History of the Flying V- 500 Words with Adam P Hunt
500 Words History of the Flying V
There are some guitars that are just cool and the Flying V is one of them. Just throw one over your neck and you become equal parts Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, Lonnie Mack and Michael Schenker.
Initially designed in 1957 as a way to attract customers away from the upstart Fender company the Flying V would not debut until 1958.
I can only imagine the shock when the Flying V had its official coming out party due to it’s Alexander Calder meets Chevrolet Bel Air styling.
Not only was the V’s styling a departure from some of Gibson’s better known guitars it was the first production guitar Gibson made using korina.
While the V was not an initial hit there was enough demand for Gibson do three production runs (40 guitars each) during the first year of production.
That early success was short-lived, however, and when only 17 Vs left the Gibson factory in 1959 Gibson and the V was on it’s way to obscurity.
Another early V owner was the Kinks’ Dave Davies. Durning The Kinks’ 1965 American tour Davies’ lost his touring guitar and out of desperation Davies stopped in a local music shop was able to buy a NOS V for $60.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events there was enough pent up demand for these unusual guitars for Gibson to relaunch the V in 1966. Unlike the ’58 V the ’66 was made out of mahogany and had numerous cosmetic, hardware, changes and even changes to the body design.
Sadly, like the original ‘58s the ’66 relaunch was short lived and by 1970 the V was once again no more.
Another unusual V was the so called 1978 “V2”. Designer Tim Shaw’s radically reworked the V by giving it a multi ply hardwood body and ditched the PAF style pickups in favor of the “boomerang” pickup. Perhaps the biggest change with the V2 was the fundamental sound of the guitar. Shaw’s “boomerang” pickups were initially designed much more like a single coil rather than a fatter, more robust humbucker.
The V2 limped along but it was a costly and difficult guitar to make. Later versions sported a simplified body design, a single ply maple cap and “dirty finger” exposed coil humbuckers.
Despite some cost cutting measures Gibson discontinued the V2 in 1983.
In recent years Gibson has released many variations of the V both under the Gibson and Epiphone labels.
If history shows us anything the story of the Flying V is far from over.
Over the years there has been many companies making numerous variations of the V, most notably the Jackson “Randy Rhoads” Concorde.
Whether your taste runs to cool electric blues or to blistering hot metal there may be a V out there with your name on it.