ES-330: Return to Active Duty

Tele295

Country Gent
Jun 4, 2008
2,763
Bigsby Springs, CA
E197DBCF-6A0C-43E2-8F94-D086F0945E03.jpeg So imagine me as a little teenage rockabilly in the mid to late 80’s. My local store takes on consignment what would become my first Gibson hollowbody - a 1968 Gibson ES-330. We form a little rockabilly band, the Cheap Dates. The band calls the guitar Big Red.

I bought it and it sounded great, although I would (perhaps foolishly) eventually change out the bridge pickup for a Duncan to try to equalize the gain. The neck pup is, and has always been, magic. It came with the mismatched pickguard you see, and I don’t think it would have originally come with Kluson Deluxe tuners with keystone heads, either. Pickguard sticker is for the Cheap Dates band, and we probably made it at Kinko’s.

So what’s with the red felt under the Bigsby? One day, I saw a used bigsby B7 at my local store, and I bought it for Big Red. I had never seen another Bigsby sold separately at that time,
Well, the B7 is usually screwed to the top, and I was afraid to do that. I strung it up to see if it would just rest on top. Nope, with the tension bar, it floats. So I stuffed some red felt under there to support the Bigsby. Yes, it looks goofy. But there’s kind of a cool effect going on - there’s the Bigsby handle vibrato, and a different vibrato rate because the whole assembly moves. With the right amount of delay, you get a kind of tapped vibrato effect. It’s a little trippy. I replaced the original nylon saddle ABr-1 with a Gotoh Nashville tuneomatic (no rattle wire).

Anyway, I stopped playing the 330 as my main guitar around 1993, as I had fallen under the spell of Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan, and pursued the Telecaster way of life. Later, I got an Epiphone ES295 for my hollowbody needs. Looked more rockabilly with the single cut, too.

Fast forward to present day. My singer from back in the day, Wild Dog James, starts hinting that he wants to come out of retirement and make a record. Well, we need Big Red to capture that original Cheap Dates’ sound. So, it comes out of the storage closet where it has been resting quietly. Yes, the strings were rusty and crappy, but STILL IN TUNE. This thing hasn’t seen daylight in a least 15 years. Replaced the strings, but not thrilled with my string choice, but I’ll fix that later. The strap was dirty and stiff, but some Bick’s conditioner remedied that. Slide it on and give it a strum…

Do you ever put on a guitar that you haven’t played in a while, and it just fits perfectly and feels like home? Yeah, that happened. I pretty much learned to play on this guitar, from my first gigs and for at least 5-6 years. Everything felt so familiar, and I can see how my hands have gotten stronger since those days. Trying to remember all that jump-rockabilly stuff we used to play. The action needed a little adjustment, and some fine tuning is needed on the truss Rod. Still plays and sounds amazing.

This guitar is being returned to active studio duty immediately. I’ll consider replacing the Bigsby with a non-tension bar model with the next string change.

Oddly enough, I’m going back to the gear I played in the 80’s, amps (SF Princeton, tweed Tremolux) and now the guitars. I’m not going to fool with trying to get the echoplex running because the Mystery Brain does a darn fine job on that front. It’s all full circle.
 

Tele295

Country Gent
Jun 4, 2008
2,763
Bigsby Springs, CA
Love it. If that's a '68, it must be an early '68, since it has the (more sought after) short neck, not that ES-335 style joint of later ES-330s.

The serial # was duplicated by Gibson, so it may be a ‘63 instead. Doesn’t say Made in USA in back of headstock, but the knobs make me think late 60’s. Might be 67
 

Dana Rudd

Country Gent
Nov 26, 2019
2,181
Greybull, WY
Glad to see you bring it out of the closet. Fine guitars, hope it's bringing back old precious memories.

First keeper guitar I ever bought. It was 1966 when I bought mine brand new. It's still with me after all these years. It's pretty much a case queen anymore, but still a great guitar.

Keep on playing yours when you get a chance.
 

Tele295

Country Gent
Jun 4, 2008
2,763
Bigsby Springs, CA
Glad to see you bring it out of the closet. Fine guitars, hope it's bringing back old precious memories.

First keeper guitar I ever bought. It was 1966 when I bought mine brand new. It's still with me after all these years. It's pretty much a case queen anymore, but still a great guitar.

Keep on playing yours when you get a chance.

That’s what this was. Pull it out of the case!
 

stiv

Country Gent
Sep 12, 2014
2,236
Firenze, Italy
I’ve had a sunburst ‘67 and I have nothing but great memories of it. Hard times (and not much use) have been forced me to sell it even I knew it was a mistake.
I wish I never did it. I’d really love to have it now.
Great guitar. I loved it more than any other hollow body Gibson I ever played.
You’re a lucky dude.:)
 

section2

Country Gent
Dec 21, 2016
2,555
Toronto
Great story, and beautiful guitar! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to hear what you're recording.

You can probably get the B7 to lie flat without the felt if you run the strings overtop of the tension bar. If you try it and like it, a B3 should give you the same feel. (A B6 would be a better match for the body size, but I don't know whether it would give you a steep enough string break angle. It would depend on the neck set angle, and I've never seen a 330 in the flesh.)
 

Tele295

Country Gent
Jun 4, 2008
2,763
Bigsby Springs, CA
.
Zippo lighter fluid (naphtha) is a miracle potion for removing sticker residue. I don't know whether it's safe to use on whatever your pickguard is made of, but I use it on acrylic all the time with no ill effects.

I used to use naphtha all the time, but you can’t buy it by the can here anymore
 


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