Full-Depth ES-335

George Gruhn
Guitar Player Rare Bird Column
January 1993
Bizarre models and model names keep this business interesting.

For example, we recently saw a '50s custom made Gibson. A Super 400 cutaway with a natural finish, seven strings, and three pickups (like Gibson's ES-5). What model is that? Obviously a Super 500-7N. That's not its real model name, but it comes closer to describing the guitar than the actual label, which reads simply "Super 400CES."

So what do we call this month's Gibson model from the late '60s? From the front, it looks like a typical late-'60s ES-335 thinline semi-hollowbody. From the side, however, it looks like the ES-150DC, a full-depth double-cutaway model introduced in 1969. Maybe it's an ES-335FD?

Unfortunately, there is no such catalog model as an ES-335FD. The label on this one simply says ES-335T. T for thinline, which it definitely is not, and D for double pickup.

The body is a full 3" deep, almost twice as deep as a standard ES-335TD, which is 1-5/8'' deep. Furthermore, the ES-335 is a semi-hollow guitar, with a block of wood down the center of the body; this guitar is fully hollow.

The serial number, 980721, is higher than any on published serial number lists from the '60s. It could possibly be a number from 1969, the year the ES-150 was introduced. This guitar has the same body size, shape, and neck as an ES-150, as well as two humbucking pickups and four knobs on the lower treble bout.

So why isn't this an ES-150 with the wrong label? The jack, finish, and most of all, lack of a master volume control keep it from being an ES-150. When the late '60s ES-150 was introduced, it had a master volume knob on the upper treble bout. No standard ES-335 ever had this feature. The ES-150 also had a side-mounted jack; this one features a jack mounted on the guitar's top, like an ES-335. Also, a sunburst finish was never offered on the late-'60s ES-150.

So this is either a full-depth, fully hollow ES-335, or an ES-150 with ES-335 electronics. Most likely it's an early version of what became the ES-150.

That brings up the question of how the '69 ES-150 got its name. It bears little resemblance to the 16" wide, non-cutaway ES-150 model that was Gibson's first electric hollowbody in 1936. The '69 ES-150 is unique (it's the only full-depth, double-rounded cutaway, electric archtop Gibson ever made), so its association with the pre-war ES-150 is all the more curious. At a $495 list price in 1970, the ES-150 was priced between Gibson's two most popular full-depth electrics, the single cutaway ES-175 (two pickup version) and the non-cutaway ES-125.

The full name of the production model was ES-150DC. "DC" did not stand for double pickup and cutaway, but for double cutaway body shape. The ES-150DC was available in walnut (DCW), natural (DCN), or cherry finish (DCH). The significance of the "H" is unknown.

The ES-150DC was moderately successful. Its biggest year was 1973, when 285 walnut and 132 natural models were shipped (the cherry finish was dropped after the first year). In 1975, its last year of production, a total of 212 instruments were shipped. By comparison, 401 ES-175s were shipped that year.

Neither the ES-150 nor ES-175 approached the sales of Gibson's semi-hollow thinline models (ES-335, ES-345, ES-355). In 1973, Gibson shipped 1,793 standard cherry finish ES-335s. Gibson still makes the ES-175, but stopped producing the ES-150 after building a total of 2,427 units; make that 2,428 if you want to count this early experiment.