1965 Gibson ES-125CD

Gibson ES-125CD

aka "Fireball".

Very similar to a 175, but with a different sunburst, unbound neck, P90s, stamped name on the headstock (not inlaid), and dots rather than bars for fret markers. I like my instruments simple and dirty. (one of my few beefs with most Gretsches ...) Gibson only made around 475 of this model in the mid 60s, full depth body with the cutaway and two pickups (hence the CD, Cutaway Double pickup); kind of a rare bird. Even rarer to find one this unaltered. Most 125s are either no cutaway/one pickup, or the thinline (slim body) version which George Thorogood made famous. The P90s are original, as is the wiring, pots, etc etc. What's not original is the pot knobs, the tuners (which is one of the first things I replace on vintage instruments anyways, this has Grovers on it), the bridge which I made myself from some rosewood topped by a Gotoh tune-a-matic, and the Bigsby which I added myself. (I still have the original trapeze tailpiece it came with). I'm assuming the nut is original, it looks old, but who knows for sure. I may replace that some day. Sure sure, I like vintage, but playability and sound > collector bullshit. And it's easily reversible . I imagine it's been refretted at some point as well.

Because of the limited timeframe Gibson made these, this particular model has the Gibson "skinny neck" they used on most of their guitars in this era, 1 9/16" at the nut. But you know, it doesn't bother me at all, I never really think about it. I guess I have clumsy hands. It does fine with a standard bridge, over the scale length it kinda evens out.

I also am partial to unbound necks, like on my D18 and Eclipse. I know a lot of folks are big on neck binding, but I do prefer the simplicity of an unbound neck, both look and feel. Just my preference. The neck floats off the body a little, but not like an L5 or classic archtop.

Info sheet from the '66 Gibson catalog

Gibson 125CD

I normally string it with Diadarrio XL115s (.11-.49, unwound third). I feel like on any of these floating bridge guitars, any strings thinner than 11s don't have enough tension to hold the bridge down properly, especially with the Bigsby going. You wanna drive that top a little bit. If it's a jazz-swing type gig, I may throw some .12 flatwounds on there, but for rock n roll, gotta go round. I don't pin the bridge, although you may notice a bit of tape on it in the pictures to hold it in place. At the time, I was still fine tuning to fit the bridge to the top, that's tough to do. I have since gotten that squared away, no more tape. I use standard shape heavy celluloid tortoiseshell picks, Fender, or any of the same type. (I kinda like the ones from Buy and Sell that have a Cthulhu on them).

The pickguard is "firestripe" tortoisehell, which you will not find anywhere anymore. I love that shit. The body is laminated maple, with a mahogany neck. (the opposite of my Eclipse LPS). Scale length is standard Gibson 24.75",  Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, and cherry sunburst (which has barely faded). There are some finish cracks, to be expected, light wear on the headstock, and barely any buckle rash. The finish on the sides and back is a cherry sort of thing. The body is bound, which has yellowed really nicely.

Other than George Throrogood's thinline model, you don't see a lot of these played. I think they slapped a 125 (no cutaway) in Wes's hands once and snapped a picture, but cmon, that's a photo op, his axe is the L5, maybe the most famous guitar in jazz history. This is a video of Phil Alvin playing a thinline 175, but with the P90s and dot fret markers, it's sorta close to a 125. (OK, maybe a stretch, but any excuse to watch some old Blasters vids is OK by me). Ashley Kingman told me he had a thinline 125 he played for a while (right before almost dropping mine on a table - HAH). The rarity of these models only increases the appeal to me.

The 125 can really get a wide array of tones. I spend most of the time on the bridge pickup, and it can rock, grind and twang as much as I want it to depending on my picking approach. The middle position (both pickups on) sounds cool, classic Gibson, and with the right picking approach and a small tonal adjustment, it can almost get "Filtertrony". Flip to the neck pickup, and you can get some great thick, jazzier tones, or add some drive and fuzz out. With thick flatwounds and the all wood bridge, you can head right into classic jazzland. I also use the neck pickup when playing solo, add a solid dose of verb, very spooky and cool.

I had been lusting for one of these for a long time, but availability and my finances never seemed to sync up, so I just had to wait. Finally, my wife made it happen with a story worthy of it's own page. I married very well.

I get asked a lot why I don't play a Gretsch, since they are so ubiqutous in the rockabilly genre. I actually love the sound of Gretsches, I really do, they're great guitars; but in the long run,  I just seem to jibe with P90s and Gibsons. I need that nastiness, that bite of a good P90 that Dynas/Filertrons just can't seem to get, and older Gibson necks just feel better in my hands. The strong mids of  an overdriven P90 going into the classic scooped Fender amp is just a magical combo. Besides, do we really need yet another asshole in a Western-via-Liberace shirt playing a 6120? *snap*.  I'm sure I'll grab a Tennessee or Black Falcon at some point (and spend a week stripping it of all that "how can we sell the same guitar for more money" gaudy bullshit); I do think they're cool guitars. But this guitar will likely be my main axe until I get planted.

Gibson 125CD

With the original tailpiece still on it, pre-Bigsby

Gibson 125CD