“Big, little, short or tall, wish I
could have kept them all … Lord I loved them every one”. This is a line from a Conway Twitty hit
country song in the 80s; when Conway sang this line he was speaking of ladies,
but for me it would be GUITARS. To me it’s
like this … one person can look at a dog and say “that’s the ugliest dog I ever
saw”, and someone else (usually the dog’s owner) will say “no, it’s the cutest
dog in the world”. When it comes to guitars, I'm always the latter, what someone else may call ugly, I call awesome. To me, EVERY guitar
is beautiful in its own way. I am particularly
drawn to guitars from the golden period of the late 50s through the late 60s …
and here’s where it gets weird, I actually love those unlovables that have many
battle scars and owner hacked “modifications”.
I call it “personality”.
Okay, so that brings us to
today’s topic, a 67 Gibson Melody Maker SG that I recently found in a little
junk shop. Here is a list of what owners
have done to her over the last five decades:
The original single coil pickups had been
replaced with humbuckers.
A “SG” like pickup switch had been added, and
the original removed.
Originally Pelham blue, she had been painted
black, a long time ago from the looks of it.
The Mastro Vibrola had been removed and a
tune-o-matic stop tailpiece bridge installed
Strangely, the nut had been re-positioned
So, interestingly enough, the only really BAD thing
that had been done was the nut re-positioning.
It essentially left the guitar incapable of playing in tune, because the
spacing from the nut to the 1st fret was wrong. It would also prove
to be the most challenging issue to fix, as I actually had to graft a small
piece of rosewood in to the fingerboard to put the nut back where it
belonged! As far as all the other mods
go … well, I liked them, although I probably would have liked the original pelham
So, having fixed the nut issue I proceeded to get
to know the old gal. I can flat tell ya
that there ain’t anything that feels as sweet as a good Gibby neck that’s been
played for 50-ish years or so.
Sweet! But the sound … well, it
was thin & ugly. Not a real problem
as I was planning to put a set of my own PAFs in her anyway; so, it was time to
open her up. Inside, I found the good …
the bad … and the ugly!
The good: The pickups were a nice set of PRS McCarty
Archtops, which I quickly sold on eBay for a nice little bit of change.
The Bad: Of
the four pots, only ONE was a proper 500K!
The two volume pots were 100K (probably from Radio Shack in the 70s or
80s), and one tone pot was a 50K.
Well … everything I found inside!
Some of the ugliest soldering I’ve ever seen and a real hack-job on
enlarging the pickup cavity!
The cure for this old gal’s internal injuries was a
set of four new Alpha 500K pots and new orange-drop tone caps … and a set of my
Historic ’57 PAF pickups … aged to perfection!
I’d also like to note that I wired the guitar using the earliest Gibson Les
Paul wiring scheme from the mid-late 50s.
Over the years, the value and position of the tone capacitor has changed
several times. Most true Les Paul
players swear by the original system, and I agree. The interaction between the four controls
when in the middle position is extreme … but once you get used to that, it
becomes an asset rather than a hindrance. Google
modern vs. 50s Les Paul wiring to research the difference.
a super-sweet vintage SG that sounds second to none, plays like a dream,
and is a true one of a kind. Best
part? My total investment was under $500
… and several long nights at the bench.