In praise of: Gibson Flying V

Posted Jan 1, 2014 at 4:30am
Read more about In praise of: Gibson Flying V at MusicRadar.com

Even now, the Flying V's iconic outline stands out from the herds of hourglass-aping guitar bodies. It's hard to believe, then, that this extreme instrument was introduced way back in 1958, along with another equally radical, the Explorer, as part of Gibson's Modernist series. Yet it was decades before either instrument achieved any real success.

"Gibson needed something to reclaim the spotlight, and it had to be something modern - and the Flying V was certainly that"

Back in the mid 50s, guitarists were beginning to view Gibson as old-fashioned. Sales of the Les Paul were in decline, and all attention was focused on Fender's sparkly new Stratocaster. Gibson needed something to reclaim the spotlight, and it had to be something modern - and the Flying V was certainly that.

The guitar got its name and shape from Seth Lover (of PAF humbucker fame), whose pickups were installed in the new creation. It had a korina body and neck, plus it was the first Gibson to feature through-body stringing.

Unfortunately, the guitar world just wasn't ready for the Flying V, and poor sales saw production grind to a halt in 1959. Demand set in again when The Kinks' Dave Davies got his hands on one, and a new all- mahogany V was launched in 1967, with Vibrola vibrato.

Flying V production continued to stop and start throughout the 70s and early 80s, despite Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and the Scorpions' Schenker brothers all flashing the Vs.

By the mid 80s, Gibson had to compete with the V-style axes being produced by Jackson, and so the company's new stripped-back Vs came with reduced price tags and optional locking vibrato systems. At last, the V took flight, as the hard rock and metal masses, including James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, jumped onboard.

Since then, the V has continued to soar: the Flying V '67 Reissue debuted in 1990, while a limited run of bonkers-looking Reverse Flying Vs was released in 2007. Its shape is still among the most imitated of guitar bodies, and Vs from the likes of Dean, Jackson and ESP continue to be treasured among metal's elite. Its ascent may have taken several decades... but, finally, respect for the Flying V is at an all-time high.

Gibson Flying V timeline

1958

Gibson introduces the Flying V alongside the Explorer

1967

The Flying V returns with all-mahogany construction and vibrola vibrato

1990

Flying V reissue launched, based on the 1967 mahogany model

2007

499 limited-edition reverse-bodied Flying Vs are made

Read more about

Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

For Sale: Nine Gibson Les Pauls Played by Warren Haynes at Final Allman Brothers Beacon Theatre Shows (10/20/2014)
Thanks to an arrangement between the Gibson Custom Shop, the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House and Warren Haynes, a special selection of Gibson guitars is now available to the public. Each of the nine hand-selected Les Pauls will be ...
Gibson announces Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul and Lzzy Hale Explorer (10/15/2014)
Read more about Gibson announces Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul and Lzzy Hale Explorer at MusicRadar.com Hot on the tail of the 2015 line-up, Gibson has announced two brand new signature models for Mastodon's Bill Kelliher and Halestorm's Lzzy H...
Gibson Introduces Seven-String Les Paul Classic Guitar (10/13/2014)
Gibson has introduced its new Les Paul Classic 7 String — the first ever seven-string Les Paul. From the company: For too long the luthiers at Gibson have reserved the seven-string guitars for other popular models like the Flying V and Explorer,...
Gibson Les Paul 7-string announced (10/13/2014)
Read more about Gibson Les Paul 7-string announced at MusicRadar.com Who says an old classic can't learn new tricks? In an unexpected move, quite
Guitarist Elliot Easton Discusses The Empty Hearts, The Cars and His Signature Gibson Tikibird (9/26/2014)
Even though the Empty Hearts feature members of Blondie, the Cars, the Chesterfield Kings and the Romantics — and even though their name was chosen from Little Steven Van Zandt's super-secret list of unused band names — this is no cynically cons...
Waddy Wachtel talks Gibson Collector's Choice #14 1960 Les Paul (9/22/2014)
Read more about Waddy Wachtel talks Gibson Collector's Choice #14 1960 Les Paul at MusicRadar.com To celebrate the release of the Gibson Collector's Choice #14 1960 Les Paul, session guitarist Waddy Wachtel – who plays guitar in the upcoming Jim...
‘World On Fire’: Slash Discusses New Solo Album, Gibson Les Pauls and Guns N’ Roses (9/2/2014)
Over the course of his illustrious career—one that includes time in Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver—Slash has amassed album sales of more than 100 million, garnered a Grammy (to go with his seven nominations) and was recently...
Buckcherry Guitarist Keith Nelson Talks New EP, 'F---,' and His Gibson Collector’s Choice Les Paul (8/12/2014)
Never a band to play by the rules, Buckcherry have made a career out of pushing the boundaries — and buttons — of conventional rock while doing things their own way. It’s a strategy that has paid off with successful studio albums and singles ove...
Gibson unleashes a pair of new Flying Vs (6/25/2014)
Read more about Gibson unleashes a pair of new Flying Vs at MusicRadar.com Gibson has launched two new Flying V models, the Flying V History and the Flying V 120.The Flying V History ($1,999) has been launched as part of Gibson's 120th anniversa...
Led Vault: Jimmy Page Talks First Three Led Zeppelin Albums, Gibson and Harmony Guitars and More (6/11/2014)
This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Ace Frehley, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, tabs and reviews o...
Gibson Introduces ES-Les Paul Guitar: "The Ultimate Marriage of Solid and Semi" (6/11/2014)
Gibson has introduced its new ES-Les Paul guitar. From the company: The solidbody Les Paul Standard and semi-acoustic ES-335 are the two most influential electric guitars ever to hit their respective genres. Now Gibson brings them together in t...
Gibson unveils ES-Les Paul (6/11/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils ES-Les Paul at MusicRadar.com Gibson has combined the ES and Les Paul designs to create a new model, the ES-Les Paul. Featuring ES-style laminated maple tops, semi-acoustic contruction including a mahogany central ...
Gibson celebrates 65 years of Lucille (6/4/2014)
Read more about Gibson celebrates 65 years of Lucille at MusicRadar.com Gibson is celebrating the 65th birthday of BB King's Lucille with a new anniversary signature guitar. The legendary bluesman's Lucille, the luxurient black semi acoustic tha...
Gibson unveils two new Les Pauls (5/20/2014)
Read more about Gibson unveils two new Les Pauls at MusicRadar.com Gibson has announced two new Les Paul models, the Les Paul Supreme and the Southern Rock Tribute 1959 Les Paul. The Supreme is about as ostentatious a Les Paul as we've ever seen...
Gibson Introduces Memory Cable with Built-in Recorder (5/12/2014)
Gibson has introduced the Memory Cable, a 16-foot cable with a built-in, solid-state recorder designed by TASCAM’s engineers. From the company, courtesy of Craig Anderton: Inspiration is fragile. Remember those songs you lost when