Watch Joe Bonamassa get hands on with Gibson’s new Theodore electric guitar

Joe Bonamassa playing the Gibson Theodore
(Image credit: Gibson TV/YouTube)

Last week, Gibson introduced the Theodore – an all-new electric guitar that brought to life a sketch that had been drawn and signed by the company’s former president Ted McCarty in 1957.

And, when it comes to putting Gibson guitars through their paces, who better to call than certified vintage gear connoisseur, Gibson aficionado and all-round blues guitar great Joe Bonamassa, who took the Theodore for a spin in a recent Gibson TV Archive Collection video.

It’s a brief-but-telling insight into the tonal capacity and historical context of the Theodore, with JoBo – ever the gear historian – also taking the opportunity to note the importance McCarty had both for Gibson and for the wider guitar industry as whole.

“What a blast from the past this is. I love it,” said Bonamassa after opening the historical-style pink/brown hardcase, before throwing the Theodore in at the deep end with a range of blues bends and scale licks.

Exploring the history of the model, Bonamassa continues, “The design of this guitar predates what people know as the double-cut Les Paul Junior. This probably was slated to be Gibson’s first double-cut solidbody. Then, it became the Les Paul Junior, and this design ended up in a filing cabinet for almost 65 years.”

“The great thing about the history of this company is they were so innovative back in the ‘50s, and they were thinking about not making guitars for jazz guys, they were embracing the rock ‘n’ roll era,” he observes. “What happened between 1952 and 1963 at Gibson, everybody in the world who makes guitars is still chasing it.”

Bonamassa then went on to discuss the influence McCarty had on the industry, and stressed that, without him, “there would be no [ES-]335, no Les Paul model, no Firebird and no Flying V or Explorer”.

Gibson Theodore

(Image credit: Gibson)

“Ted McCarty,” he notes, “when you talk about him – and you talk about the great inventors of electric guitars, innovations and this industry – I mean, his name is at the top of the heap.”

While Bonamassa is talking, you can hear the bluesman going to town on the Theodore’s 12”-radius rosewood fretboard, decorating his historical seminar with gain-y licks galore and a comprehensive exploration of the guitar’s range.

“It’s really, really great to see it come to light 65 years later,” he continues, after giving it his seal of approval. “I really think it’s such a great hybrid of such classic Gibson designs of that time.”

To find out more about the Theodore, head over to Gibson.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.