SGs from the 1970s Norlin Era. Pros and Cons.

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by SG Champagne, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    [quote author=DavidJ link=topic=20225.msg244684#msg244684 date=1263560718]
    Hi JM - No I am finally convinced they are not mini's.

    The 73 brochure say's they are, but it also describes the same guitar as having a T-o-M bridge! A few people on here have said they are too, but a while back I did the following experiment with a screwdriver (cut) The backs of mini-hums, as you know look very different.

    Quite why Gibson produced a one-off pick-up for a budget guitar escapes me - they must have done the same for the SG100/200, because those pups are unique too. (as far as I am aware).
    PPS The intonation is ok so I have left the wraparound on.
    [/quote]

    Thanks for the pickup info, maybe for some reason Norlin did make a special series of humbucker. I'm even more curious as to what is inside.

    As long as the guitar is in tune , you might as well keep the original bridge.
     
  2. DavidJ

    DavidJ Active Member

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    Hi dbb

    It seems Norlin must have produced special pickups for two of their budget guitars - which seems at odds with commercial sense. You would think that they (or anyone) would fit leftover parts from other models to keep production costs low.

    Likewise, if the intention was more to target fender buyers with single coil pickups then p90s would be the way to go? But no, both the SG100/200 and the SG1/11/111 got their very own single coil pickups. Even more odd given that the dimensions of the pickups in my guitar are the same as minihumbuckers (and p90s?).

    Unless there is anyone still left at Gibson who remembers the thinking behind this I am probaly not going to find out.

    PS

    No - I am not going to bust the pups apart even in the interests of science! 8)
     
  3. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    [quote author=DavidJ link=topic=20225.msg244766#msg244766 date=1263670903]
    Hi dbb

    It seems Norlin must have produced special pickups for two of their budget guitars - which seems at odds with commercial sense. You would think that they (or anyone) would fit leftover parts from other models to keep production costs low.

    Likewise, if the intention was more to target fender buyers with single coil pickups then p90s would be the way to go? But no, both the SG100/200 and the SG1/11/111 got their very own single coil pickups. Even more odd given that the dimensions of the pickups in my guitar are the same as minihumbuckers (and p90s?).

    [/quote]

    Thanks...I wonder why Gibson would do that too.
     
  4. sneakerpimp

    sneakerpimp Member

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    [quote author=Col Mustard link=topic=20225.msg244605#msg244605 date=1263341253]
    Me, I like my new SG just fine, but I also would like to get my hands on one of those
    "Firebrands." Those were late seventies or early eighties I think. So the answer to the
    original question of this thread is: There were good ones and bad ones, just like now.
    If you have a good one, PLAY IT. And don't mod it. Someone else here said that people
    were too quick to put "hot" pickups in, and so a stock guitar from that era is unusual.
    [/quote]

    i sold one of those several years ago. it had "The SG" on the truss rod cover, walnut finish throughout, zebra pick up (not sure what the other pick up was), dot markers, no binding, nickel tulip tuners, speed knobs, small pickguard. i absolutely loved that guitar.

    i'm not an expert, but it impressed me as a quality instrument in that it felt rock solid and roared like an sg should.
     
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  5. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Photos of my 1979 Gibson SG Standard. Cherry-colored.
     

    Attached Files:

  6. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    I'll bet those 'mystery pickups" on the early 70s SG were Epiphone stock. Gibson had bought Epiphone a few years earlier, and had received ALL of everything they had, machines, parts, wood, everything. They were making Epiphones in Kalamazoo for a
    few years, but by the Seventies the bargain guitar market in the U.S. was being hammered by much less expensive guitars made in Japan and Korea.. Strat copies, Les Paul copies, you name it. So Gibson was just about to ship Epi production overseas, and I'll bet they stuck Epi pickups in the SG 1. I know that's where they got those 'mini humbuckers' they put in the Les Pauls of the day.

    Not that there's anything wrong with Epiphone pickups, I hasten to say. Especially classic ones. Don't want to sound elitist, and if they sound good now, rock on. I won't say "all the magic is in your fingers..." because we've already explored that idea on this site, prolly multiple times.

    But a lot of it is. If you've got the chops, and your SG 1 sounds good, then COOL. And thanks for posting the photos, that guitar was made before a lot of good musicians were
    out of preschool. Rock on.
     
  7. javamagic

    javamagic Well-Known Member

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    [quote author=DavidJ link=topic=20225.msg244766#msg244766 date=1263670903]
    Hi dbb

    It seems Norlin must have produced special pickups for two of their budget guitars - which seems at odds with commercial sense. You would think that they (or anyone) would fit leftover parts from other models to keep production costs low.

    Likewise, if the intention was more to target fender buyers with single coil pickups then p90s would be the way to go? But no, both the SG100/200 and the SG1/11/111 got their very own single coil pickups. Even more odd given that the dimensions of the pickups in my guitar are the same as minihumbuckers (and p90s?).

    Unless there is anyone still left at Gibson who remembers the thinking behind this I am probaly not going to find out.

    PS

    No - I am not going to bust the pups apart even in the interests of science! 8)
    [/quote]

    According to this site's reference section the SG I/II/III were fitted with mini-humbuckers.
    The single coil pickups on the SG 100/200 were the same as the Melody Maker pickups, probably leftover stock (but they did use them on the Skylark lap steel too).
     
  8. DavidJ

    DavidJ Active Member

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    Hi JM

    I expect the reference section takes that info about mini's from the catalogues for the SG1/11 (1973), I think the catalogue is wrong based on my own experience with the guitar. The same catalogue also says that the SG11 has a TOM bridge even though the picture (and the guitar "in the flesh") has a wraparound! An unreliable document!

    A few knowledgeable people here have also said that they are mini humbuckers, but again I have concluded in the end that no, they are not.

    Let me know next time you are on drinking spree with SG John in Denmark Street and I'll try and organise a viewing/playing! ;)
     
  9. Gregzy

    Gregzy New Member

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    Gibson purchased Epiphone literally lock, stock and barrel in 1957 and used the parts obtained in the sale in the subsequently re-designed Gibson-made Epiphones. The pickups used on the New York/Philadelphia Epiphones were known as "New York Single Coils" and the supply lasted until about 1961. To accommodate the routing of the New York Single Coil Gibson designed the "PAF Mini Humbucker" (Often erroneously refereed to as "New York Mini Humbuckers"). A pole piece-less version was used starting in 1963 on some Gibson Firebird models (others used P-90s which can also be used in the Mini Humbucker routing).

    In 1969 the Les Paul Deluxe was introduced and the pole piece version of the Epiphone-utilized Mini Humbucker was used. In December of 1969 Gibson was sold to ECL and "Norlin" was born. From this point on the focus shifted to the bottom line and a great deal of cost-cutting occurred. In 1971 the Melody Maker entry level guitars were replaced by the SG-I/SG-II/SG-III line. I don't know if the pickups were produced in-house or out-sourced but they were different from pickups used on other Gibson models. Not surprising since the prior Melody Maker line had utilized budget-level single coils since its introduction in 1959. I think some of the confusion here is that there were two different lines of SGs that had similar designations. The SG-100/SG-200/SG-250 utilized a black covered, pole piece-less mini humbucker that was similar to the ones used on the Firebirds. I've also come across mini humbuckers from this era that were black and had pole pieces and patent number stickers.

    As far as the pros and cons of Norlin, it's true that there were many cost-cutting measures instituted and some of the stuff they came up with was laughable but I'd be willing to wager that an awful lot of the classic rock music of the 70s and 80s that is revered today was recorded using Norlin-produced instruments. Yeah, there was crap but there were some pretty nice guitars made as well.

    Greg
     
  10. DavidJ

    DavidJ Active Member

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    Thanks Greg - very interesting.

    The construction of my p/ups is so different to the minis I have in my drawer it makes me think that they might indeed have been bought-in items.

    They are:

    Much lighter (although you might expect this as my mini's are metal)
    Completely encapsulated in plastic
    Exactly the same dimensions as mini's
    About 7k resistance if I remember rightly
    Definitely single coil

    Maybe it was cheapest to route the budget guitars for a standard size (ie as if for mini-hums) and then get someone to manufacture pickups to a basic spec and the same physical size?

    Next time I take them out of the guitar, I'll check them a bit more thoroughly for any manufacturer's names etc.
     
  11. lakehaus

    lakehaus New Member

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    I bought my '76 Standard brand new from Metro Music (greater New Orleans) in 1977. $400 w/ case. I didn't know a thing about QC, Norlin, or guitars for that matter. I was 17 and this was my first guitar.

    Over the next decade, I did learn about QC (college engineering course work) and the rumored lack thereof at Gibson. Didn't bother me because I never had a problem with my SG - except one pot that crapped out. I did notice from the beginning, though, that my guitar didn't sound as good as other Gibsons, but I blamed that on my gear (see pic below - c. 1980). I didn't care anyway, because I was/am a casual player.

    2 decades later, when I began playing guitar again, I started going through a slew of guitars to find my tone - it's not to be found in a LP. But, I found it simply by upgrading my beloved SG. Sheptone Tribute PAFs, RS Guitarworks pots, Luxe Bumble Bee caps are all it needed. Then later an aluminum stop bar and TOM conversion. The original parts are in the 34 year old case.

    Morale of my Norlin-era story? I must've arbitrarily picked a good one (well, it was the only one they had in the store at the time!). No structural issues, great feeling, great playing - simple elex upgrade and it makes my '78 Marshall stack way happy. Me too.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    what an interesting thread. I'm glad to hear about people that have usable
    instruments from this so-called 'bad period...' Back then the Bean Counters were
    telling big corporations to diversify themselves by buying profitable other businesses,
    and then taking the profit. which they then did. Fender, Gretsch, Gibson, were all
    bought up by people who weren't interested in anything but the bottom line.

    the best versions of the instruments from the time were made by the people who
    worked there, not the suits from out of town who bought control. the people who worked
    there came to work and did their jobs. their morale prolly went up and down depending
    on how much bull-taco they were getting from the MBA types. Think of the (now famous)
    Gibson "little old ladies' who'd sit there all day putting the decals on that said "Les Paul
    Model. Collectors go into diatribes about whether it's period correct to have the decal a
    few millimeters this way, or a few that way. Those little old ladies never measured anything. They just stuck 'em on. *grins. People making the instruments would use whatever they had at hand, speaking of the T.O.M. vs Wrapover bridge. Same with the
    so-called "Zebra" pickup bobbins. They ran out of black plastic, so they made a few thousand of them in white. They were covering all the humbuckers then, so who cared?
    The workers grabbed whatever was in the bin, and stuck them in the winders, and wound those "holy grail' PAF pickups 'till they were full." who knew that a few years later the
    players would be driving those and the amps so much harder, into the distortion range?
    None of the equipment of the time was designed for that. Who knew it would sound so great when done right? Muddy Waters prolly knew, Buddy Guy, BB King.

    Thanks for all this great talk and the fine photos to go with it. I never cease to learn things when I stop here.

    Col Mustard
     
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  13. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    I guarantee you that my 1979 Gibson SG Standard is a very, very high quality instrument. It stays in tune. The cherry color has not faded in the least since 1979. The Grover tuners still work just as good as new. The guitar stays intonated. The original pickups work just fine. None of the pots have ever needed replacement -- the original 1979 Chicago Telephone pots are still in there. The mahogany body LOOKS like a one-piece. It might be a two or three piece but I cant tell because it's so carefully matched up that it looks like a one piece. The rosewood fretboard and inlays are fine. I wore the frets out, tho, and those are new.

    Of course, the guitar has always lived in the case when not being played.

    If the pups ever go out, I'll just drop the new "1957 PAFs" in there, or have the originals repaired.

    I'll post more pictures if I ever get a better camera !
     
  14. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    [quote author=lakehaus link=topic=20225.msg246049#msg246049 date=1265679226]
    I bought my '76 Standard brand new from Metro Music (greater New Orleans) in 1977. $400 w/ case.
    (cut)
    Morale of my Norlin-era story? I must've arbitrarily picked a good one (well, it was the only one they had in the store at the time!). No structural issues, great feeling, great playing - simple elex upgrade and it makes my '78 Marshall stack way happy. Me too.


    [​IMG]


    [/quote]

    I'm happy you got a good one!
    Hey, I was in the GNO area in '77 but don't recall Metro Music; I remember Werlein's, Mitchell's, Sound City, Metairie Music, Allied, Foster's, but not Metro. Where were they located?

    Also, do you like the neck set on your SG? I a have grown to like the deeper inset neck on those 70's models.
     
  15. lakehaus

    lakehaus New Member

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    [quote author=dbb link=topic=20225.msg246219#msg246219 date=1266082731]
    I'm happy you got a good one!
    Hey, I was in the GNO area in '77 but don't recall Metro Music; I remember Werlein's, Mitchell's, Sound City, Metairie Music, Allied, Foster's, but not Metro. Where were they located?

    Also, do you like the neck set on your SG? I a have grown to like the deeper inset neck on those 70's models.
    [/quote]

    I lived in Gretna on the West Bank (graduated from West Jeff!!). Metro, as I recall, was a little strip mall music shop on Terry Parkway. Not sure how long they were in business, but I had their logo sticker on my case for the longest time. You'll have to forgive me if memory fails... after all, I went to about 25 concerts at the Warehouse.

    Regarding the neck - it's all I knew for Gibson necks for 20 years. It's what I judge all other Gibby necks by. To me, it's the best!

    [​IMG]
     
  16. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    [quote author=lakehaus link=topic=20225.msg246220#msg246220 date=1266083592]
    I lived in Gretna on the West Bank (graduated from West Jeff!!). Metro, as I recall, was a little strip mall music shop on Terry Parkway. ....I went to about 25 concerts at the Warehouse.
    [/quote]

    Hey, I like those necks too, even though the 70's deep neck set is sort of declasse in the SG world.

    I got it - I was only on the West Bank to visit a buddy that lived across the river from 1972-1976, and to rehearse a band in 1976. I lived in Metairie - close to East Jefferson HS - so that explains it. I spent a lot of time uptown, I graduated from DeLaSalle.

    I loved the Warehouse. My first concert there was Nov 29 1971, the Who!

    Thanks for answering me! I really liked the GNO area in the 70's.
     
  17. everdying

    everdying Well-Known Member

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    i love my '74 standard too.
    the body wood is so dense and heavy, whole guitar weighs in at 4.07kg...roughly 1kg heavier than my other SGs...gives it such a nice heavy tone.
     
  18. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    I still have the 1979 Gibson SG described and pictured above. I've never taken the pickup covers off, but, does anybody know whether these stock/factory pickups are what are known as "T-top Humbuckers" ?

    Thanks.
     
  19. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    And I love my ’78 SG Standard. This version was made between 1974 – 1978 in Kalamazoo. The Nashville plant opened in 1974, but the SG Standard was still manufactured in Kalamazoo throughout the 70’s. (–I’m curious to know if anyone knows what SG-model was first made in Nashville and in what year?)

    There are a lot of myths related to the Norlin era (1969 -1985) and a widespread apprehension that guitar makers during this period were cutting corners to stay in the market. Many design elements on the Gibson guitars were indeed different. -But what about quality?
    Let’s have a closer look at the typical features of the 70’s SG standard:

    • 3-piece laminated Mahogany Neck set at 3 deg neck angle
    • Thin-to-thick neck profile, smooth heel design
    • Oversized Headstock set at 14 deg angle and with a neck volute
    • Neck Joint at 18th fret, extended mortise
    • No tenon cover - Neck pickup positioned directly after 22nd fret (like a LP or 335)
    • Super Humbucking pick-ups by Bill Lawrence
    • Shaller wide Travel Tune-o-matic (aka Harmonica Bridge)
    • Schaller M-6 Tuners
    • Bound Rosewood fretboard with small block mother of pearl inlays, low frets
    • Shallow horn bevels
    • Small pick guard, original style

    Finish, craftmanship, woods and components are very good. Superb tone and playability. And there is some good thinking behind these design changes that is of functional rather than economical nature.

    I believe many Les Paul’s from this period were made in the newly opened Nashville plant. For various reasons this could explain part of the apprehension towards the Norlin era. But quite a few guys like their Norlin LP’s as well…. Maybe the process of aging finally catches up and restores the good reputation some of these guitars rightfully deserve.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  20. SG Champagne

    SG Champagne Active Member

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    Thanks, all.

    JohnP thanks for the great info on your 1978 SG Standard. My 1979 SG Standard is almost identical to yours.

    Neck pup measures 5.15. Both pups are covered with chrome metal. Tech who did the refret a couple of years ago could not get a reading on the bridge pup. These two pups are probably Tar-backs, just like on your 78 SG.

    The tuners on mine are Grover brand. The bridge is the Schaller harmonica bridge.

    Serial # indicates that it was made on June 1st, 1979, in Kalamazoo, MI.
     
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