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Your thoughts: Lucille vs. other ES-335 vs. ???

Ugly Bunny

Member
Messages
1,985
I'm 33 now and my first two guitar obsessions when I was around 12 or 13 were BB King's "Lucille" and the sunburst strat I saw Bryan Adams play once. My sunburst Suhr Classic Antique has scratched that strat itch but I haven't decided on that BB King-type guitar.

So I ask you, the gear gods of the internet; is the "Lucille" worth it? Or am I just paying for the name? Should I be looking at a different 335? I know Epiphone makes a Lucille, but the reviews are hit or miss - plus it doesn't come with a case. So after the case, I'm out almost a grand, and then I'm a great way towards the real thing or a real 335 anyway.

I'm just wondering where the sweet spot as far as quality/price is with the 335s these days. Let's pretend money is no object. I have several Music Mans, I've owned Carvins/Kiesels, my Suhr, Nystrum, etc. - so I know quality. Seems with most electrics, there's a diminishing returns around the $2500-$3k area; with $1700 being about the least I'm looking at spending (unless y'all convince me the Epi Lucille is the bee's knees). I've owned an Epi "dot" before, but that was when I was just getting into electric, so I can't trust my memories of it except I know the "E" emblem fell off which, while I know is trivial, kinda sours my taste for the quality of Epi (plus all the other Epi's I've had being very "meh"). In any case, the "dot" just didn't excite me at the time - but again, I've grown a lot since then. Maybe I just couldn't appreciate it.

So what say you? Save up for a real "Lucille?" Take a chance on the Epi? Other model of 335? Other semi-hollow altogether that will scratch that "Lucille" itch?

Thanks!
 

Dashface

Member
Messages
6,348
The Lucille is a strange beast. No F-Holes, the weird fine tuning tailpiece, varitone, etc. If that's the exact look and sound you need - then nothing but the real thing is going to do it for you.

If you don't need all the strange stuff (and you don't want it to say Lucille on the headstock) I'd suggest a regular ES 355.
 

blowery

Member
Messages
2,321
If money's no object, look at the Collings i35's etc. Immaculate build quality.

In terms of "Lucille" or not, I'm not sure if it's just sentimental that you want that exact one, or something similar. A Gibson lucille is really pricey, should be good quality. Lucille is a bit wacky as I just saw the poster above me respond.

If you are looking for 335 quality, check out Yamaha. The SA series 2000,2500 are EXCELLENT guitars and very well made. I just received (gift from family) an SA1100 and it's such a great guitar for cheap. It's either 88 or 98 model (who knows with yamaha) and just really well made. So much thicker sounding than my Strat which I've loved and only played for almost 20 years. You can find the different models of Yamaha's and the SA series numbers usually just mean nicer appointments/bling.

Heritage makes a nice 335 style as well.

Here's my SA1100, Quality guitar for great price.
 

django49

Member
Messages
1,806
I have owned a bunch of ES-3XXs. Including a pair of actual Lucilles, as well as at least two others with the varitone (345 and 355). Too many to recall others----335s, 347s, etc. At present I am down to a single ES-335 (dot reissue) which is the one I most connected to. But even that has upgraded (non-Gibson) pickups.

As much as I like the IDEA of the Lucille, I never really connected with either one. A good part of that was the varitone. To me it seems pretty worthless. I guess others agree, as many of the "vintage" ones have had the unit removed or at least disconnected. IIRC, even B.B. basically selected one of the six positions and left it there for "his" sound.

If you want to pay tribute to the King, and want to have "the real thing", by all means grab one. But aside from that, my opinion is that you should play as many Gibson semi-hollows as you can and find one that makes you feel at home. There are tons of opinions posted as to how hard it can be to find "a good one", so I will not pile on. Except to repeat that you would be wise to not to just grab the first you see and hope for the best.

ETA......Per the post above.....Collings make a great semi-hollow. Build quality almost certainly better than a typical assembly line Gibson. I just tried an I35-LC. It is a great guitar. Played next to my 335, it sounds quite different. (It is a smaller body, with thinner plywood and low wind pickups). I could tweak the amp to get in the same ballpark, but it does not quite have the same "classic" sound as a good 335.
Again....best to play as many as possible and see which one is "right".
 
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Smakutus

Member
Messages
8,367
I had a 67 ES-335 and a 87 BB King.. The Lucille weighed way more than that 335 or any other 70's one I have played.
 

tapeworm

Member
Messages
8,589
For me the real Lucille(s) are the 355's that he played on all those old recordings and live performances. The "Lucille" sig model is just a Lucille in name only IMO. I'd look for an old 355 if you really want that BB King vibe.

 
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dazco

Member
Messages
15,297
I don't like them, too heavy for one. But i gotta tell you, while i'm not a 335 guy at all and have never had any desire to own one, i picked up a eastman 386 a couple weeks ago and was blown away. The acoustic resonance unplugged was almost like playing an acoustic, it was incredible. What a guitar it was. For the first time in my life i now want one....THAT one. But alas, i'm at a place where i've had to downsize and it;s not an option for me. But if i ever have the means i will seriously consider one. Do yourself a favor and find one to play. Bring your checkbook or card because you WILL use it !
 

Ugly Bunny

Member
Messages
1,985
So... 355, eh?

Wow. Lotta good advice and experience here. I do have a bit of sentimental attachment to the thought of getting a Lucille, but I think you all are right; I think I just need to go play a bunch and see what I like. I like the ideas of the fine tuners and varitone, but it's not a must. I think to me, it's more about the tone, feel, and mojo, so if I find one that has all that but isn't the Lucille, cool. Besides, I'm not BB King and I never will be; I'd rather forge my own path with him as an inspiration rather than be weighed down with the responsibility of wielding this $7k signature beast lol.
 

dconeill

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,736
It seems to me you'll have to play a Gibson Lucille to determine whether it's what you want.

I've had an ES335 Dot since 1986 and like it very well. But I don't care much for the Lucille - it's too bright for me. The Lucille has a maple neck and a Richlite (formerly ebony) fingerboard, which I believe causes the brightness. (My ES335 has a mahogany neck and a rosewood fingerboard; and I've switched out the pickups.) The other differences, apart from the Varitone, are mostly cosmetic. I haven't played around with a Varitone enough to have found a use for one.

Maybe the Lucille is just the thing for the OP. But this is why the OP should find one and play it. It might or might not be what's wanted. It seems to me that the OP should figure out what kind of sound is wanted, and then go find the guitar that does that sound.

What other fantasies from your 12-year-old self do you hold on to? Most of them don't seem to hold up over time.
 

Whiskeyrebel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,732
If you like Strat scale length, Gibson also made the Little Lucille, which was a Blueshawk with a TOM bridge and TP6 tailpiece. Being a Blueshawk variant, it also had the Varitone. Here's a guy demoing the Varitone settings:
 

Dave2512

Member
Messages
5,792
Funny I am working on a Lucille for a friend now. I have some free time and told him I'd tune up his collection if he pays for parts, the trade being I only have one guitar and I can mess around with his. His complaint was he can't get a good sound out of it. He's not a great player or anything but I took it home and plugged it in and immediately figured out what he is talking about. I am certain he doesn't understand the varitone which IMO is fun but not very useful for the plug and play types. Because the guitar does what it's supposed to do I'm going to set it up, needs a few tweaks, and tell him to stick to position 1 (bypass) and it's be fine as long as his back can hack it.

I thought about seeing it he wants to sell it. Basically it's everything described in earlier posts good and bad. If I was looking for a 335 I wouldn't mind a Lucille because I don't gig so heavy is ok.
 

Sam Sherry

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,218
Aw, Bun. You just let some people on a website talk you out of your own notion. They're nice, they're smart, they're sincere, they're experienced, but they're not you.

My two cents: Buy a used Epi Lucille. If you simply hate the geometry, there's your answer. If it makes you feel like investing $x,xxx more to get yy% more, there's your answer. But if you feel like you're visiting with The King every time you pick it up, well, there's your answer!

Used Gibson Lucilles at GC for under $2,000
Used Epi Lucilles on Reverb starting at $510 with code
Used Lucille at MusicGoRound for $600

Live and learn, maestro.
 
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Bluesdaddy

Member
Messages
981
I had a Lucille and it sounded and played nice although it was quite heavy.
I would consider a Yamaha SA2200 if you can find one.
It will get you into the ES355 territory the Lucille was based on with the Ebony fret board.
I liked mine better then the Lucille and ES335's I've had.
 

zztomato

Senior Member
Messages
11,391
I've had a boatload of semi-hollows over the years- Aria, Yamaha, Ibanez, Collings, Gibson. I've settled on a 1968 cherry red 335 and, for the money I paid, I don't think I'll do better. The 68 oozes vibe and tone and plays fantastic and it's light at 7.5 pounds. I got a sweet deal at $3K. You should be able to get a BB tone out of any semi. I'd pass on the Epi. A nice surprise from Gibson have been the 63 reissues. Most that I've tried played great and were lighter than most production 335s. The necks on the 63 are quite good. Slim-ish at the nut but get beefy pretty quick as you go up- not as fat as a 50's but not the super slim 60's taper either.
If you can afford a Collings that's a good option too but, if I went for another Collings semi it would not be the I35- I'd get a Soco.
 

tapeworm

Member
Messages
8,589
I've had a boatload of semi-hollows over the years- Aria, Yamaha, Ibanez, Collings, Gibson. I've settled on a 1968 cherry red 335 and, for the money I paid, I don't think I'll do better. The 68 oozes vibe and tone and plays fantastic and it's light at 7.5 pounds. I got a sweet deal at $3K. You should be able to get a BB tone out of any semi. I'd pass on the Epi. A nice surprise from Gibson have been the 63 reissues. Most that I've tried played great and were lighter than most production 335s. The necks on the 63 are quite good. Slim-ish at the nut but get beefy pretty quick as you go up- not as fat as a 50's but not the super slim 60's taper either.
If you can afford a Collings that's a good option too but, if I went for another Collings semi it would not be the I35- I'd get a Soco.
I'd have to agree with this. The current crop of 63 and 64 reissues ES-3XX guitars are simply amazing instruments. Chicago Music Exchange has them at great prices for the 2015 models they are selling. Got my 64 RI ES-345 for $2400. 7.6lbs and the MHS pups sound phenomenal. Neck is as you described, slimmer at nut but beefy from there on. Gibson Memphis has the formula all figured out with these ES-3XX guitars and they are putting out some real gems.
 

Ugly Bunny

Member
Messages
1,985
Aw, Bun. You just let some people on a website talk you ought of your own notion. They're nice, they're smart, they're sincere, they're experienced, but they're not you.

My two cents: Buy a used Epi. If you simply hate the geometry, there's your answer. If it makes you feel like investing $x,xxx more to get yy% more, there's your answer. But if you feel like you're visiting with The King every time you pick it up, well, there's your answer!

Used Gibson Lucilles at GC for under $2,000
Used Epi Lucilles on Reverb starting at $510 with code
Used Korean Lucille at MusicGoRound for $600

Live and learn, maestro.
You might've just made my day - that's MUCH better than $7k!
 

Metal Tiger

Member
Messages
783
Alot of options mentioned already. There are alot of great choices but you gotta find out what really speaks to you and then narrow down the search.

Here is a long shot option.

Ron Thorn made a "tribute" Lucille guitar a couple of years ago that was based on his semi model. I think he named it the emperor or something like that and it was a one-off guitar. The body is a bit smaller and there are some other differences but Im sure the quality will be way better than most Gibsons.

The reason I mentioned this one is because, I think, I saw it was up for sale at a store online a month or so ago.
I have no affiliation at all and Im not sure if it is still available, Im just throwing out an idea for a "tribute" guitar of hi-quality.
 

Ugly Bunny

Member
Messages
1,985
What seems to be the general problem with the varitone? Too muddy & dark? biting? Just curious because te tone I'm going for is that woody growl; that 'amp in the back of the room' sound on his more mellow stuff. So dark is okay. Plus one of my favorite tones on my Moog MF Drive is with the tone nearly completley down; sounds very eerie and ominous but yet haunting and beautiful.
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,852
What seems to be the general problem with the varitone? Too muddy & dark? biting? Just curious because te tone I'm going for is that woody growl; that 'amp in the back of the room' sound on his more mellow stuff. So dark is okay. Plus one of my favorite tones on my Moog MF Drive is with the tone nearly completley down; sounds very eerie and ominous but yet haunting and beautiful.
I think it's mostly that you can't help but think it would sound better with it out of there.
 

Dashface

Member
Messages
6,348
What seems to be the general problem with the varitone? Too muddy & dark? biting? Just curious because te tone I'm going for is that woody growl; that 'amp in the back of the room' sound on his more mellow stuff. So dark is okay. Plus one of my favorite tones on my Moog MF Drive is with the tone nearly completley down; sounds very eerie and ominous but yet haunting and beautiful.
I wouldn't call a Varitone muddy - or at least, not on all settings. Actually, lots of the settings are quite bright and thin. Basically, you'd best try a guitar with a varitone (but good luck finding one) if you don't know if you'll like it. They are strange.
 






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