Gibson L-4 CES Custom Shop Hollowbody Guitar
The Gibson L-4 CES is a Custom Shop Hollowbody that was designed around the L-4C and the ES-175. It was originally made in 1949 and was the first Gibson electrics with the pointed Florentine cutaway. Both the L-4CE and the L-4CES were never listed as regular production electrics. Actually the ES-175 was an L-4C with a plywood top instead of a carved maple top. There were a few electrified L-4Cs made in the late 50's. These guitars were fitted with a Charlie Christian. The L-4CES is this same version with the exception of it had either Alnico pickups or a vintage humbucker (Feb 1957). This is one of more rare Gibsons.
When first released the L-4 had a single coil pickup (P-90 style) that was mounted near the neck and a volume and tone control with the 1/4 inch guitar jack mounted on the rim (side) of the guitar. The neck was made of a single piece of Mahogany. The top and sides where made of laminated maple which was reinforced with two parallel braces. There have been a number of changes to this guitar over the years. For instance it wasn't until 1953 that two humbuckers appeared on the ES-175. Also an all gold hardware version called the ES-295 was released in the 50’s which were the hollow body version of the Les Paul. There are two main version of this guitar created between 1949 and the mid 1960's. Most guitarists are used to the ES-175 / 175D and the ES-295 versions.
The original are very similar to today's version with some exception. For the most part the number of frets on the neck didn't change (20 frets). The Florentine Cut-Away body style also didn't change.
The first version was made of maple and had a single P-90 pickup and had the designation of ES-175. It also had only 19 frets with neck to body joint at the 14th fret. Some of the models did use Alnico pickups in the middle 1950's. In 1957 the number of frets on the neck was increased to 20 this followed the addition of a fancier tailpiece (1956). The trapeze style tailpiece was replaced with one that had a 'T' shaped center which had a zip zag pattern on the sides.
In 1957 the guitar was fitted with Humbucker pickups where just released by Gibson ('57 Vintage Humbucker). The designation for this guitar was the ES-175D for dual pickups. This was probably the most important change for the guitar as far as the sound of the instrument was concerned. The humbucker allowed the guitarist to play louder with less pickup noise and hum. The pickups themselves were also more powerful which meant that the amplifier didn't have to be turned up as loud to produce the same volume. The tone of the guitar however did change and Gibson still shipped the ES-175/L-4 with the single coil P-90 pickups.
In 1959 the natural finish was discontinued and some finish variations where released but for the most part the sunburst finish was used. Today's version of the Gibson L-4CES comes with two ‘57 vintage humbuckers and sides and back is made of Mahogany. It's now available in both natural and vintage sunburst finishes. One variation with the current model is the carved solid spruce top instead of maple. The neck is still 24.75" scale length and made of a single piece of Mahogany. The neck still has 20 frets and an ebony fretboard (not rosewood) with Pearl split parallelogram inlays and a single-ply white binding around the top of the neck. The neck profile is the ES style (electric Spanish) with vintage tulip tuners. The width of the nut at the top is 1 11/16". The electronics are in the standard configuration with two '57 classic humbucker pickups with two volume and two tone controls (one for each pickup) and of course the 3-way pickup selector switch.