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Question for Gibson MK series.


jimmyboy
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They're all solid. They get a bad rep because of Gibson's inconsistent QC at the time, but those that have survived are generally the good ones.

 

I've played several and have liked them all. They're not very "Gibsony" but have a quirky vibe all of their own.

 

The fan bracing and general design was a brilliant concept by Kasha and Schneider who created them, and by all accounts the prototypes were absolutely sensational, but in line with the standard practices by Norlin who owned Gibson at the time, the production models were rather overbuilt in comparison to the protos. They can still be a great Guitar though, and I'd love to own one.

 

The maple model (MK53?) is my favourite but the Rosewood 81s are good too.

 

As luck would have it, because of their rather unorthodox looks and reputation as a commercial failure, they can currently still be snaffled up for very reasonable prices.

 

I think they're a very cool underdog guitar, I've often thought of buying one and usIng it to make a concept album telling the interest tale of Kasha and Schneider and their rather madcap quests to make the ultimate acoustic guitar. Not sure who would buy it though!😂

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I was curious and did a little of online research on the MK series. They were only produced for a few years in the mid-70s during the Norlin Era. They were a 'special project' and a lot of effort went into the design and production. I doubt they used anything but solid wood on the MK81.Though they do have a strange. plastic rosette! Lower Model #s (ex. MK35) were lower priced. Norlin discontinued them because the design required more time and attention to produce than they wanted. They were into mass production at the time. Some have nice Rosewood B/S with ebony fingerboards and maple necks. They are unique - though I doubt they'd be considered an 'investment" in terms of collectibility - in this century! As with most guitars, half the equation in making a decision is the price your willing to pay. G'Luck.

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  • 1 year later...

the MK-81 is a fine guitar, but it was marketed to the wrong crowd, i.e, folkies and country players. Norlin's big big mistake.

 

it is a refined acoustic Jazz guitar, (in the words of Ricardo Schneider), not a honky tonk guitar to play 3-chord tunes like "Jambaliah" or "Armadillo Johnny", if you know what I mean, you can do that with a Walmart "King Of Plastic" guitar.

 

The closest think to the Mark 81 sound is the Maccaferri guitar of Django Rheindhart, in fact it was the sound of the Selmer Maccaferri that inspired Schneider.

 

So.... just because 3-chord Johhny Armadillo "doesn't like it", doesn't mean they are bad guitars. It just shows the obvious background of Johnny and narrow mindedness..

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Sounds like you are being way too harsh on many fellow guitar players. I am a jazz guitar-player in my solo gigging, but, also stage/host a bi-weekly jam with my fellow folk/country/folk-rock guitar-playing friends...and, I thoroughly enjoy playing that music, too. Music is music and all guitarists are fellow guitarists to me. However, your insight into the likely intention of the Mark guitar is interesting.

 

QM aka Jazzman Jeff

Edited by QuestionMark
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not really, the fact is that during the debut of the Mark guitars, Norlin gave the prototype guitars to the Sales reps for the South instead of the West or East coasts, where the concept of the Mark guitars might have had success. Instead, they sent the production 35, 53, and 72 which were a disaster, and the reps kept the 81 quietly. The sound of the Mark is very developed, not for First fret E chords.

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I’ve never owned one, but I’ve played a couple of MK53s and loved them. Great tonal balance right the way up the neck, I can see your point about them being a very effective guitar for jazz, with good note separation and warmth in equal measure.

 

I found cowboy chords (my usual MO!) to sound just fine though, as did some jazz comping, blues and classical bits and bobs, too.

 

I’d love to own one one day, but it wouldn’t be a “working” instrument for me, so is low down on my GAS list.

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Texas guitarists are in a league by themselves. My comments were basically about "folkies" who can't play but basics. So nobody get offended please. If you like the 53, you need to play a 81. Those were supervised by Schneider himself, the ones with the red binding, ebony fingerboards and bridges, and Brazilian rosewood. Not many of those were built. The 99 model looks like it was never built, it was "custom order", basically a 81 with lots of decorations, the catalog announced it but it was to be made by Schneider who resigned in anger when he saw what they had done with the production models. I have this information from a retired 1970's through 1980's sales rep from who requested his name not be revealed. I was very interested in the Mark guitars in the late 1970's, and was very fortunate to meet him and to get his MK81 built by Schneider.

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Texas guitarists are in a league by themselves. My comments were basically about "folkies" who can't play but basics. So nobody get offended please. If you like the 53, you need to play a 81. Those were supervised by Schneider himself, the ones with the red binding, ebony fingerboards and bridges, and Brazilian rosewood. Not many of those were built. The 99 model looks like it was never built, it was "custom order", basically a 81 with lots of decorations, the catalog announced it but it was to be made by Schneider who resigned in anger when he saw what they had done with the production models. I have this information from a retired 1970's through 1980's sales rep from who requested his name not be revealed. I was very interested in the Mark guitars in the late 1970's, and was very fortunate to meet him and to get his MK81 built by Schneider.

 

I’d love to play an 81. I don’t know of a single one residing here in the UK Though, sadly.

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The Mark guitars have now been recognized as actually having been quite good guitars, in many ways ahead of their time, especially as there are now many indy luthurie built guitars around now that incorporate traits of the Mark guitars. But, quality and being perhaps ahead of their time was not what caused the Mark guitars to fail to sell then or even now. It was that they broke too much with Gibson traditions and with what buyers of Gibson’s then and now expected or expect a Gibson guitar to be. Gibson acoustic buyers expect J-45, SJ, J-200, L, LG, or J traditions in a Gibson acoustic...and, the Mark guitars veered way too far from those traditions of what a Gibson acoustic should be. Similarly Ford’s Edsel was actually a great innovative automobile, but it was wrong for its time and for what Ford buyers expected and wanted a Ford product to be. Same thing with a Pontiac Aztec, yet many cars later incorporated many of its then outlandish SUV stylings. The fact Norlin may have marketed the Mark guitars to the south rather than the east or west is a rationalization. Gibson acoustics secured their spot as guitars Nashville players played as well as east or west coast players or British Invasion players played from way back and, most likely, their down fall as the Mark series guitars simply didn’t look like Gibson guitars or appear to have the same vibe as Gibson acoustics back then or now. I suspect that if Gibson’s later competitor, Taylor had marketed them, with no historic baggage in their brand, they’d have been a big success.

 

Just my two cents.

 

QM aka Jazzman Jeff

Edited by QuestionMark
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I agree. Tradition vs. Innovation. Too bad Schneider passed away, would have been eye-opening to understand what he was trying to do that production could not. Back in 1980 I tried a 53 and it was very rough, as in "unfinished". Thank you no thank you, was my reaction. Until I played the 81 and heard the harmonics ringing from the 5th to 9th frets, I was hypnotized. Acoustic sustain I called it.

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One thing that can be said about Gibson R&D in the 1970s, there was no grass growing under their feet - The L6-S, the RD Artist, and the Mark Series acoustics. It is really hard to judge the Mark Series guitars because their rejection may have had as much to do with offending purists as their sound. It is true though that Gibson never seemed to fare well in the past when they strayed too far from tradition. Years earlier the CF-100 had crashed and burned when the idea of a cutaway flattop was to radical for the guitar buying public.

 

I played a few Mark 35s when they were new and a few more plus one lone Mark 53 in later years. Never even laid eyes on an Mark 81 though. My thoughts when I stumbled on them were the same as when I first played them - Meh, they were OK but no better or no worse than any other guitar out there. If anything my main problem with them was the low end - you found yourself asking where is the bass.

 

If interested, here is an article on the Mark Series that appeared in Vintage Guitar Magazine.

 

https://www.vintageguitar.com/3243/gibson-mark-53/

Edited by zombywoof
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One thing that can be said about Gibson R&D in the 1970s, there was no grass growing under their feet - The L6-S, the RD Artist, and the Mark Series acoustics. It is really hard to judge the Mark Series guitars because their rejection may have had as much to do with offending purists as their sound. It is true though that Gibson never seemed to fare well in the past when they strayed too far from tradition. Years earlier the CF-100 had crashed and burned when the idea of a cutaway flattop was to radical for the guitar buying public. I played a few Mark 35s when they were new and a few more plus one lone Mark 53 in later years. Never even laid eyes on an Mark 81 though. My thoughts when I stumbled on them were the same as when I first played them - Meh, they were OK but no better or no worse than any other guitar out there. If anything my main problem with them was the low end - you found yourself asking where is the bass. If interested, here is an article on the Mark Series that appeared in Vintage Guitar Magazine.

https://www.vintageg...gibson-mark-53/

 

that's the first time I read a positive article about the Mark guitars !! [thumbup]

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