The "Prototype" Gibson Moderne...What's everyone's take?

Discussion in 'Standard Guitars' started by tommychains, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. Jack Secret

    Jack Secret Carvin Afficianado

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    If it is with either one, neither of them are shy about bringing insanely expensive vintage stuff out on tour. I do recall Nielsen bringing out a Moderne on a few tours but no idea if that's allegedly the original. Ever see a Nielsen guitars used live tour? Gibson '58, Gibson '58, Gibson '59, Gibson '59, etc., kick 'em to the ground, pick 'em up, retune, play "She's Tight", throw many picks at the crowd.
     
  2. KlusonDeluxe

    KlusonDeluxe SS.org Regular

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    Original Gibson Moderne prototypes.jpg 270828_228145433874943_5778126_n.jpg

    These are the known suposed Gibson moderne prototypes and the Erlewine is the best known and is on permanent display at a music store in Tokyo Japan.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
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  3. possumkiller

    possumkiller SS.org Regular

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    Interestingly the Flying V wasn't originally named or shaped that way. The prototype had solid wood between the wings and was triangle shaped. The middle was cut out to drop weight and the result was named the Flying V.
     
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  4. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    There seem to have been six of them in existence. Probably some portion of those were only part authentic, and probably at least on of them was destroyed.

    The "Erlewine" piece has the most documentation, but it's also widely known that the neck was from a different guitar. Most likely, some or most of that piece was fit onto other parts to make a complete guitar that was never made as a "Moderne." That guitar was owned by Erlewine, sold to a music store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, purchased by Doug Green, then sold to a collector in Japan.

    Rendell Wall also used one for a concert, then took it back to Gibson, because it was a piece of junk. Reportedly, Gibson had that guitar destroyed, because it was an inferior design and had quality issues.

    Bill Cherry and Ponty Gonzales have also reported seeing them out in the wild, even describing the shape of the guitars accurately long before the reissues were made or before any images of them would have been known. Whether those would be two separate guitars or one guitar that traveled from one place to another is difficult to guess.

    One piece reportedly belongs to Billy Gibbons. Gibbons has been seen playing a Moderne reissue, but no one seems to have ever recalled seeing his original ever.

    One other piece was reportedly sold to another guitar builder in Japan, and another reportedly destroyed at the factory to prevent it from making it into the hands of other builders who might copy it. Or it might have been the one that was supposed to ship to Japan that was destroyed, or the stories might all just be rumours.

    Ultimately, who really cares?! The Moderne is kind of a dark grey spot in the early history of Gibson. I could see people going crazy for an early Flying V or an early Futura/Explorer, but these things are not only fugly, but a good-luck-convincing-anyone-it's-real level of risky for a collector. The historical significance is sketchy, too, because it never really caught on. If I had a vault full of 1956-1958 Gibsons that held also one of the prototype Moderne's, I bet the Moderne would be the last guitar I'd try to rescue if the vault caught fire, as pretty much any Gibson from that era would be nearly priceless.
     
  5. SDMFVan

    SDMFVan SS.org Regular

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  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Yeah, but it's a relevant new-ish discovery.

    The one on the far right seems like an imposter. Pickguard is different (which is explainable), but also the neck joint appears significantly different (which is a lot more difficult to explain). If the body is not original, the whole piece is probably worthless as a collector's item, since the necks of these things as well as the other hardware was interchangeable with other Gibsons - the body would be really the only truly unique part of the guitar.
     
  7. KlusonDeluxe

    KlusonDeluxe SS.org Regular

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    I would think that the Schumer one might be the the one in best original condition. As often with Gibson prototypes like the ES335, Futura/Explorer, the Flying V, the first sharp cutaway solid bodies (Before named Les Pauls) and so on hade various differences. They tried out various woods, neck joints, cavities and so on for evaluating both cosmetics, production methods and so on.

    The Schumer one are supposed to have mahogany neck and korina body just like a few Explorer guitar and Explorer basses, and prototype Vs. It also have bound neck. Also a different neck joint, more like an explorer.
     
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I disagree though, in principle, because we are talking about a guitar of which one solitary batch of prototypes may have even ever been made, assuming they aren't all fakes. I think the Schumer piece has less providence than both the Erlewine and the Gibbons, therefore it's more suspect than the others. So, it's not like there's no reason it could have been from a different batch, you know, being that there is less than or exactly equal to one batch of bodies made during that time frame.
     
  9. KlusonDeluxe

    KlusonDeluxe SS.org Regular

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    If it would have been possible to bring all three of these prototypes together and have various vintage guitar experts examine them, I´ll guess none of them would be considered genuine by all experts.

    I think its to late to have these prototypes proven authentic since the people like Ted McCarthy aren´t around anymore. People like him are/were the only one that could have identified them, and it should have been done years ago when the memories were more resent. I think we should only consider these prototypes as interesting discussion topics and nothing more.
     
  10. noise in my mind

    noise in my mind SS.org Regular

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    A flying V for fatties that don't want to lean forward.
     
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  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Well, to some extend, yes, but you could still look at the finish, and get a good idea of how long ago it was done. If the guitar was finished more than 35 years ago, then since a production model never existed, it'd likely be authentic period-wise. We also have the patent drawings, and some pretty detailed descriptions from other people who had reported to have seen these guitars first hand, with those reports also coming from before the guitar design was ever in production as a reissue. With no place for those people to have seen the guitar at the time, except the patent drawing, which were unlikely to have been available prior to the internet age, I would assume that the odds of multiple people lying about what they saw, and those lies coincidentally matching both the design as we now know it and also matching each other in some details, are astronomically low.

    So, this guitar existed. How many were made might be as little as one, but I am positive it was made. I really don't think the number of original 1950's pieces ever went into double digits, seeing as how there are so few reports of anyone ever seeing one in the wild, as well as Ted not believing any survived. It could very well be that none of the original prototypes survived more than a couple of years. We know for a fact that the Erlewine piece has a different neck and was refinished after it started out as whatever it started out as, but we also have strong reason to believe that the body shape was not modified since the late 1960's. Coupled with the fact that no one really knew what shape these were outside of Gibson employees, it is safe to assume that the piece's body was made by a Gibson employee, based off of the actual design, which is probably as good as it'll ever get.

    The Gibbon's piece is sketchy, because the earliest dated photo of it is from 1982, the year reissue production started, so it is possibly a reissue prototype or even a late 70's Ibanez Futura with a Gibson logo on the headstock.

    The Erlewine predates even the Ibanez copies by 7-8 years.

    I'm actually unable to come up with any info on the "Schumer" at all. I had never previously heard of it, and like I pointed out, the body is obviously a different shape than the patent drawings, the Erlewine, and pretty much every other reissue, copy, blah blah blah. It's different enough, to me, to consider it inauthentic, rather than a prototype of a prototype or something like that.
     
  12. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire 8 string hoarder

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    who cares, the moderne belongs in the trash next to the reverse v, schecters's death fork/trident guitar and basically all of bc rich's guitar designs (besides the eagle or mockingbird, those are kind of cool).
     
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  13. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    Let’s not forget the EBMM St Vincent, Kiesel Letchford, and PRS Eric Johnson prototype.
     
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  14. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Different guitar designs are welcome, because they bring some fresh imagery besides the conventional and over seen LP, Strat, Tele, V or Explorer aesthetics...
     
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  15. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands greg rulz ok

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  16. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire 8 string hoarder

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    i actually like the aesthetics of the st. vincent, but it's not the most comfortable guitar imo so it fails in that regard. There's no point in having a unique design if it's not comfortable and completely functional.
     
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  17. zappatton2

    zappatton2 SS.org Regular

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    Yes the Moderne is ugly, but I think that's why I enjoy it so much. I'll be "that guy" who enjoys weird fugly guitars, and I also think if a real 50's Moderne ever verifiably existed, it would be worth more than a small fortune on sheer rarity alone. I do hope to see one completely verified some day, but I remain skeptical that one really exists.
     
  18. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Everything has a purpose in life. That guitar's one may be to remember where not to go and that is a heavy burden to carry. Just for that it should be respected.

    ... and aesthetics mean nothing besides that. Why do all the designs fall into those 5? Because they have resisted the test of time in the hands of lots and lots of players in lots of different expressions...

    But I'm glad you can sum it all up in this ironic meme... good for you.
     
  19. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    Edit: Never argue down, folks.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017 at 1:02 AM

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