Bill Kelliher ESP LTD Signature guitar

Bill Kelliher ESP LTD Signature guitar  ·  Source:

Gibson Mastodon Bill Kellher ESP

Gibson and Bill Kelliher part ways on poor terms  ·  Source: Ultimate Guitar

ESP LTD Bill Kelliher Sparrowhawk

ESP LTD Bill Kelliher Sparrowhawk model.  ·  Source:

Bill Kelliher ESP LTD Signature guitar

Bill Kelliher ESP LTD Signature guitar  ·  Source:

Last week, various online sources published a quote by guitarist Bill Kelliher. In it he explains why he ended his endorsement relationship with Gibson. Kelliher levels a number of serious accusations at his former endorsee. With Gibson recently facing criticism of its management, design choices and quality control, this latest PR disaster will be exactly what the company was hoping to avoid.

Ultimate Guitar interview

The quotes, which I’ve copied below, originated on the Ultimate Guitar website. Kelliher pulls no punches about Gibson and his relationship with the company. He goes on to contrast his negative experiences with his new relationship with Japanese guitar maker ESP.

Here’s what BK had to say about why he left Gibson:

“It was a lot of reasons.

“I never really felt like I was accepted at Gibson. The communication over there is terrible.

“They kept fucking up my guitars that I was asking for. I didn’t ask for a lot – I just had a few certain things that I would like with my guitar – I told them I didn’t want it chambered and they made my second guitar chambered.

“All the guys I worked with over there – the A&R guys were getting fired left and right and the company just seemed to be falling apart to me. There were new guys who would come in and they didn’t know shit.

“It was a breath of fresh air working with ESP. They were interested and would ask me what gauge strings I played and what tunings I play – Gibson never cared about any of that stuff.

“Kids would get my guitar in the mail and ask me how to tune it because it wasn’t tuned and then I would tell them how to tune it and they would say it still doesn’t sound right and it’s because they’re not putting my gauge strings on there.

“They weren’t even tuning the guitars to my settings or specifications – just little things like that. Things that make the guitar a Bill Kelliher model, like put it in my tuning so that when it shows up, it’s different.

“ESP wanted to know all that stuff. They’re just friendly and nice and they’re interested in me and my band and what they can do for me rather than this company.

“Gibson just wasn’t… I don’t know, I think they’re on their way downhill honestly.

“Every guy I talk to – I mean, look at James Hetfield. He was at Gibson, played Gibson stuff and they didn’t want to work with him, so he went to ESP. And he’s one of the biggest fucking guitar players in our kind of music.

“It seems like there are a lot of bad decisions being made over there.

“But ESP is really great. They treat me really well. I love my Sparrowhawk that I designed. It’s the best playing guitar that I own.”


Matodon's Bill Kelliher's damning interview on UG

Matodon’s Bill Kelliher’s damning interview on UG

Leaving the fold

We wrote Kelliher’s move to ESP back in January this year when the ESP LTD Sparrowhawk was announced. Gibson, I’m sure, were not pleased with the Mastodon guitarist’s decision. Considering that Bill Kelliher had two Gibson signature models with Gibson, the Bill Kelliher Golden AxeExplorer and the Halcyon Les Paulmodel, it must have been quite a blow to Gibson. After all, he plays in one of the world’s biggest bands in this genre.



If true, then this is damning of the whole artist operation at Gibson. It could not come at a worse time, either. It looks like a lot of other people agree, as the story hit YouTube pretty hard last week, thanks to YouTuber Guitologist. After giving his view on the Kelliher debacle, he goes on to talk about the Kentucky Head Hunters’ Greg Martin signature model, which he says also suffered from poor quality control.

For more Gearnews Gibson articles, click here.


by Jef

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Steve Michaels

Thats not a surprise. Truth is Gibsons probably suffering from the same shit most storied companys are. No respect for tradition or hard work or quality. Good thing we can still buy Gibsons from the past. When the majority of people cared about making the world a good place to live for everyone. My view has zero to do with Bill from the band Masterbator. He most likely is just trying to get customers for his new buddys ESP and had some sort of falling out with Gibson. Dont know and dont care. Heres what I do know. Ive owned… Read more »

Stone Cold

Well said Shawn Michaels!!

liam awesomotron

thats the bottom line

Neil Cowmeadow

I’m a full-time guitar teacher, author, and a twenty-year guitar tech and former main-street music retailer – so none of this comes as a surprise to me. We threw Gibson/Epiphone out of our store in the early 2000s after receiving a guitar full of woodworm, then being told it was fine. We returned the guitar, only to receive the same guitar again as a “replacement” – we closed our account. These days, as a guitar tech I see more Gibbos than any other brand. The call goes like this: “I wonder if you can help me? I’ve just bought my… Read more »

Bruce Chapman

Like most companies, the problem with Gibson comes straight from the top. The president and owner has nothing but contempt for anything but dollars. He is not a player, many if not most of the players in the company were fired or left. Employee turnover is epic. His dealers all hate him. His employees hate him ( read this- it’s a few years old, but trust me things have only gotten worse: All you need to know about what this company is about is evident in their decision to ram their G Force tuners down everyone’s throat with their… Read more »


This coming from a guy who has been endorsed First Act in the past.

Ken Bendell

I just wish I could play well enough to be able to bitch about free guitars.

DS Garrett

I can’t say I’ve had the same experience with Gibson. Over the last 3 years I have purchased 4 Gibson’s and each one has been great. I did have each one set up, but I would do that with any brand. I had started with a Tele and then tried PRS, but avoided Gibson because of all the complaints. Still not satisfied with the tone, I finally chose to get an SG Standard 120 in 2014 and sure glad I did!


Who is this guy? I could care less about what he thinks – never heard of his music…yawn.

Hamish Sander

At one point I simultaneously owned a Gibson les Paul junior and an epiphone les paul. The epiphany was top of tge range. Baught it real cheap. Amazing guitar but sounded shit. I replaced the pups and installed vintage wiring. That guitar is now epic. I sold the Gibson because it wasn’t even close to being as good as rge epiphone. The neck was too thin in my opinion. The neck joint was done terribly. The result was a guitar I could not gig as it went out of tune all tge time. Pretty poor. I would buy a vintage… Read more »