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aaronsweatt
03-05-2009, 01:48 AM
I purchased a 1974 Gibson L6-S Midnight Special about a year ago and I haven't really been able to find much about it online. I was wondering if maybe someone here knew anything more than the wikipedia page?

Any fellow owners?

Marty s Horne
03-05-2009, 08:19 AM
I bought an L6s in '75 from Sam Ash in NYC. I loved that guitar and it was my only electric for 8 years. It played great and I liked the versatility of the 6 way switch. The pickups were designed by Bill Lawrence and I paid $363.50 for it brand new with hard case. I was so happy to get it as I had been using a '60 Les Paul Special that was a real POS. Best of luck with yours.

The Pup
03-05-2009, 07:30 PM
I custom order my L6-S in early 1974 with a thick ebony fingerboard, block MOP inlays, gold hardware, Walnut finish and Mahogany neck and body.

...in the end, the neck width proved a little too cramped for me.

I guess Carlos Santana and Kieth Richards didn't stick with them for too long either.

mc5nrg
03-06-2009, 12:06 AM
IIRC the Midnight Special was a term used for the L6S Deluxe. Regular toggle switch,Black metallic finish rosewood board.?

There were differnt versions of the L6S- set neck and bolt on, first plastic covered pickups, later metal covered w/no exposed poles. 6 way switching versus 3 way. I think they all had the Schaller "harmonica" tunamatic.

c_mac
03-06-2009, 07:39 AM
Thanks for bringing back nightmares. I try everyday to forget that I own an L6-S. That POS never leaves its case in the closet. I couldn't imagine the emotions if I had to look at that awful piece of engineering everyday.

karma1
03-07-2009, 03:28 PM
I got one of those back when they were new. My pre-CBS Strat had just been stolen and the music store owner felt sorry for me and gave me a killer deal on it. It was cherry sunburst and was a decent guitar, but I was more of a Fender player at that time and only kept it a few years. As mentioned above the pickups were designed by Bill Lawrence and I believe they were called "Super Humbuckers". They were supposed to be pretty hot.

Mattbedrock
03-07-2009, 03:59 PM
My L6S was the first Gibson I ever owned - got it around 1979 from another local musician that I really looked up to. He had already modified it to remove the 6 way switch and change it to Les Paul like wiring. I played the daylights out of that guitar for years. Until around 1989, it was the only decent guitar I owned (I was poor back then).

http://i270.photobucket.com/albums/jj91/Mattbedrock/NorlinFreaks.jpg

She's worn and beaten and I don't play her often anymore, but she has a special place in my heart. These are solid, decent guitars that play well and sound good.

BCJek
03-07-2009, 07:17 PM
I bought one that had been severely modified. Pickups were basically toast, as they had been moved a fair bit, and were potted/sealed with something hard. The leads had broken off. The six-way rotary switch was gone. I LOVED the ebony fretboard and neck shape/size, though.

aliensporebomb
03-07-2009, 07:23 PM
I bought a new one 9/2/81 that was black with the metal covered pole piece-less pickups with the 6 way varitone, new red velvet lined Gibson Protector case and it was a GREAT guitar, my first real electric guitar (I had a cruddy Austin LP copy back in '78).

Thinking: I wish I still had it but sold it in '83 or so to get a new Roland guitar synth system.

Played that for about eight years.

Smakutus
03-08-2009, 05:18 AM
IIRC the Midnight Special was a term used for the L6S Deluxe. Regular toggle switch,Black metallic finish rosewood board.?

I've seen a cream coloured one with some sparkles mixed into in the paint also called a midnight special..

Jeff

deanager
11-06-2010, 10:46 PM
they only made 16 of the L6-s in cherry sunburst throughout the entire production run. all 16 were made in 1975. most underrated guitar anyway. i have two of them.

dspellman
11-06-2010, 10:54 PM
Thanks for bringing back nightmares. I try everyday to forget that I own an L6-S. That POS never leaves its case in the closet. I couldn't imagine the emotions if I had to look at that awful piece of engineering everyday.

Keep it for a bit longer -- they're being discovered by the vintage market. I just picked up a pristine example for $790 (they sold new for around $499), but the prices have ranged from about $600 for a non-original example to triple that for a really good all-original L6S (the version with the six-way switch). They've never been reissued or cloned, so the pricing is likely to keep going up as well.

zephaniah zion
11-06-2010, 10:58 PM
I bought an L6s in '75 from Sam Ash in NYC. I loved that guitar and it was my only electric for 8 years. It played great and I liked the versatility of the 6 way switch. The pickups were designed by Bill Lawrence and I paid $363.50 for it brand new with hard case. I was so happy to get it as I had been using a '60 Les Paul Special that was a real POS. Best of luck with yours.

This makes me sick in an awesome way. That price and model guitar are never seen together, ever!:D

dspellman
11-06-2010, 11:27 PM
Mine's a black w/ebony fretboard, original case:

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/dspellman/Picture6-3.pnghttp://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/dspellman/Picture5-1.png

This is the original, with the six-way (it's a pickup selector, by the way, NOT a Varitone). The Wikipedia entry has the rundown on the selections, but in case you haven't seen that:

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/dspellman/Picture4-3.png

Bill Lawrence designed the guitar, but the guitar that was actually produced was NOT the guitar he wanted to bring to market. He often says that if he had just $25 more budget per guitar, it would have been very different. He was originally asked to create a multiple-sound system for the SG, but asked Gibson if he could design an entirely new guitar. Gibson cheaped out on the design he sent them, and when the guitar actually hit the market it was very different from what he'd created.

The L6S is the first 24-fret guitar from Gibson (and fret access is excellent). It's a glued neck all-maple guitar barely thicker than an SG. It's wider and flatter than an LP and the joke is that it's a road-killed LP. The original pickups are a Bill Lawrence design and are Gibson's first "hot" pickups. It's a unique application of ceramic magnets (there are *three*, arranged to get more out of smaller magnets) and there are no adjustable pole pieces. The nickel-silver pickup covers were first, with the plastics later on. The pickups are potted in epoxy rather than wax; some other pickup manufacturers (including Bartolini) have potted pickups in epoxy as well. The six-way switch produces some great sound variations, especially when used in conjunction with the tone controls. This is one of the few guitars produced that had both a conventional tone knob (essentially a treble roll-off) and a mids control, and you can use that to reduce mids while retaining some nice sparkle. Some guitarists have mids controls on their guitars now (Neal Schon, for example, has a passive sweepable mids cut on virtually every guitar he plays on concert or on recordings), but most people aren't aware of it. Not many people took the time to learn what the guitar could do, and you'll find some of these guitars have unfortunately been converted to a standard three-way pickup selector. The guitar is pretty comfortable, what with the thin body. The neck is fairly narrow (1 9/16ths at the nut, but widens out nicely down past the 12th fret. The L6S has a tailpiece and the big "harmonica" bridge. The Deluxe and the Midnight Special (which were *different* guitars) had the strings through the body. The Deluxe and the MS have three-way pickup selectors, rosewood fretboards (the L6S "Custom" had either maple (like a strat) or ebony). The headstock is narrower than a standard Gibson, but because of that stays in tune more easily than, say, an LP or SG. The guitar was priced right around the same as an SG or LP standard of its day (around $499 in 1975). Most of them were "natural" maple with maple fretboards. Next biggest bunch was probably the ebony/ebony, and after that the wine-red Midnight Specials. Other colors included the odd silverburst and cherry sunburst, an occasional tobacco burst and perhaps a few others. While the other colors are more rare, they're not worth anything more than the more popular colors.

I actually had the L6S on my short list (I've already got an L5S from the same period), as well as an ES-335S (solid body). The L6-S wasn't overwhelmingly popular; I wasn't interested in it when it was new. But these days it's an interesting piece of Gibson history and a pretty good guitar in its own right. Some blues players have been discovering it and consider it "perhaps the best blues guitar ever." Mine actually has some serious punch, and I really like the pickups and the mids control. If you're an LP player, this guitar will be a bit brighter than both the LP and the run-of-the-mill SG, and it will be far more versatile than either, and will sit in a mix *very* nicely. You have to be very careful when buying one; there are a lot of "upgraded" versions out there with non-original pickups, wiring, the occasional broken pickguard and replaced tuners. If that works for you, fine, but you should be getting a discount for all those upgrades, rather than asked to pay a premium; they ruin the value of the guitar, and it's difficult to find the bits and pieces any more. The original cases, because they don't fit other guitars, are expensive and difficult to find, often commanding prices of $225-300 when sold alone.

Dashface
11-07-2010, 12:09 AM
I played one the other day at a shop, and I have to say that I found it to be super comfy to play. It felt great, and sounded really good.... Too bad it's so damn ugly :D

TonyD
11-07-2010, 05:48 AM
Mine's a tobacco burst custom and she's anything but ugly. Not my pic but like below.

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRaqPqSiSg0vem0DHvBeGgbXW0kyP_Rj Pvo_8-nJPkz2gWe7G4&t=1&usg=__0t3sExYXh8AwhXCmfV3Q17os9J8=

JB Eckl
11-07-2010, 08:19 AM
Mine's a tobacco burst custom and she's anything but ugly. Not my pic but like below.

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRaqPqSiSg0vem0DHvBeGgbXW0kyP_Rj Pvo_8-nJPkz2gWe7G4&t=1&usg=__0t3sExYXh8AwhXCmfV3Q17os9J8=

That's what mine looks like!

My first guitar was a used L6-S, one of the very few that burst finish. I loved that thing so much, I still get the warm & fuzzies remembering when I got it.

It was stolen the day - the DAY - I moved to LA. Right out of my living room when I was out for a burger, in broad daylight. I tried to find another one just like it for almost 15 years, but that finish is just nowhere. It had to be exactly the same. Well, finally one turned up on eBay and I got it for under a grand in great shape, all original.

I've got the action cranked up for slide, and I love it for any type of blues, funk or reggae - stuff that needs a bit of bite. It has a decidedly Page-esque sound, just like my old one. A weird mix between a tele and an LP. I do want to hear some different pickups in it, but the electronics are cool.

The Pup
11-07-2010, 09:17 AM
Mine's a black w/ebony fretboard, original case:

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/dspellman/Picture6-3.pnghttp://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/dspellman/Picture5-1.png

This is the original, with the six-way (it's a pickup selector, by the way, NOT a Varitone). The Wikipedia entry has the rundown on the selections, but in case you haven't seen that:

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b149/dspellman/Picture4-3.png

Bill Lawrence designed the guitar, but the guitar that was actually produced was NOT the guitar he wanted to bring to market. He often says that if he had just $25 more budget per guitar, it would have been very different. He was originally asked to create a multiple-sound system for the SG, but asked Gibson if he could design an entirely new guitar. Gibson cheaped out on the design he sent them, and when the guitar actually hit the market it was very different from what he'd created.

The L6S is the first 24-fret guitar from Gibson (and fret access is excellent). It's a glued neck all-maple guitar barely thicker than an SG. It's wider and flatter than an LP and the joke is that it's a road-killed LP. The original pickups are a Bill Lawrence design and are Gibson's first "hot" pickups. It's a unique application of ceramic magnets (there are *three*, arranged to get more out of smaller magnets) and there are no adjustable pole pieces. The nickel-silver pickup covers were first, with the plastics later on. The pickups are potted in epoxy rather than wax; some other pickup manufacturers (including Bartolini) have potted pickups in epoxy as well. The six-way switch produces some great sound variations, especially when used in conjunction with the tone controls. This is one of the few guitars produced that had both a conventional tone knob (essentially a treble roll-off) and a mids control, and you can use that to reduce mids while retaining some nice sparkle. Some guitarists have mids controls on their guitars now (Neal Schon, for example, has a passive sweepable mids cut on virtually every guitar he plays on concert or on recordings), but most people aren't aware of it. Not many people took the time to learn what the guitar could do, and you'll find some of these guitars have unfortunately been converted to a standard three-way pickup selector. The guitar is pretty comfortable, what with the thin body. The neck is fairly narrow (1 9/16ths at the nut, but widens out nicely down past the 12th fret. The L6S has a tailpiece and the big "harmonica" bridge. The Deluxe and the Midnight Special (which were *different* guitars) had the strings through the body. The Deluxe and the MS have three-way pickup selectors, rosewood fretboards (the L6S "Custom" had either maple (like a strat) or ebony). The headstock is narrower than a standard Gibson, but because of that stays in tune more easily than, say, an LP or SG. The guitar was priced right around the same as an SG or LP standard of its day (around $499 in 1975). Most of them were "natural" maple with maple fretboards. Next biggest bunch was probably the ebony/ebony, and after that the wine-red Midnight Specials. Other colors included the odd silverburst and cherry sunburst, an occasional tobacco burst and perhaps a few others. While the other colors are more rare, they're not worth anything more than the more popular colors.

I actually had the L6S on my short list (I've already got an L5S from the same period), as well as an ES-335S (solid body). The L6-S wasn't overwhelmingly popular; I wasn't interested in it when it was new. But these days it's an interesting piece of Gibson history and a pretty good guitar in its own right. Some blues players have been discovering it and consider it "perhaps the best blues guitar ever." Mine actually has some serious punch, and I really like the pickups and the mids control. If you're an LP player, this guitar will be a bit brighter than both the LP and the run-of-the-mill SG, and it will be far more versatile than either, and will sit in a mix *very* nicely. You have to be very careful when buying one; there are a lot of "upgraded" versions out there with non-original pickups, wiring, the occasional broken pickguard and replaced tuners. If that works for you, fine, but you should be getting a discount for all those upgrades, rather than asked to pay a premium; they ruin the value of the guitar, and it's difficult to find the bits and pieces any more. The original cases, because they don't fit other guitars, are expensive and difficult to find, often commanding prices of $225-300 when sold alone.

Very informative...thanks.

There is at least one L6-S out there which I special ordered from Gibson when they first came out with the following features:

- Mahogany body and neck with dark walnut (antique violin) finish
- Thick Ebony fretboard with large MOP block inlays
- Gold hardware
- Largest frets available
- Bartolini Hi-A (added later)

I too miss this guitar, it cost me over $800 and a year to receive back in the day. I never got used to the limited neck width, but it was one of the most comfortable and playable guitars I have owned over the years.

I wish I still had it.

dspellman
11-07-2010, 09:43 AM
I'm a little surprised that someone hasn't recreated this guitar, just for the fun of it. It'd be an easy build (in fact, I'd probably do it as a neck-through) -- I'd probably start with one of Carvin's 25" scale 24-fret necks (that eliminates the narrow neck problem) and add side wings. Could even make it just a bit thicker and put a fancier wood top on it. The pickguards are available online for every model, and in a lot of non-original colors. The wiring's easy enough to duplicate, though it might also be worthwhile to check into what Bill Lawrence had in mind with his "two three-way switches" and "nine sounds" that he claimed could reproduce LP, Tele and Strat sounds.

Birdseye
11-07-2010, 09:55 AM
This is a great bit of info, how did you find the production numbers? I have one too, always thought it was a '74, based on pot codes, but it could be a '75. I know the owner of another cherryburst too. So that's 4 of the 16. We need to try and find out the location of as many of those as we can. It would be great to document the whole run.

I think the original pickups are great.


they only made 16 of the L6-s in cherry sunburst throughout the entire production run. all 16 were made in 1975. most underrated guitar anyway. i have two of them.

musicofanatic5
11-07-2010, 10:16 AM
Thanks for bringing back nightmares. I try everyday to forget that I own an L6-S. That POS never leaves its case in the closet. I couldn't imagine the emotions if I had to look at that awful piece of engineering everyday.

During a down and out period with no electric gtr,I used to borrow one for gigs occasionally. Beggars can't be choosers, but I used to hate that (as ststed above) POS. Whatta boat anchor. I used to always plot that I would buy it just for the pleasure of burning it!

just_one_more
11-07-2010, 11:06 AM
I have a cherry sunburn in good shape.2 piece body, ebony board. Totally stock. I am pretty sure it is a 74. Been thinking of selling it, but then play it can't do it.

they only made 16 of the L6-s in cherry sunburst throughout the entire production run. all 16 were made in 1975. most underrated guitar anyway. i have two of them.

just_one_more
11-07-2010, 11:39 AM
I have a cherry sunburst in good shape.2 piece body, ebony board. Totally stock. I am pretty sure it is a 74. Been thinking of selling it, but then play it can't do it.

they only made 16 of the L6-s in cherry sunburst throughout the entire production run. all 16 were made in 1975. most underrated guitar anyway. i have two of them.

dspellman
11-07-2010, 02:18 PM
This is a great bit of info, how did you find the production numbers? I have one too, always thought it was a '74, based on pot codes, but it could be a '75. I know the owner of another cherryburst too. So that's 4 of the 16. We need to try and find out the location of as many of those as we can. It would be great to document the whole run.

I think the original pickups are great.

Sorry, but the "16" number is wrong. They made them throughout the run of L6Ss and more than 16. I was a bit curious myself way back when I noticed that one of the Doobie Brothers had one back then and wondered where he got it. Then they kept popping up and I lost interest. Gibson has a habit of missunnerestimatin' what was actually produced of any particular guitar. For example, they claim that 35 Neal Schon Sig guitars were produced, but other sources figure it more like 80-90.

tg41161
11-07-2010, 03:34 PM
I had a tobacco sunburst one in the '70s as well. My recollections are positive, but I'm not sure what I'd think of it now.


I'd love to find one and find out.

c_mac
11-07-2010, 03:34 PM
During a down and out period with no electric gtr,I used to borrow one for gigs occasionally. Beggars can't be choosers, but I used to hate that (as ststed above) POS. Whatta boat anchor. I used to always plot that I would buy it just for the pleasure of burning it!

I'm sorry my friend, I'm very aware of what a dark time that must have been. I wouldn't even wish that guitar on Justin Bieber.

JB Eckl
11-07-2010, 04:44 PM
Wow, the hate for these guitars makes for an entertaining thread!

I still like them. The 4th and 6th positions on the chickenhead are funkalicious.

dspellman
11-07-2010, 05:05 PM
I'm sorry my friend, I'm very aware of what a dark time that must have been. I wouldn't even wish that guitar on Justin Bieber.

Okay, I'm pretty much aware of what the shortcomings of these guitars are, but you two are SO far over the edge in this regard that I, for one, would LOVE to hear what tossed you off the cliff <G>.....

Whiskeyrebel
11-07-2010, 05:50 PM
Maybe nobody is cloning them right now but weren't there Japanese copies at the time? Were they badly made lookalikes or well made guitars?

karma1
11-07-2010, 06:39 PM
they only made 16 of the L6-s in cherry sunburst throughout the entire production run. all 16 were made in 1975. most underrated guitar anyway. i have two of them.


I didn't know the cherry sunburst ones were so rare. I had one back when they came out. I thought it was earlier than 1975, but I could be mistaken.

trishhunter
11-26-2010, 05:04 PM
Great information thankyou! I just picked up a black l6-s at a garage sale would you believe, and was researching it to find out more information about it and found this thread.
Have you any idea how many of the black ones were made?
I believe my one is all original, it looks identical to your one, same pickups, and with the orig case, and 6 way switch. Have you any idea what it may be worth? Think I'll hold onto it for another 20 years or so though as I'm too happy with it to part with it just yet, but would just like some more info on this beautiful guitar.
Trish

TonyD
11-27-2010, 05:26 AM
This site has a lot of stats and info. Enjoy.

http://www.vintageguitars.org.uk/gibsonL6S_3.php

dspellman
11-30-2010, 10:17 AM
Maybe nobody is cloning them right now but weren't there Japanese copies at the time? Were they badly made lookalikes or well made guitars?

They were mostly bolt-neck versions; well-made guitars for the most part built in the same factory that produced Ibanez in the '70's. But they stopped producing them about the same time that Gibson stopped producing L6Ss. I just saw one of them, a "Carlos Robelli" on eBay for an amazing $250, in outstanding condition. Be aware that newer "Carlos Robelli" guitars, however, are a Sam Ash house brand.

dspellman
11-30-2010, 10:21 AM
Great information thankyou! I just picked up a black l6-s at a garage sale would you believe, and was researching it to find out more information about it and found this thread.
Have you any idea how many of the black ones were made?
I believe my one is all original, it looks identical to your one, same pickups, and with the orig case, and 6 way switch. Have you any idea what it may be worth? Think I'll hold onto it for another 20 years or so though as I'm too happy with it to part with it just yet, but would just like some more info on this beautiful guitar.
Trish

Gibson produced about half as many black ones as natural ones, and those were the two most frequently produced. I paid just under $800 for mine, but you'll find prices ranging from about $700 to nearly $2000 (though I don't know how many of those actually go from "asking price" to "sold price." The guitar will never depreciate.

trishhunter
12-08-2010, 05:00 PM
Gosh thankyou all so much!!
Think I'll hold on to it for another 20 years and either pass it onto my kids if they're musical, or sell it off then. Until then I'll enjoy it and annoy the neighbours :)

enigma
12-08-2010, 08:28 PM
I had one for a while. Somehow, the wood smelled of stench. I couldn't stand it so it was sold.

http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l199/mergetrio/Gibson%20L6S/P7210298.jpg

dspellman
12-08-2010, 10:03 PM
I had one for a while. Somehow, the wood smelled of stench. I couldn't stand it so it was sold.

"smelled of stench."

a characteristic repugnant quality (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stench?show=0&t=1291871119#)

What KIND of stench? Cigarette smoke, rotten meat, moldy underwear?

enigma
12-09-2010, 06:49 PM
dspellman, very moldy smell. I think the smell came from the case, and the odor seemed to have seeped in the wood.

aliensporebomb
12-09-2010, 08:24 PM
I should mention that of the "celebrity" players besides Carlos Santana both Kerry Livgren and Rich Williams of Kansas had them and I remember reading that one of them was terrific and the other one the pickups were so gainy it was hard to get good, crisp tones.'

Bob1 and 2 from Devo also had them (in natural, a matched pair).

I think I still have a recording somewhere of mine but it's LONG gone. Looking at it today it seems kind of squashed but no problem.

ccuwan
12-20-2010, 01:38 PM
I found one for sale in my neighbourhood for $350. No collector value as it has been disassembled and sanded but apparently comes with all original electronics. The original tuners are not available. I guess the price is fair...$350 for any Gibson is pretty good. Any thoughts?

dspellman
12-20-2010, 02:04 PM
I found one for sale in my neighbourhood for $350. No collector value as it has been disassembled and sanded but apparently comes with all original electronics. The original tuners are not available. I guess the price is fair...$350 for any Gibson is pretty good. Any thoughts?

There have been a couple of examples on eBay that have been refinished. Most of the "natural" versions these days have a clear coat (nitro) that's yellowed quite a bit; they were much more like naked wood when they were new. Natural is the iconic version, of course, and most were sold that way. If you've got a maple fretboard on it and the frets don't need replacing, that might be the best way to go with it. You shouldn't have problems finding tuners that match the originals.

If it's an ebony fretboard, you might even consider doing a cherry sunburst or a tobacco sunburst as well as the black. Sounds like a good project. You can actually get a bit of collector value back by returning it to original status (or as close as you can come) and by doing a good job with the refinish. I'd avoid doing any "relicing" to make it look used; time will take care of that, especially if you use a nitro-cellulose finish.

rddugan57
12-23-2010, 08:53 PM
i bought mine used around 84 maplle fret board ,, had one syolen from me that was ebony fretboard ,, i sure miss that guitar , i just bought a midnite special from guitar center on line , i have to wait till next week to see what kind of shape it is realy in but theyu are fun guitars to play and i love the sound maple and nice pick ups i will post photos next week