Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums
Sign in to follow this  
johnshua

ES-355 - Why don't I hear much about these?

Recommended Posts

Hi there

 

Why don't I hear that much love for the ES-355? Most people seem to dig the ES-335 more. Why is this?

 

I found a retailer who has a nice new Antique Ebony ES-355 which is comparable in price to lots of the ES-335s they have.

 

I'm considering going for it. They are a reputable dealer and I've bought lots from them in the past. The information on the guitar on their web page indicates that it has a curved maple body, mahogany neck, ebony fretboard, 22 frets, gold hardware, 57 classic humbucker pickups, including a case. What other information should I seek about the 355 prior purchase? Don't these come in Stereo and Mono? Also, do they come with different necks (i.e. 50s or 30/60 etc)? Just thought I'd check.

 

 

Thanks

 

Woody.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi there

 

Why don't I hear that much love for the ES-355? Most people seem to dig the ES-335 more. Why is this?

To be perfectly honest, I think the main reason (though price may also be a factor) in this day and age is hero worship. Eric Clapton used a 335, and thus millions of young players think that a 335 is the only way to go for a semi-hollow Gibson. In today's culture, the relative importance and legacy of 335-user Clapton surpasses the 355-user legacies of B.B. King, Freddy King, Chuck Berry, etc. Of course, I'm simplifying here. There have been other famous players who have used these two models, but Clapton is the biggest influence on sales. Ironically, Clapton idolized the 355 players I just mentioned.

 

Another factor used to be stereo vs mono, but in more recent years, mono 355's have been much easier to come by, so that has evened things out a bit, and should have allowed more people to consider a 355 (stereo guitars never having been very popular or successful in general).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you have the choice between a recent-vintage mono 355 and a 335 for the same price, it isn't necessarily an easy decision. It's a matter of how much bling you prefer. For many people (like me) it's hard to beat the simplicity of the ES 335 Dot. I also have an ES 335 with a block neck, but I have to admit a preference for my dot neck '59 Historic. It's also a matter of whether you prefer nickel or gold hardware.

 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 355, but I personally would not pay a penny extra for the additional bling.

 

Sometimes, you can find a used mono Nashville ES 355 for about the same price as a new Memphis ES 335. That's when I would go for the 355.

 

I think Jim may be onto something with his Clapton reference, although Clapton's ES 335 was a block neck, which is an intermediate stage of "blingdom".

 

Who would you rather play like: Clapton, or Chuck Berry?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everything said [thumbup]

 

I always thought of Eric as a 'Dot' man...

 

Many players enjoy the simplicity and usability of the 335 over the 355

 

I have a couple of stereo guitars which never seem to work as such

 

I tend to dislike gold P/U's etc as the finish wears off unless left unplayed :blink:

 

Then again...a 355 at a 335 price sounds like a bargain [thumbup]

 

V

 

:-({|=

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wasn't really thinking much about "bling", although I'm sure it's part of the equation. I actually prefer some bling, all else being equal. I know that some folks prefer a simpler look, but in the case of dotneck 335's, there's a long history and tradition of those being more in demand not for the relative aesthetic simplicity of their appearance, but because the originals from '58 to '61 (although they happened to have dots) were desired for other features (paf's, bigger necks, stop tails, mickey mouse ears, etc). 1920's Lloyd Loar L5's had dots too, but I don't think people crave them for the dots.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there are a few reasons behind the 355s relative lack of popularity.

 

Gibson always sell substantially more of their standard models than the deluxe versions, so inevitably there are many more 335s out there than 355s. I guess this is partly a simple price point thing, but also the custom versions rarely offer much in the way of practical improvements over the standards, so you're paying significantly more for some pearly bits, gold plating and extra binding - so they don't offer the same value for money as the standards. Those features that were intended by Gibson to be practical upgrades, such as stereo / varitone circuits and three pickup Les Paul and SG Customs, have proved unpopular and to the detriment of the guitar. Until recently the 355 has always been offered as standard with a vibrato which many dislike, further marginalising the model.

 

In the case of the 335, the design itself is very elegant and graceful, and many would consider the addition of additional cosmetic flourishes only serve to clutter the appearance of the guitar. There is something very classy about the simplicity of dot neck 335.

 

Still, all things considered my personal loyalties lie with the 355. Sure, it's showy and ostentatious, but slinging a 355 around my neck on feels like putting on a suit, and I love a good suit! There are plenty to agree with me as well, Chuck being one of the better examples, but Keith Richards, BB and Freddy King, Bernard Butler and Johnny Marr are all amongst a pretty good roll call of 355 players. So they're not for everyone but they have a loyal fanbase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll put it another way. I think the appearance of the dotneck 335 has become iconic over time. I don't believe that most people prefer the appearance of a dotneck over a 355 based on the simpler aesthetics, I think they want the icon (which really had its genesis in the early features I mentioned, with the dots just sort of coming along with the package). I suspect that a lot of people who saw the 355 as unaffordable might have used the 335's "elegant simplicity" as a less than sincere feelgood stance. Just my opinion.

 

By the way, I think the above photo would have a lot more style without Richards in it. Just show me the guitar. [biggrin]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I like the simplicity of the dot 335, but there is no doubting the beauty of the 355 or 345. When I first noticed and had GAS for big red Gibson thinlines, they either had block inlays or double parallelograms and a Bigsby. And while I did have a Clapton phase aged 15 and liked the block inlays on his 335, even then I preferred Chuck Berry and BB King, and to be honest I listened to them more. It took a while longer to get round to Freddie King, because I was and am a slow record collector, but I definitely prefer his original licks to Clapton's variations on them. Putting aside the fact that Chuck Berry's famous recordings are either done on his 350 or (apparently) on a Les Paul gold top, and that Freddie King's early stuff is done on his LP GT, I still love the live stuff from the 70s that Berry and both Kings put out on Gibson semis. So pretty well all the playing that I associate with the best in Gibson thinline tone is played on a 355 or 345. Worse, on supposedly crap Norlin variants at that. I also like Johnny Marr. And George Harrison who had a 345 rather than a 335. I suppose that Harrison fans go gooey over Rickebacker 12s, Gretsches and Casinos rather than over strats, SGs, LPs and rosewood teles (though the opening of Hard Day's Night aside, I think most of his best playing was done on th latter instruments). I suppose also that there are more Clapton fans than Chuck Berry/BB King/Freddie King/Johnny Marr fans. But then, how many of the people who prefer Clapton to his influences or are unaware of them are really interested in buying a Gibson semi? In any case, Claptonites would surely go for a black strat or a sunburst LP before looking at a 335. By the time they get round to the Clapton 335, they know who Chuck Berry, BB King and Freddie King are. I somehow doubt that Clapton is really the reason that people are buying dot 335s rather than 355s. I think Jim's second post is nearer the point, as is Jayyj's first.

 

If you buy new in Europe, you still pay a premium for a 355 (mono or stereo), and for the same sort of money you can get a Historic 59 335. I'd rather have the latter, because it comes closest to the legendary originals in build and fixtures. Plain, simple, but versatile. But it's less to do with hero worship than appreciation for Ted McCarty's original design. I'd like it even more if there were no fretboard binding, like the first 58s. But I think I'd be deluding myself if I thought such a guitar would get me a full tonal palette ranging from Freddie King to Johnny Marr through BB, Clapton and Chuck. Versatile it may be, but in the end the 335 still only has two PAFs, a 3-way switch and a stop-bar tailpiece to work with. I might prefer the stability of the latter, but it won't let me do rockabilly whammy moves like a 355 with Bigsby will. And for all the players who denounce the varitone, it is worth noting that Freddie King reportedly used his a lot (just listen to his live stuff in the 70s - no 335 gets that trebly without help), and that Johnny Marr's chiming sound is unlikely to come out of a Gibson semi without some sort of filter.

 

Of course here we hit the mysterious ideology that surrounds 335 worship though. People see Marr in a video with a 355 and assume he used it on the record. They then assume that they can get the same tone out of a 335 with no varitone. They don't want the faff and buy into the bluesy, roadworthy simplicity myth of the 335. At the same time they buy into the related legend of its versatility - if you buy one quality guitar buy one that does everything, like a poor blues player. Get a 335. And then it turns out that the Johnny Marr recording was done with a Rickenbacker 12.

 

I remember a thread a while back in which somebody sought moral support for swapping out the neck pickup on his 335 dot in a drive to get closer to the Johnny Marr sound. His guitar, his choice. But beyond acknowledging that fact, it is hard to give moral support to an attempt to make the neck pickup of a 335 sound more like the bridge pickup of a Rickenbacker (or marginally more reasonably the bridge pickup of a 355 with muchachos varitone). Especially when the original pickup sounded fantastic and perfect for jazz and blues. I sympathized at some level with the aim, because I've also bought into the myth that a 335 can sound like everything from an ES 175 on the front pickup to a tele on the back pickup, taking in the Les Paul and a good dose of Rickenbacker in between. But in truth it can't do all that. At its best it can surely do a reasonable job of covering all the styles of music that those instruments are famous for - it can be a good stand-in for lots of guitars. But it can't actually imitate all of them. It's not a variax.

 

No doubt the 335 is one of the most versatile, dynamic instruments available. But for those who can overcome the hassle of extra weight and stereo wiring (not I, I hasten to add), the 355 with varitone offers more versatility, even if not every setting on the vt is useful.

 

I still wonder at my own capacity to want a 335 over a 355 - after all every single one of the people whose ES tone I most crave played a 355 rather than a 335. And I'm actually struggling to think of a major name associated with the 335 who played a simple stop-bar, two PAFs and dot model - Alvin Lee's original Woodstock guitar was a dot, but it had a Bigsby and that extra pickup. Ritchie Blackmore's dot had a Bigsby too. But then trying to pass Blackmore off as a significant 335 player is like arguing that Jimi Hendrix's most famous guitar was his flying V. The 'Dot' man in the Yardbirds was Chris Dreja. I don't see many people queuing up to get his sound...

 

If the price of the 355 is the same as that of a standard 335, I'd go for it. Unless you really, really hate Bigsbys, really, really want a stop-bar, find that the neck has a less appealing profile, or hate ebony fretboards and have to have rosewood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I like the simplicity of the dot 335, but there is no doubting the beauty of the 355 or 345.

If you buy new in Europe, you still pay a premium for a 355 (mono or stereo), and for the same sort of money you can get a Historic 59 335. I'd rather have the latter, because it comes closest to the legendary originals in build and fixtures. Plain, simple, but versatile.

 

No doubt the 335 is one of the most versatile, dynamic instruments available. But for those who can overcome the hassle of extra weight and stereo wiring (not I, I hasten to add), the 355 with varitone offers more versatility, even if not every setting on the vt is useful.

 

If the price of the 355 is the same as that of a standard 335, I'd go for it. Unless you really, really hate Bigsbys, really, really want a stop-bar, find that the neck has a less appealing profile, or hate ebony fretboards and have to have rosewood.

 

I don't mind a bit of bling, but there is something about the relative simplicity of the 335 that I really find appealing. In particular, I love this model: my Nashville-built '59 Historic, as you mention above. For you acoustic guys, think of it as the electric equivalent of the J-45 Legend.

 

59ES335.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow guys

 

I would like to thank everyone for their thoughtful and analytical perception of their take on the values of the players of ES-335/355. Some really good info there. Much appreciated that's for sure.

 

The 355 I'm considering doesn't have a bigsby or varitone switch. Despite the 355 bling, I kinda like it in this simplistic form when compared to ones with bigsbys and varitones. To be honest, I would have just gone for a Lucille but I'd rather have a regular Gibson headstock.

 

I don't know if the one I'm considering has mono or stereo. I'd likely require mono. Would a Stereo 355 pretty much be like a mono if used with a regular guitar cable going into one amp?

 

Do these come with choices of different necks?

 

 

Thank you everyone.

 

Woody

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All excellent replies. I actually heard about the 355 before the 335. That's because the first player I started to learn from was Alex Lifeson.

 

721.f.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd love to have a red, mono ES-335 with a Bigsby, but the amount of time I spend playing electric guitar these days makes a purchase impractical. I guess I'll just have to get by with my 335.

 

In 1982, I pondered a 347 vs a Chet Atkins Country Gent. Gretsch won out at the time, but, having sold it in '07 (for multiples of what I had paid for it), I toyed first with a Les Paul and later with an SG before settling on the beauty pictured below.

 

GretschChetAtkinsCountryGentleman.jpg

 

GibsonES-335-1.jpg

 

For what it's worth, my current playing partner is plugging into my Deluxe Reverb when he comes by on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it sounds terrific. Ah, but that red 355....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Es-355's were my main guitars for stand-up gigs for about 40 years--here are some of the more recent ones:

 

47ed67e1.jpg

 

About ten years ago I decided they were too heavy and switched to a couple of CS-356's and Johnny A's.

 

Danny W.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought a ES-355 on last spring and I like it a lot!

 

EDIT: Does anyone know how limited this Limited Edition is? (how many Custom Shop made?)

 

es355_3.jpg

 

I didn't bought it because of Clapton ;-)

 

021.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...