Skip to main content

Marty McFly’s 'Back to the Future' Gibson ES-345 Was Actually from the Future

(Image credit: Screenshot from MovieClips video on YouTube)

In the hit 1985 film Back to the Future, 1980s teen Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, fills in on guitar at the high school dance.

As we all know by now, he blows the minds of the Fifties-era kids and musicians in attendance by incorporating power chords, feedback and tapping into “Johnny B. Goode.”

“I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet,” he tells the bewildered crowd. “But your kids are gonna love it.” True. Very true.

Something that wasn't very "true" about the scene, however, is the guitar McFly is using. He is, in fact, playing a Gibson ES-345, which wouldn't be introduced until 1958. The scene is set in 1955. Apparently on his way back to '55, McFly must've made a pit stop in '58 to pick up the guitar. Or maybe Marvin Berry—who was already playing the guitar before handing it off to Marty—made a quick trip to 1958, and then back to 1955. OK, we think you get the idea.

You can see a new Gibson ES-345TD in the photo at the bottom of this story. The biggest difference is Marty’s guitar was retrofitted with a Bigsby, as many good things are. McFly was emulating Chuck Berry and playing Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode” before it was even released, thus insinuating that Berry got the idea for the song from McFly. Hey, anything's possible!

Below, check out the "Gibson ES-345 scene" from the film, followed by Fox's live 2011 performance of the song, also on a very nice red Gibson. In fact, it looks the exact same ES-345 from the film, but we really can't be sure. At least we have a question lined up if we ever meet Fox.

For information about the current-model Gibson Memphis ES-345, visit its page on For more great big-screen guitar moments, check out Laughing Stocks: Hollywood's 10 Funniest Guitar Moments.

Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.