Skip to main content

Get an in-depth tour of Gibson's former Kalamazoo, Michigan factory in this recently unearthed 1967 documentary

In the fall of 2020, Gibson employees were searching deep in the company's archives when they came across an unmarked reel of film.

Producers at the company's Gibson TV network got ahold of the film, and had it digitally remastered. What sat on the reel was a 1967 documentary called An Instrument of the People, a fascinating, time capsule-like look at how guitars were crafted in Gibson's former factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Now, 55 years after it was shot, Gibson has finally released the footage to the public via its YouTube channel. You can see it for yourself above.

Over the course of 20 minutes, the film shows viewers just about every step of the guitar build process – from its beginning as a nondescript piece of wood to the final quality checks the finished instrument endured before leaving the factory.

Toward its end, the film also touches on Gibson's guitar amp and pickup divisions, and shows how the company made its acoustic and electric guitar strings at the time.

Interestingly, because it was shot in 1967, Instrument of the People doesn't feature a single Les Paul. It would be another year before the legendary model returned to the Gibson catalog, after its iconic single-cut design was axed in favor of the SG in 1961 and discontinued.

According to Gibson – which replied to a handful of comments and questions from viewers on YouTube – "not much has changed" in the 55 years since the film was made. Gibson also says that, amazingly, the company still uses some of the very same machines featured in the film.

An Instrument of the People is also quite reminiscent of a slightly older mini-documentary on Fender's Fullerton, California facility from 1959. Like the Gibson film, it had been mostly forgotten, before receiving a loving digital remaster and upload to YouTube for 21st century eyes. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.