The Norlin Era SG Custom and SG Standard.

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by SG Champagne, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    My 1979 SG Standard, as I have before posted, is outstanding in its fit and finish, even to this day. I bought it used in 1980.

    Could others with a Norlin SG in either Standard of Custom comment on their guitars?

    I have a feeling that the Norlin SG Standards and Customs did not have some of the fit and finish problems that other Norlin Gibson models had.

    I am asking because I may one day purchase another Norlin SG Custom or Standard. I have a feeling that I can buy with confidence.

    If I can attract lots of responses in this thread, I will learn a great deal more than I now know. I would be thankful for that.
     
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  2. JohnnyGoo

    JohnnyGoo Well-Known Member

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    Love the Johnny Cash poster in ur avitar
     
  3. JohnnyGoo

    JohnnyGoo Well-Known Member

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    Ive got no Norlin era stuff to bring to the table but would love to see pics of others.
     
  4. shreddy bender

    shreddy bender Well-Known Member

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    I owned 2 Norlin SG's My first Gibson was a 1974 SG Standard and the other was a 1972 SG III. Both were well made and I still miss them.
    The Standard had a 3 piece neck with an ebony fingerboard. The Bill Lawrence tarbacks sounded awesome. That was my main guitar for 14 years but then it got stolen .
    I'm still angry about that but that guitar sparked my love of SG's. If anyone sees a 74 Standard with the serial number 502 495 I WANT MY GUITAR BACK!
    It was a great guitar. Most people who diss the Norlin SG probably never owned one!
     
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  5. shreddy bender

    shreddy bender Well-Known Member

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    My dream SG actually is a walnut Norlin Custom . They're so pretty to my eye. If I had $2500 about 7 years ago I would own one! It played beautifully and sounded mean!
     
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  6. Delboy

    Delboy Well-Known Member

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    I own a '78 Custom, beautiful sounding guitar, has tarbacks and a very thin neck, not uncomfortable but thinner than the 60's profile, which is my favourite neck.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. wax

    wax Member

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  8. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Great input, thanks much.

    I am looking for Norlin SG owners of Standard or Custom models that have had a bad experience with the fit and finish of the instrument.

    You see, I have a theory. My theory is that when people think of Gibson they think of the Les Paul model. We know that this model went through some changes during the Norlin years. It seems to me that these changes caused the problems that led to the criticism.

    The SG Custom and Standard models did not change all that much. In fact they got more simple with the abolition of the tremolo arm. My theory holds that the folks who worked on the Custom and Standard were able to drive on with the quality of Gibson's best years.

    We know that Norlin Gibson introduced some new budget models that carried the SG name. I don't want to talk about those. We know that Norlin introduced the volute, the Harmonica bridge, the three piece neck and the 14 degree headstock tilt. Most dislike these changes intensely. I'm not talking about those changes, because these changes were improvements to reinforce the headstock and neck area. The harmonica bridge is stronger and allows more room for precise intonation. Even the Tarbacks by Bill Lawrence were an improvement in that they are potted in a very durable substance, so these pickups may never go microphonic or otherwise break.

    I am looking for people that have had problems with the fit and finish of these Norlin "top of the line" SG Custom and SG Standard.
     
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  9. wax

    wax Member

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    Oops. Missed the intent of your post.

    I agree with your assessment.
     
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  10. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    SOMEBODY MUST HAVE HAD A ROTTEN NORLIN SG CUSTOM OR SG STANDARD !

    Speak up, please. This is research. Thanks.

    : )
     
  11. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    On this site, if you dig deep enough, you will find numerous threads on this subject.
    You will find many who love these old guitars, and some who (by reflex) condemn them.

    Late '70s guitars bear no stigma. Early '70s SGs suffered many bizarre and pointless changes
    to the design which were unpopular and panned by guitarists for decades.
    Norlin guitars got very little respect except from their owners on this forum when I was
    a newbie here, like nine years ago. The other problem Gibson had in the '70s was that
    they opened the Nashville plant in 1974 and put pressure on their work force of inexperienced
    and non-union workers to make production quotas. So the SGs from the mid '70s on were
    made by these trainees in Nashville, not by Gibson's craftsmen in Kalamazoo. There are good
    ones and bad ones. No one can make a generalization that's worth anything. You have to play
    it, then you'll know.

    But lately they have been rehabilitated in the public (guitarist's) opinion.
    A '70s era SG is one of the only "vintage' guitars that a normal player can afford, simply
    because of the stigma attached to the Norlin Corporation's takeover of the Gibson factory
    and reputation and because of the changes that were made, and because of how many
    years it took before Gibson learned how to make their old guitars correctly again.

    Personally, I have no interest in the 'vintage" guitar market, regarding it as a nest of fakers and
    snakes. Anyone who believes he can "buy with confidence" is dreaming. If you are interested
    in buying a 'Vintage' guitar of any kind, you must buy with extreme suspicion... believe nothing
    you are told, and make physical verification an essential part of the contract. You must physically
    inspect the instrument under consideration, and then take it to a reputable appraiser and pay
    what ever is necessary to have the instrument taken apart and verified in every nook and cranny.

    A large percentage of '70s instruments of all makes were mercilessly butchered, as mod fever swept
    the country... stock parts were removed and discarded in favor of the flavor of the week when it came
    to tuners, pickups, bridges, electronic parts. These modded Gibsons are reduced in value, and many have been "restored" by whoever... So you can't just order one online. You have to physically play it, and then get it inspected and appraised by someone who knows their stuff, and who you also can trust.

    I prefer to buy new or recent used guitars, and modify them so they play the way I want them to,
    or leave them stock if they are fine. Gibson bashers who say that the new ones are no good are
    only blowing smoke. That's simply not true. The newer ones are fine serviceable instruments that are
    no more and no less than they appear to be. I like that.

    The old ones certainly have mojo... I actually own a few 'vintage' instruments, simply because I'm
    old myself and bought them long ago when they were reasonably priced. So I would never go looking for one
    now. I am completely satisfied with the guitars I bought that were made recently, they give great
    service, and sound beautiful, and that's all I need from my instruments.

    Good luck in your quest. You will find plenty of other guys who are much more kindred spirits on this site.
    I try to be a voice of sanity in these discussions, mostly because I'm 'vintage' myself, so I know a
    few things. But I'm not closed minded. A lot of great music was played on '70s instruments. You just
    have to walk into that market like it was a minefield. Because it is.
     
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  12. Tony M

    Tony M Well-Known Member

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    I have a 72 SG special.
    Batwing face plate
    Volute
    Long neck heel
    Mini bevels

    It has been heavily modified, but the neck is good,
    the body is comfortable and it is very stable tuning wise.

    It is the guitar I have played the most jobs with.
     
  13. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    I forgot to mention that my 1979 SG Standard was made in Kalamazoo in June of 1979. IMHO, 1979 was the last year for SG Standard manufacture in Kalamazoo. These Norlin SG Standards and Customs were the last made by the crew in Kalamazoo, and, this may explain why my Norlin's fit and finish are excellent. The Serial number on my Norlin SG indicates the date and place of manufacture.

    Take notice that the 1980 SG Standards have serial numbers that indicate Nashville as the place of manufacture. That's not the only evidence indicating that this is the first year of Norlin SG Standard manufacture in Nashville. We recall that the body itself is different, indicating a new tooling scheme placing the cable input jack on the side of the body and changes the location of the pickup switch.

    This stark change in body style as well as the serial numbers indicating a move from Kalamazoo to Nashville are both good evidence that there was a change in location of manufacture from 1979 to 1980.

    Perhaps some of the budget "SG" models were made in Nashville beginning in 1974, but, the Norlin SG Standards have serial numbers that clearly indicate that manufacture for this model remained in Kalamazoo until 1980.

    When one examines photos of 1979 SG Standards and 1980 Standards, the differences are clear -- even the "Heritage Cherry" finish looks different on the 1980 Nashville SG Standards.

    Seems like it might be very tough to find a Norlin Kalamazoo SG Standard with its original pickups. Everybody was taking them out and replacing them with DiMarzio super distortion. The only reason why I myself didn't switch them out is because I didn't have the money to buy DiMarzios back in the early 1980s! I'm glad I didn't because it would have been a bad mistake to switch out the Bill Lawrence tarbacks.

    I often see "Vintage SG" for sale on Reverb and gbase. I'm gun shy because I realize how risky it is to buy a vintage guitar over the internet.

    I did buy a 1999 Custom Shop Reissue of the heritage cherry 1961 Custom with stop tailpiece. I will post pictures when it arrives. I will be curious to compare my Norlin Tarback pups to the 57 Classic pups in the 1999 Custom Shop guitar.

    Anybody that's ever seen a poorly fitted and finished Norlin Kalamazoo SG Standard or Custom, please tell us about it. My theory is that this will be a rare bird because the old fogies working on the last of the Kalamazoo SGs were old hands who did excellent work and many of them went on the work for Heritage Guitars.
     
  14. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    I think this is fascinating... I was under the impression that the Nashville plant was designed
    to make very large numbers of a small class of solid body instruments... Les Pauls being included and
    SGs too (I thought). I thought the Kalamazoo plant was used to make acoustics and arch top
    Jazz guitars and ES-335s etc.

    So that's extra cool that you've got an SG made in Kalamazoo, and that you never tore it down
    and replaced the parts. The "Tarback" pickups were designed by Bill Lawrence for Gibson, and were a response to the Seventies trend toward high output and
    distorted sound. Not that they can't be played clean. But in the '70s, players didn't value what they had. The scuttlebutt was that all the big stars were getting their sound by modding their guitars, so all the lesser folk had to do it too... many times in ill-advised ways. As we well know by now.

    I'm also interested in hearing your comparison (with your old guitar) when you
    get your '99. (and I think you should just name it "99")
    annahathaway3_wideweb__470x3190.jpg
    My SG Odyssey began in like 2008 when I fell in love with my '07 SG faded Special...
    the Plain Jane version of Gibson's best selling guitar. Nothing was too good for my baby,
    so I've outfitted her with all the best of everything I could buy or make. She sounded fine
    stock with Gibson 490 pickups, but I craved the '57 classic and Classic plus because that's
    what Gibson was installing on the '61 ReIssue and on upper level Les Pauls and ES- series
    guitars.

    So my humble SG special now sports these awesome Gibson pickups, and she sounds like a
    million bucks to my affectionate ears. I bought my SG special in 2008, and it's now 2016 and
    she's still the Queen of my music room. I named her Luna because the cutaways made me mindful
    of the phases of the moon. This is one of the reasons that I have so little patience for the
    vintage guitar market. I already own the best there is. Vintage is not necessary IMHO.
    Luna 3@100.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
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  15. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Is the SG Special considered a "budget model in that it's always been priced a bit less than the Standard and Custom? I'm not sure, so I thought I'd ask. If the fit and finish on delivery was outstanding then we can say Gibson can provide outstanding value for our dollar. Some may doubt this with the prices of the Les Paul True Historic Custom Shop line sold today. We all know you don't NEED that stuff to play. Your SG Special looks beautiful. The SG Special was Tony Iommi's first kind of SG, I think.

    So, what's the story with the Norlin era "Super Humbuckers" designed by Bill Lawrence? COL Mustard's right, there WAS a desire amongst players to get more power from their pups. I read somewhere that no less of a player than Joe Walsh himself had a late-50s Les Paul with PAF humbuckers and MODIFIED those PAFs to give them more output or power! Of course, when he did this in 1969 or so, he had no idea that he ruined two priceless wonders of the age, but that's what he did.

    I do believe that the practice of removing the humbucker pup covers began around 1969 in order to find a way to get more output from those PAFs. Very odd, No? Nowadays, these PAFs are considered PERFECT and worthy of replication to the most minute detail. Back then, when Joe Walsh was leading his James Gang, the PAFs were considered by many to be too weak. THUS was born in Bill Lawrence's mind, the need for -- The Super Humbucker (Tarback).

    If I could find a Norlin late 1970s SG Standard or Custom with its Tarbacks long gone and no longer with the axe, I would say it would be a great SG for me to buy and drop some of the fantastic new PAF copies being made today. BUT, it looks to me like that market prices on this kind of guitar is rising fast.

    I have a feeling that many of the replacement pups being made today are far better than what DiMarzio was making back in 1973 or so.
     
  16. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Delboy, I encourage you to keep your fine Norlin SG Custom as stock as possible. I think it would be a mistake at this point it time for anyone to mod an unmodded Norlin SG Standard or Custom. I say that because the market prices for these guitars is going up because they are gradually taking on "Vintage Gibson" status. In five short years, who knows how "Vintage" these stock-condition Norlin SG Standards and Customs will be worth? Probably as much as a new Gibson Custom Shop guitar.
     
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  17. Delboy

    Delboy Well-Known Member

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    Don't Worry I have no plans to make any changes to the guitar, I'm not really a modding type of person when it comes to my guitars.
    I've only ever modded 1 of my guitars and that's only because Gibson didn't make one like it.
     
  18. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    A few answers, the way I see things: Thanks for the good word on my favorite SG. Every time I put that one
    down after playing it, I make the same comment, spoken or unspoken... "What a great guitar..."

    The SG faded Special is indeed Gibson's less expensive model. The faded special lacks headstock inlay, neck binding, fretboard
    trapezoid inlay (mine has dots) and it also lacks the deep gloss lacquer finish, so Gibson doesn't spend as much money on
    building them and they offered them for less. It's the working man's SG... all the rawk and kerang, without the bling or the
    high price tag. It's the perfect Gibson for me. I have no need for any of that decoration.

    Fit and finish was good when I bought it, but all new guitars need professional setup by a pro luthier,
    which might include nut slot adjustment, fret leveling, fret end smoothing if necessary, neck straightening,
    action adjustment and intonation. Mine needed a few minor tweaks... you never know how long it has sat in
    a warehouse or what.

    SG specials have been made since 1961, and many major players use them. Older ones are usually equipped with
    P-90 pickups, and in the '70s Norlin came up with some weird single coil pickups that were unpopular and also equipped
    SG specials with Mini-humbuckers similar to those on the Firebird or the Les Paul Deluxe.

    Pickup predjudice is a fickle and wayward swinging pendulum. And it's mostly nonsense IMHO... If there was any word that
    could describe Gibson pickups, I'd say that word was 'accurate." Whether it's a real PAF from the fifties, a P-90 from the forties,
    a "patent number" p'up from the Sixties, a Tarback from the Seventies, a Tim Shaw from the '80s, a 490R/498T combo from the
    nineties or a '57 Classic from the early oughts, they are all accurate, and will render excellent tone. They might sound different
    in small ways, but that's what makes our music interesting.

    I believe that removing pickup covers began with players like Eric Clapton in the sixties... in those days, guitarist were on a seemingly relentless quest for more treble. Early Vox amps had a 'treble booster' as an option, later ones had it built in. In those days, almost no one had any pedals, look at old pictures and see them plugged straight in. So Clapton removed his pickup covers seeking more treble, thinking that the cover muddied the sound... and maybe with the primitive equipment of the day (which is SO revered now ha ha) this was true,
    or else the cheap coil cables of the day were at fault.

    Anyway, other guitarists saw this, and were soon yanking their own covers off, hoping to get an edge of treble in their sound that they didn't have, and refusing to simply play a Strat. It certainly makes no difference in 2016, given all the tonal options we have at our feet. I think it LOOKS radical, but eventually decided I like mine with covers on, so I bought black. To me, that looks even more radical.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
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  19. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Col Mustard: Yes your SG Special looks awesome AND that is a professional-looking portrait/photo of it that you posted. I wish I could take such a great picture of my two Gibson guitars -- both SGs -- one still on the way from the music shop.
     
  20. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    I have heard (and seen) that there are a lot of factory 2nds from that era.

    However, that says nothing of their build quality, sound and playability. Minor finish imperfections are a ridiculous thing to write off an entire guitar for IMO. Especially today, when they are 35+ years old and covered in little dings and scratches. I think while it may be true that quality wasn't what it was in their heyday, it was still mostly the same people building them, so the reputation came mostly from people who rejected them outright because of the design changes. Most Norlin owners seem to really love their guitars.
     
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