Gibson ES-335 TD Electric Guitar, c. 1962, serial no. 86288, signed by B.B. King, with later hardshell case.

Provenance: The estate of J. Geils.

"The chances of finding, never mind affording, a 335 like B.B.'s were slim to none so when I stumbled across a '62 at Gil Southworth's shop with a factory Varitone and correct shade of sunburst finish I decided to make it into what I call my B.B. 335. It was in tough shape as someone had removed the finish from the back of the neck, it had badly worn frets, and the original tuning machines were shot. It also had a stop-bar tailpiece, short pickguard, and the later gold anodized Varitone number plate, but these things could be easily changed. I already had some old nickel Grover tuning machines and a correct style Bigsby in my spare parts drawer, but the guitar being a '62 had rectangular block neck inlays. I took it to my friend and guitar repair wizard Jimmy Mouradian in Cambridge and he said making up a long pickguard was a piece of cake but changing the block inlays to dots presented a bigger problem. Jimmy, however, loves solving these out of the ordinary dilemmas and said he would cut out the dots from the block inlays he was removing and that he had some rosewood from an old fingerboard that would match this one. Since we were doing a fret job anyway, this would be the perfect time to change the inlays. He also made up two little wood caps for the stop bar screw holes and scribed the numbers on the now black anodized Varitone number plate. As you can see he did a great job. The finishing cosmetic touch was the addition of a '60s metal cap volume knob.

"The guitar now looked correct but sounded bad. Someone had done some weird coil tap wiring to the pickups and compared with my stock original 345 I knew the Varitone circuitry was not working correctly. As I knew that B.B. never used the Varitone anyway, we decided to remove the capacitor unit but leave the switch and wire it to throw the bridge pickup out of phase on the number 2 position. The pickups were replaced with nickel Gibson re-issue PAFs and Jimmy worked his magic on the covers to give them that nice worn sixties look. The guitar now sounded as good as it looked and I played it a few times on the '95 B.B. King summer blues tour on which we were the opening act. We attended a big 70th birthday bash for B.B. put on by Gibson in conjunction with a concert in Nashville and after showing the guitar to B.B. he nodded his approval and signed it for me."


Lot 356, Estimate: $4,000-6,000

Skinner Auctions

Skinner Auctions

Skinner Auctions
Adam Tober
Boston, MA
5:46 PM

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