The Gibson Flying V Turns 50

Let’s all sing “Happy Birthday” to the Gibson Flying V guitar. Yes indeed this futuristic looking guitar was introduced back in 1958, way ahead of it’s time. In 1957 the president of Gibson was Ted McCarty. He wanted his designers to come up with a guitar to compete with Leo Fender’s most popular design, the Stratocaster. Technology was moving forward from all the advances made during World War II and the Korean War. Satellites were now circling the earth and Science Fiction became very popular. Remember Ed Wood and Plan 9 From Outer Space?

The Flying V prototype guitars were made of mahogany and it was decided that they would be too heavy and costly to produce to compete with Fender’s Stratocaster. For the production models African Limba Wood also know as Korina was used. It was lighter and more readily available plus cost effective for production. Less than 100 of these guitars were produced in 1958 and 1959.

The Flying V design was so radical that it took nearly a decade and a half to catch on. Sales were down to almost nothing so Gibson dropped it from the catalog 1960. Kinks guitarist Dave Davies back in 1964 reported buying an original Flying V in an L.A. guitar shop for $60 with the suggested retail price at the time of about $250. Today a 1958 or’59 Flying V can sell from $120,000-$145,000! Not a bad day at the guitar shop I’d say.

The most noted artists that played the Flying V model were Albert King, Lonnie Mack, Jimi Hendrix, Marc Bolan of T.Rex, Lenny Kravitz and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

A 50th Anniversary Flying V model from Gibson Custom is slated for release later this year. No details, pricing information or specifications have been published as of yet. We will just have to wait and see what Gibson comes up with.

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