Gibson L6-S

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by aaronsweatt, Mar 5, 2009.

  1. aaronsweatt

    aaronsweatt Member

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    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?
     
  2. Marty s Horne

    Marty s Horne Member

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    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.
     
  3. The Pup

    The Pup Supporting Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  4. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Member

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    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.
     
  5. c_mac

    c_mac Supporting Member

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    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.
     
  6. karma1

    karma1 Member

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    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.
     
  7. Mattbedrock

    Mattbedrock Supporting Member

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    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).

    [​IMG]

    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.
     
  8. BCJek

    BCJek Member

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    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.
     
  9. aliensporebomb

    aliensporebomb Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  10. Smakutus

    Smakutus Member

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

    Jeff
     
  11. deanager

    deanager Member

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    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.
     
  12. dspellman

    dspellman Member

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    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.
     
  13. zephaniah zion

    zephaniah zion Member

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

    dspellman Member

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    Mine's a black w/ebony fretboard, original case:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    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.
     
  15. Dashface

    Dashface Member

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    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
     
  16. TonyD

    TonyD Member

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    Mine's a tobacco burst custom and she's anything but ugly. Not my pic but like below.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. JB Eckl

    JB Eckl Member

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    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.
     
  18. The Pup

    The Pup Supporting Member

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    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.
     
  19. dspellman

    dspellman Member

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    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.
     
  20. Birdseye

    Birdseye Member

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    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.


     

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