut finish available, Bigsby vibrato.
- Gibson ES-355 discontinued 1982.