Classic Gear: the rise and fall of Gibson's Firebird III

(Image credit: Future)

During the late 50s, Gibson was experiencing something of an identity crisis as it struggled to gain dominance in the rapidly expanding solidbody marketplace. While its upstart rival in California, Fender, continued to thrive as it spearheaded the new trend of sleek, ultra-modern electric guitar designs, Gibson was rendered the victim of its own success as an old-school guitar-building brand synonymous with traditional flat‑tops and archtops.

Company president Ted McCarty battled in vain to shake off Gibson’s old-fashioned image with modernistic Flying Vs and Explorers and by updating designs in Gibson’s existing Les Paul range. Alas, with Les’s influence declining and with the Flying V and Explorer neither flying nor being explored, Gibson’s vision of the future proved less convincing to the younger guitar-buying generation.

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Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.