An Exceptionally Rare Special Factory-Ordered ES-335TD Custom Varitone Mono
1964 Gibson ES-335TD Custom Varitone Mono
This exceptionally rare, custom order ES-335 Varitone Mono weighs just 8.20 lbs. and features a sixteen inch wide, one and three-quarter inches thick, single-bound laminated maple body with semi-solid construction, maple central block and two 'f' holes. One-piece mahogany neck with a nice comfortable nut width of just under 1 11/16 inches, a standard Gibson scale length of 24 3/4 inches, and that oh-so-perfect '64 medium to thick profile (å la Clapton) that goes from 0.82 inches at the 1st fret, 0.83 at the 3rd, 0.88 at the 5th, 0.91 at the 7th, and 0.93 inches at the 12th fret. Single-bound rosewood fretboard with 22 original wide jumbo frets and inlaid pearl block position markers. Headstock with inlaid pearl "Gibson" logo and pearl crown inlay. Two-layer black over white plastic truss-rod cover with "Custom" engraved in white, secured by two screws. Serial number "66270" impressed into the back of the headstock. Individual dual-line Kluson Deluxe tuners with double-ring Keystone plastic buttons and "D-169400 / Patent No." stamped on the underside. Gibson Kalamazoo (pre 'Union Made') oval orange label inside the bass f-hole with the style "ES-335TDC[ustom]" and the serial number "66270" written in black ink. Five-layer black over white plastic pickguard, secured to body by two screws. Two 'patent-number' humbucking pickups (solder untouched) each with the original rectangular black label "Patent No. 2,737,842" on the underside and outputs of 8.01k and 7.67k. The pickup "rings" are the original black plastic stamped underneath "MR 491" and "M-69 7" (neck pickup) and "MR 490" and "M-69 8" (bridge pickup). In the cavity beneath the bridge pickup is the custom factory-ordered Varitone transformer "GA-90-1C". This guitar has additional factory black plastic pickup "beauty" or "dress" rings, one (on the neck pickup) cosmetic and one (on the bridge pickup) to cover the slightly enlarged hole for the insertion of the 'Varitone' transformer. Four controls (two volume, two tone) plus three-way selector switch for pickup selection and custom factory-ordered six-position Varitone rotary switch for various tonal settings, all on lower treble bout. The potentiometers are stamped "137 6401" (CTS, January 1964). Gold plastic bell-shaped "Bell" knobs with metal tops and a black circular plate with the numbers in silver around the Varitone switch. ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic retainer bridge with nylon saddles and factory stop tailpiece. This guitar is in excellent plus (8.75) condition. The original jumbo frets show some playing wear which is mainly confined to the first eight frets and there are some very small 'divots' in the fretboard - again confined to the first eight frets. There is a minuscule amount of belt buckle wear on the back of the guitar and one tiny mark on the back of the neck behind the second fret. There is a very small area of 'strap wear' on the back just beneath the lower-edge strap button. At one time this guitar was fitted with Grover RotoMatic tuners, as evidenced by six very small and neatly filled holes on the back of the headstock and slightly enlarged shaft holes. The original individual dual-line Kluson Deluxe tuners with double-ring Keystone plastic buttons and "D-169400 / Patent No." stamped on the underside are now back on the guitar… if the tuners hadn't been changed, we would have easily given this guitar a 'near-mint' rating of 9.25. Housed in the original Gibson black hardshell case with five latches and orange plush lining (9.00).
Inside the case is a typed letter from the Chapman Highway Guitar Shop in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Mr. [George] Gruhn, dated March 9, 2001, sending the guitar to him for confirmation that the custom "beauty" or "dress" rings are indeed original factory rings. The reply from George Gruhn is handwritten on the letter "The finish is orig., (Phil & Dave), the beauty rings are to cover outsized hand rout to fit choke coils in lead p/u rout; (they routed too wide on the back of p/u rout) and rings cover the trailing edge rout at lead p/u area. They are orig. Gib. Cust. work of that period, and are all orig. Gib. work."
"Meanwhile, back in the late 50s, Gibson offered the 345's stereo wiring and Varitone switch as an option on the 355. The November 1959 pricelist showed the option, soon named the ES-355TS-SV, the SV suffix standing for Stereo and Varitone. The same option for the 335 was never officially listed, but some rare examples were produced." (Tony Bacon. The Gibson 335 Guitar Book, p.32).
"Introduced in 1958, the ES-335T (originally no final D) truly ranks among the all-time Gibson classics, not only because of its enduring popularity but also because of its semi-solid construction which pioneered a new style of electrics… After 1959, a few 335 were also custom-built with double parallelogram inlays (like the ES-345TD or for that matter the ES-175) or a Stereo Varitone circuitry, even though these appointments were never explicitly offered as an option on the model" (A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Electrics -- The Classic Years, p. 231).
"The Stereo/Vari-Tone outfit became the raison d'être of the ES-345T, but it was also offered as a special-order option on a few other electrics, namely the Super 400CES, the L-5CES, the Byrdland, the ES-355T and the ES-350T. Both the stereo wiring and the Vari-Tone circuitry could be ordered separately ($25.00 extra for stereo and $40.00 for the Vari-Tone) or together ($50.00 extra). In most cases, however, they were custom-ordered as one single outfit" (A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Electrics -- The Classic Years, pp. 81-82). ES-335s with custom-ordered Monaural Varitones are truly rare guitars.
"This "Varitone" rotary switch, consists in a series of capacitors of different values which progressively "dry" out the sound of the pick-ups by filtering certain frequencies. The Varitone system was invented by Walter Fuller and it is a very ingenious "passive" device that, combined with the two pick-ups, allows the guitarist to obtain 18 basic sounds. A certain number of 335's were also equipped with this system on a special order basis…" (A.R. Duchossoir, Gibson Electrics, p. 153). (#2197)
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