After a rollercoaster ride through 2019, Gibson has announced the creation of a new division in its Custom Shop operation, the Murphy Lab. The new group will be headed up by guitar relic’ing expert and artisan Tom Murphy and will focus on creating more accurate reproductions of historic instruments. Is this the right move for Gibson ahead of NAMM 2020?
Gibson Custom Shop 2020
Chances are that if you like Gibson guitars, at some point you were inspired by something vintage from the extensive Gibson back catalogue. Inevitably, many of those old ’50s and 60s instruments look a little road worn these days. If you wanted a guitar with emulated wear, a Gibson Custom Shop Historic has been the way to go for many years now.
Gibson is establishing a new sub-brand in the relic market: the Murphy Lab. Describing its mission, Gibson CMO Cesar Gueikian said, “As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Les Paul Standard, I can’t think of a more exciting time to launch the Murphy Lab under the leadership of Tom, who was instrumental in the inception of the Gibson Custom Shop and developed the process of ageing.”
In another sign of a revamp to its Custom Shop division, Gibson has announced the appointment of Sergio Villanueva as Head of Custom Shop. Villanueva has worked for both Taylor Guitars and Fender, where he rose to become Senior Vice-President of Global Manufacturing. So he knows a thing or two about working in for a high profile guitar company. “Sergio is a respected Luthier who will bring a renewed sense of artistry and operational excellence to the Custom Shop,” commented Gibson’s CEO JC Curleigh in a press release. “He is the perfect fit to lead our Custom Shop team into the future.”
Combined with the new Murphy Lab, this announcement is pointing to a new emphasis for 2020 onwards on more authentic recreations of vintage instruments from the US company’s back catalogue.
2019 was a mixed bag for Gibson. There was the Mark Agnesi ‘Play Authentic’ video thing, then the noise about a court case against Dean Guitars over its use of the Flying V shape. The Authorised Partnership Program announced by JC Curleigh last year drew a mixed response from the guitar community, too. But this new announcement may well elicit a more positive response, generating some positive PR in the run-up to NAMM 2020.