Restoring or not? The case of a 1959 ES-335 Sunburst

If you ask to any guitar lover which year could be considered the most “iconic” for the Electric Guitar, he will probably mention 1959, since it represents the pinnacle of Gibson Guitars production, and also saw the introduction of the first “slab board” Fender Stratocaster, and the tones delivered from these guitars helped shaping some of the finest contemporary music ever written.

So, finding one of these guitars today still is an experience that truly is “something else”.

Last year, a very clean, original 1959 Gibson ES-335 in Sunburst was offered for sale in Milan, by its longtime owner, the incredibly gifted musician Claudio Bazzari, whose studio work in Italy has been revered and required by the finest Italian Artists along his brilliant career.

Whoever had the pleasure to meet Claudio in person knows how gentle, refined, classy guy he Is, and man, he surely knows his guitars! He’s always chosen the very finest instruments possible, and he’s been one of the very first Italian musicians to understand the superior quality of Vintage Guitars, all the way back to the late 70s, when he started to find these “old guitars that sounded better”.

When he got this beautiful (and amazing sounding) ES-335 from 1959, he immediately bonded with it, and what a surprise he got when, opening the case pocket, a pristine and complete “case candy” was found. The instrument has been used in countless recordings, but Claudio has fond memories of when he used this very guitar to cut the epic guitar solo heard in “Teorema” by Marco Ferradini, a major hit in Italy back in 1981.

But this guitar has a unique feature, that would make it immediately recognizable even from miles away. It has a custom-modified fingerboard, with large pearloid rectangular inlays, done with extreme accuracy, without even bothering the factory original frets which are still in their place. This mod was very common in Italy, since some Italian crafted electric guitars had it, to allow the players to see the frets on the fingerboards in the darkness of the stage.

When Claudio was trying to sell the guitar, people would complain about this “modification”, since, to them, it would have devaluated the guitar consistently.

A few ideas were brought up in order to restore the original look of the fingerboard, from an extreme, although not that uncommon on Gibsons, fingerboard replacement, to a more futuristic “fingerboard inversion” where the original board would have been removed, and the hidden face (the glued one) would have been used as the front, and newer, yet correct, dots would have been made.

But while discussing all these ideas, a major question was brought up by one of Claudio’s friends, asked for advice on the topic, who pressed Claudio to tell him more about the guitar’s story.

So a beautiful collection of memories, music, and life events was discovered, and at some point Claudio remembered he used this very guitar also in a long European Tour with Adriano Celentano, one of the most important Italian Artist of our century.

Login or signup to read the article and enjoy the gallery