Custom Shop Rumours: What the hell is going on at Gibson?
Now, I’m not one to gossip (okay, I am, as it’s actually part of my job), but I keep hearing all these rumours about Gibson, their Custom Shop and the state of this once great American guitar maker.
Custom Shop exit?
First off, I’ve been hearing a lot of whispered rumours recently from dealers here in the UK and on the other side of the Atlantic. What is particularly interesting is that conversations on both sides of the pond seem to be circling around the same issues.
My sources tell me that the founder of Gibson Custom Shop, the man that started it all off, has been outed. The man in question is Edwin Wilson, ‘the man’ at the renowned Custom Shop. He founded it, ran it and is generally considered to be the father of the whole department.
The rumour also popped up on various guitar forums like thefretboard (my boys in the UK) and then repeated over in the US at mylespaul. It makes you wonder: is there any truth to it? The old adage that there is no smoke without fire seems apt, as for a rumour to emerge on two highly respected guitar forums frequented by a lot of people in the industry is more than coincidence.
There are even now rumours that the Gibson Custom shop has stopped reissue Historics, Relics and Reissues!
Although Gibson has not made any announcement about Edwin Wilson’s departure, there are underlying developments at Gibson that might be relevant. When Mike Eldred left the Fender Custom Shop it was a big deal for some, and there were similar rumours floating around before it all became official. What seems relevant to this new rumour is that Gibson has been in financial difficulties for a while now. I even wrote an article about this last year.
Yes, this is all speculation and some of that is being whispered on guitar forum threads. But we believe that it’s not just background noise. After all, we know that there have been questions raised over Gibson’s financial performance, including their downgrading by Moody’s Investor Services. That could be an important context for these new rumours. Could be.
My opinion? Gibson are making some very cheap and not-so-great guitars that they have been trying to ‘box shift’ on Amazon. Below I have added the YouTube review of the Gibson Firebird Zero by online guitar reviewer Agufish. This honest review pulls no punches and gives quite a damning view of this model.
It appears that Gibson are trying to sell poorly thought-out guitars, rather than concentrating on what they do best, which is not helping their reputation. The Gibson Custom Shop instruments are still considered amazing guitars and perhaps they should be concentrating on those instead of giving us cheaply made Firebird knock-offs?
Robot tuners and Firebird Zeros…
Gibson attracted a lot of criticism for the 2015 line-up (super-wide necks, robot tuners, holograms and crayon-like signatures). Then there was the Firebird Zero mentioned above, which seemed a poor match for what customers were expecting. Maybe they deserve some credit for at least trying to innovate. But some Gibson dealers were, it seems, stuck with stock they could not shift, and Gibson further alienated them by discounting these guitars in blow out sales on Amazon, in effect undercutting their own dealers.
For those of you that don’t know Edwin, I have added a video interview with him from 2013 with German YouTube channel Session, as you can see Edwin knows his stuff, so it would be a great shame if he has gone. If you have an opinion or have heard something I have not, then please comment below.
Henry seriously either needs to retire, or sell Gibson (just the guitar part) to someone who will actually listen to their customers, and return Gibson to it’s former glory.
He’s one of the main reasons I have/will never buy a new Gibson guitar.
The company is in a very strange place the last few years. Which is a real shame as they can make some amazing guitars. No idea what they are thinking recently and I’m sure they won’t divulge everything to us either.
Gibson Memphis Facebook page is closing down (Merging with the Gibson Facebook page on June 10th). And there is still no ES’s 2017 lineup yet.
It is very sad how an upper management ruins a historic company. It seems to me that they do only look for fast wins, instead of doing thei job right. HJ should sell the company to people who are willing to listen to their dealers and customers wordwide. Hope that Ed Wilson will get a wonderful job in the community asap. Maybe at PRS 😉
Look, I worked for HJ about 7 years ago. Was instrumental in rebuilding USA after the flood, saving the company millions only to reach the same fate as every other executive. It’s the Gibson way. It’s HJ’s way. The man has an enormous ego and it is costing him millions… robot guitar, tronical tuners… the only thing he’s done is offer the same models with different finishes. Any good sales guy could do that. He’s leaving millions of dollars on the table because of his ability to think he’s the only one right. The average stay of an executive is less than 18 months. So sad.
I have never understood why Gibson has not reissued the authentic EB-1 and EB-3?? I spoke to both the custom shop and the regional Gibson representative. The custom shop said “no at any cost” and the local rep said”they do what ever they want…”. except listen to the voice of the customer. That is usually not a very good sign for any business.
I absolutely love my Gibson guitars, but I haven’t bought one since 2013 and am set for life as far as guitars go, so it really doesn’t matter to me what they do from here on it.
In the 80’s I bought a Hamer because Gibson lost their touch for quality. We can thank Fender for putting the hammer on Hamer. I picked up a 2005 Les Paul Studio Faded T and was amazed that it was playable without and modifications, unlike a Fender. Our lovely government hasn’t helped matters for Gibson, with their heavy handed swat raid for wood that other companies were also using. Gibson sounds like they are suffering from bean counter syndrome. Maybe Gibson should go back to making great guitars instead of making copies of once great guitars. Schishkov has the right idea.
Uhh, not “outed.”
Two different things. Very different.
Like the Beatles and the great Les Paul himself. I prefer Epiphones to “Gibsons”. Thank the stars that Gibson hasn’t ruined Epiphone as well.
The guy speaks with his eyes closed. I guess this is the same approach he takes when building guitars.
This guy is the problem, all of us have been wanting the exact same les Paul’s as the 58-60’s. This guy made decisions to short each aspect to create markets?
I just want a flying V. I live in Arkansas and I got a badass ESP EX-400 with EMG humbucker pickups glossy black that I would trade for any brand Flying V. email@example.com