My circa 1971 SG is a bare knuckle bar room brawler (pic heavy)

Discussion in 'Vintage SG' started by Go Nigel Go, Nov 23, 2020.

  1. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    I will start by stating this instrument was not modified by me, and the obvious major modifications were most likely done when the instrument was still relatively new and long before I got it. The instrument had a deep even patina when I bought it, which has only deepened and become more pleasing in the 30 years I have owned it.

    The year was 1990 and I was a "broke ass" college student playing rhythm guitar in my first rock band. We were playing mainly Classic and Southern Rock in dive bars. I was playing a 1978 Gibson "The Paul" which was my first and only electric guitar at the time, and I needed a backup axe in case I broke a string in the middle of a show. We were playing for some rowdy crowds that could get bored and start throwing things if the music stopped for even one minute, and one did not want to be the source of such an interruption or risk getting pelted with garbage.

    We were on a regimen of two 3 hour rehearsals as a band every week in an actual woodshed at the end of a dirt road up a dark holler. One night, one of our two lead guitarists brought in this instrument which he found in a pawn shop and wanted to try out. It was covered in grunge, and had a hodge podge of assorted types of strings and fence wire on it. The pots were dead over most of their travel and one of the pickups was completely non-functional. The "bridge" looked like it was whittled out of a bar of aluminum with a butter knife and attached with mismatched cabinet screws. The height adjustment such as it was, was accomplished by placing some hardware store washers underneath which was every bit as bad as it sounds. Pretty grim stuff. The asking price was $200.00.

    IMG_20201119_141858472.jpg

    I knew little about the various brands and models of electric guitar. I was coming from a general music background and had about 6 years on acoustic guitar. I got the gig in the first place because I knew my chords pretty well, and could play in any key without a Capo. The crew figured they could teach me how to rock. In short, I thought this thing looked enough like my Les Paul (which I knew I liked) that it would probably be pretty much the same thing. (Something which turned out to be totally incorrect as most here already know, but it would come as a complete surprise to me.) Looking through the dirt and grime, I saw a much higher quality instrument than I was finding in the same price range elsewhere and decided to take it on as a project.

    IMG_20201119_142109663.jpg

    I took it home, trashed the strings and the offending "bridge like object", and got started. It actually cleaned up nicely, and immediately started to take a subtle kind of hold over me even though it was in an unplayable condition. I took it to several shops looking for parts and advice. The instrument created quite a stir as the modifications I was unaware had even been made were done so well that they did not appear to be modifications at all and looked to be original even to eyes more educated than mine. The serial number had been scrubbed in the refinish leaving no trace any had ever been there. This lead to all sorts of speculations and theories. A few people offered me a 50-100 dollar profit, which I thought about briefly but declined. One ex Gibson employee turned music store owner even suggested a "non-zero" possibility the guitar might have been an early Norlin prototype that had jumped the fence and escaped into the wild. I didn't know what he was talking about until decades later, but unlikely as it was the very idea sounded intriguing. The guitar became referred to as "the Bastard Child" during this period, a name which has stuck and became it's Nom de Plume.

    IMG_20201119_154416158.jpg

    I replaced the missing Tune-o-matic bridge using the original pockets and after a minor truss rod adjustment got the action and intonation set up "good as new". After replacing the pots and some highly suspect wiring I found out the pickups were actually quite good. I had planned to replace them at the time, but never did. Now I am glad I didn't. They are a pretty hot set of T-tops and sound fantastic. It would have been a shame to take them off. There are a few other oddities worth mentioning. I have read here and other places about the small necks on SG's of this period, and this one has it in spades. It is the smallest neck I have ever played, measuring exactly 1.50 inches at the nut (E to E sting spacing is about 3/32" narrower even than that). Also the stop tailpiece is a bit over 3 inches behind the bridge, which is about 3 times what most factory SG hard tails have, but appears to be the original location. There is no sign that this spacing has been modified or that there was ever any sort of vibrato unit installed. It is just another oddity I have only seen on one other SG (also a '71).

    IMG_20201119_141951673.jpg

    The best way describe how it plays is "slinky". To play with perfect intonation requires a very light touch. Even with the low, wide "ghost frets" it is very easy to bend the notes inadvertently and you can bend a full three frets worth with about the same pressure as a two fret bend on "The Paul". It's about as slinky as "riding the whammy bar" on my strat, and can be very expressive once you learn to control it. It also feels very "wide open and breezy" as you go up the neck. You never feel the body and neck joint "getting close" even with the pinky at the 22nd fret. It's just one long unobstructed fingerboard. It demands you play differently than any other guitar I own, and it invites you to use those differences to take a new approach to how you play familiar lines and phrases. While some might find it frustrating, I find it liberating and I will grab this guitar any time I feel like I am in a musical rut. In summary, this is a guitar that was challenging in the beginning, but has really grown on me over the years. I love the looks, I love the feel, I love the attitude, and while it may not have much collector value, it has become quite valuable to me as a player. It is one of the last guitars I would want to part with at any price. It is obscure, unique, unapologetic, and cares not a whistle what the world thinks of it.
     
  2. chilipeppermaniac

    chilipeppermaniac Well-Known Member

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    Great pics and glad you got this guitar. Even rough carbon can become a diamond eventually
     
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  3. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    Thanks! I have some more pics I want to post but they will need to be shrunk down as they are too large to upload here at the moment. The back of the headstock and volute areas in particular have some very interesting features that are worth sharing.
     
  4. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Until you said you've had it for 30 years, I thought you bought the one featured in this video:



    What are the chances, another '71 Deluxe with its horns shaved down.

    The slinky action is likely a result of the neck being set with no angle to the body on the Deluxe, as well as the 14 degree headstock angle as opposed to the usual 17 degrees.
     
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  5. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    Wow! That guitar from Trogly's has been through the wringer! His theory about someone "exorcising the demons" from the original design was also proposed to explain the mods on mine, so it is perhaps a theory with some merit. I was fortunate that most of the serious damage to mine (from a player's standpoint) was restricted to the hardware and electronics. The wood, finish, and basic structure of the guitar was pretty good, certainly nowhere near as bad as the one in the video. If it had been I would likely have passed on it, though for a cheap enough purchase price I could probably be tempted to try and salvage that axe as well today. I had to glue down a corner on the headstock face plate that was coming loose on mine, but no other repairs were needed for the heart of the instrument

    I was actually surprised how good the hardware and electronics had survived on the guitar Trogly got with as hard a life as that one has seen. I must confess I covet his tuners!

    The "exorcism" apparently did not take on my instrument, it still plays "the Devil's music" just fine! :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2020
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  6. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    It looks like all but two of your tuners are missing washers? You should probably fix that, it's cheap and easy.
     
  7. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    They are all present and accounted for. Probably just not showing up well in the photos. They are not much bigger in diameter than the hold down nuts. The one piece that is missing is one of the pickup height adjustment screws at the bridge position. They seem to be an odd size (very small diameter) and so far I have not found one that fits without changing the threads. If I switch one from another hole it fits perfectly and threads in, so I keep holding out hope I will actually find one someday.

    My temporary "fix" has been holding up for many years, so I can afford to wait for the right screw to come along. The second show I played with this guitar was a large biker rally and when one end of the pickup dropped into the cavity for the third time I pulled out my pocket knife and cut a few small slivers of wood off the front of the stage and gently wedged them between the pickup cover and the bezel. The pickup hasn't moved since, including hundreds of gigs and a cross country move.

    I have been to several repair shops, all of whom have at least one peanut butter jar or coffee can full of pickup screws, but so far no match. :rolleyes: I guess just not that many Gibsons get stripped for parts...
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2020
  8. Von Trapp

    Von Trapp Well-Known Member

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    As opposed to the one in the video, that one looks cool! But what's up with the badly fitting pickguard one wonders.
     
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  9. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    This guitar always leaves more questions than answers... All I can say about the pickguard is that it appears to be the un-modified original and is made of the same b-w-b-w material as the electronics cover. There are no extra holes and no empty holes on the guitar, so it is as it always was. The only thing I did there is get a set of all correct matching screws for the pickguard and electronics cover. They were a dukes assortment when I started, as were the pickup bezel screws so they also got correct matching replacements.
     
  10. Jason

    Jason Active Member

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    Like a 71 SG Deluxe. Does it have a maple neck?
     
  11. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    I am not the worlds best at wood identification, but it kind of looks like a maple neck to me.
    neckIMG_20201119_142132427.jpg

    I finally got around to resizing some photos, so here is a closeup of the unusual body shape,

    bodyIMG_20201119_141904743.jpg

    The remaining photos show what to me is one of the most unusual features of this instrument which are of the head stock and volute construction. This appears to be original, but is like none I have seen before. Most luthiers first reaction is "headstock repair", but on closer inspection have all changed their minds. The first thing they notice is that there is no sign of any damage which would have been the reason for such a repair.

    postIMG_cropheadstock.jpg

    The next thing you can see is that the material for the volute (obviously different than the neck) is a single connected piece of wood which also makes up the "bat wing extensions" on either side of the headstock itself. Such a complex shape would make no sense as a repair due to the fitting and finishing complexity that it would entail. The only time it makes sense to me for something like this to be done would be in the neck blank stage before any final shaping was done, and even then I would love to shake the skilled hand that formed this elaborate and beautiful set of glue joints that are still tight and perfectly fitted. Has anybody seen anything like this on any other Gibsons?

    postIMG_20201119_142117721.jpg

    You can also see a closeup of the tuners, 5 of which I assume are the originals and a lone Grover which was already on it when I got the instrument. It used to bug me that they don't match, but I have gotten so used to it over the years that I now consider it something of a "beauty mark". All six are in excellent condition, smooth and tight. I could probably find a Gibson replacment easily enough but for the fact that the Grover feels like the best of the six in original quality, so there just isn't any pressing justification I can come up with to swap it out. :smile:
     
  12. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    That is a trick repair job on the headstock. The luthier was skilled. (volute did a lot of good, lol.) I dig the total relic vibe.
     
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  13. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, 100% not original. The neck should be three piece laminated all the way through. And it's not the same piece of wood as the headstock wings, you can see that from the side. My guess would be a previous owner shaved off the volute and the following owner had it re-created. It'll certainly be sturdier than ever, and looks well done, for what it's worth.

    Here's a stock one:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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  14. papagayo

    papagayo Well-Known Member

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  15. Von Trapp

    Von Trapp Well-Known Member

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    Somebody sure loved that guitar for all the work that's been done on it. And I can understand why, it's pretty cool. Scratchplate is a bit irritating of course but the crap solution with the scratchplate type thing over the knobs and the ill matching shapes of that and the actual scratchplate doesn't look as disturbing as it does on a regular SG shaped one. Those things look ju too damn crappy.
     
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  16. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Active Member

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    Looking at the photos, I can see the seam you are talking about on the back of the headstock at the bottom of the wings. To be honest though, even knowing where to look it still took me about 10 minutes to see it on the actual guitar, and I finally had to take it out into direct sunlight to be able to make it out clearly. The repair was apparently made with great care taken to match the wood, color, and grain orientation to the wings rather than the neck, and it is good enough to fool the eye under all but the most critical of inspections. Oddly, it shows up in the photos considerably better than in real life, which is probably how it fooled me (and many others) for 3 decades.

    Good catch! It makes a lot more sense now and as you say it is almost certainly a repair. Why? I'll probably never know, but I found this forum searching for information, and I have gotten all I could have hoped for and then some. I know more now than I did when I got here. Thanks!
     
  17. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    I can't imagine why somebody would shave the horns off either, but I've seen some crazy stuff done to old guitars. I'm kind of surprised that shaving off the volute isn't more common with how much cork-sniffers put them down. The following owner was probably concerned that it compromised the strength of the neck/headstock area, so they had it re-built. That's the most logical explanation to me. The luthier did a good job shaping it back to what it would have been stock, for sure.

    The SG Deluxe is a very unique guitar in SG history. If you'd like to learn more about them, you can check out the wiki page I made. I just recently made a lot of improvements and added a section about the newly discovered '73-'75 production.

    https://solidguitar.fandom.com/wiki/SG_Deluxe
     

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