The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

Gibson J-160E Electric FlatTop Sunburst, 1956


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Introduced in 1954, the Gibson J-160E flat top electric turned out to be one of the more successful of Gibson’s slope-shouldered dreadnoughts.

Introduced in 1954 and intended as a companion to the then-new Les Paul solidbody, the Gibson J-160E was one of the first mass production electrified steel string guitars. This model was discontinued in 1979, and is occasionally re-issued. One of the greatest contributors to the success of this model was a 1962 model’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, in the hands of one John Lennon. That was The Beatles first US performance, and made all their gear quite popular.

The Gibson J-160E model was built for a specific purpose – being used live and amplified on a loud stage – but also found itself fitting perfectly into a number of recording scenarios. Its ‘secret’ was that with its laminate construction, ladder bracing, and electronics being bolted to the top, its harmonic content was significantly limited. While this sounds like it would be a disadvantage to human ears, it can be ideal for microphones and recorders where the J-160E ‘stays in its lane’ and does not bleed into sonic space meant for other instruments.

When recording with fewer instruments – perhaps just a voice – and at lower volumes, such as the Lennon-McCartney hit ‘Yesterday’, a more sonically interesting guitar like McCartney’s Epiphone Texan FT-79, or a J-45 or D-28 can be more appropriate.

Here we’re looking at a Gibson J-160E built during 1956 at Kalamazoo, Michigan. It is in overall good condition, with plenty of expected, natural lacquer checking and honest play wear, including some pick wear through the finish on the top and some ‘buckle rash’ on the back.

The ladder-braced top is laminate Spruce, the sides and back laminate Mahogany. The body blocks and neck are Mahogany, with a Rosewood used for the bridge and bound Rosewood fingerboard. At time of construction, ‘Rosewood’ meant ‘Brazilian Rosewood’.

For a very short time, the Gibson J-160E used an unusual adjustable bridge seen here. You’ll notice a pair of thumbwheels at either end of the bridge, which is very low – it was apparently shaved at some point. These adjust a fairly thick Maple carrier block, moving the saddle up and down.

The tuners are the original Kluson style models but with replaced ‘Keystone’ buttons. The Gibson J-160E pickup is a P-90 mounted under the top at the end of the fingerboard, volume and tone controls mounted through the top in the lower treble bout, and the output jack is just past them on the side.

This guitar plays well, with a very comfortable neck. Fret wear is light, suggesting a professional refret at some point.

A non-original, likely 1970’s hard shell case is included.


Price: $5,999.99 CAD
  • Model: J-160E
  • Year: 1956
  • Finish Sunburst
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: N/A, dated to 1956 at Kalamazoo MI
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 11/07/2023

  • Consignment Item

  • Including Hard case
  • Instrument Weight: 5.104lbs 2.32kg
  • Scale Length: 24.603in 625mm
  • Nut Width: 1.689in 42.85mm
Gibson Website

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