Some guitar companies seem to have no imagination when it comes to naming their guitars. Gibson is a good example. Their catalog is full of models such as the L5 or the ES-335. Whenever I make the mistake of telling my wife about one of these guitars she’ll ask me, “Why can’t they just give the guitars names?” I try to explain that some guitar companies do give their instruments interesting names and point out that I own a Fender Stratocaster. She likes the name, “Biff”.
After I finished writing my last article on Guitars named for Guitarists, I started thinking about all the other interesting (non-people) guitar names there were. Here’s a quick list of guitars with names, not numbers (and not named for people).
Fender has from the beginning named their guitars instead of numbering them. Telecaster and Stratocaster are the most famous. The Telecaster started as the Broadcaster. Both suggest performing, perhaps on radio or TV. The Stratocaster evokes a soaring performance. The Jazzmaster obviously suggests jazz – but if that was the target audience for the guitar then the marketing department failed. Naming objects for animals, especially fast animals worked in the auto industry and Fender followed suit with the Jaguar and the Mustang, both also car names. Fender invented the electric bass guitar and they named their first model the Precision Bass to suggest the presence of frets allowed more precise intonation of notes. The later Jazz Bass was named to suggest who might use it. My wife likes Fender guitar names.
Gibson, as already mentioned, uses almost all numbers for their models. There is the L series and the ES series for Electro Spanish, each followed by numbers for the specific models. Unexciting and unimaginative. The Les Paul at least had a name and not a number. The SG series – Solid Guitar – doesn’t have numbers, just descriptions. But that still doesn’t produce a good name. An interesting exception to using numbers or the Les Paul label in the early years of solid electric guitars was the student model named the Melody Maker. Perhaps you were to believe you would be practicing just melody lines as you learned the instrument. However, Gibson did come up with some new electric guitar designs and appropriate names for them. The Firebird seemed to be an exciting name while the Explorer suggested moving in new musical directions. There was also the descriptively named Flying V. Few acoustic guitars get names but two of the notable exceptions are in Gibson’s acoustic line. These are the Hummingbird and Dove dreadnought guitars, named for the images engraved on their pickguards.
Unlike Gibson, Epiphone (although a Gibson company) uses almost entirely names for its models. Some famous Epiphone modes with names include the Casino (equivalent to the Gibson ES-330), the Riviera and Sheraton (both variations on the Gibson ES-335), the Broadway and Emperor (both hollowbody jazz guitars), the Alleykat and Wildkat (designs unique to Epiphone), and the acoustic Texan.
Gretsch Guitars is very good at giving their guitars colorful names. There are the White Falcon (and other Falcon variations), the Penguin and Jet models (as in Duo Jet, pictured at beginning of this article). There are also the Country Club, Tennessee Rose and Anniversary model, plus the Synchromatic. Although all guitars have model numbers as well as names, most Gretsch models that don’t have a cool name, are given names for guitarists. These are mostly signature or tribute models, reflecting the appointments the named guitarist has (had) on his own guitar. Included among these artist named guitars are the Eddie Cochran tribute, Duane Eddy “Signature” Hollow Body, George Harrison tribute, Brian Setzer (multiple models), Chet Atkins (multiple models), Reverend Horton Heat, Bo Diddley (this is an original design requested by Bo Diddley and used by him) and more 1 .
Guild electric guitars are no longer made now that the company is owned by Fender. Their acoustic guitars are mostly models with numbers. But among the former electric models made were the Starfire series (with the Starfire VI and XII being the last) and the Manhattan jazz model. The Guild Bluesbird was another nice model of electric guitar.
Hofner jazz guitar models include the Chancellor and the President – suggesting VIP use of the instruments. Their thinline electric series is appropriately called the Verythin. It is a very thin guitar compared to most US thinline models.
- all of these artist named guitars should really have been included in my previous article on Guitars named for Guitarists