A customer bought a Gibson solidbody electric at a garage sale (cheap, too... a nice find!). It's in the shop for TLC, a good cleaning and a set-up.

He'd like to know what model Gibson he has and I'm not much help there. Going by the serial number (# 81108640) it was built in the Nashville plant in April of '88, but that's all I can ferret-out.

Glued-in neck, 24 frets, floyd rose trem, 2 single-coils up top and a hb in the bridge position. Three switches that on-off each pickup. The vol pot has a press-switch that, apparently, series/parallels the bridge pickup. No rear body binding. 

In Gruhn's book the closest thing I can find is the "m-iii" series of guitars, but they weren't introduced until 1991.  Any Gibson experts want to take a crack at this?  Thanks!

Views: 823

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion


Aha! It seems that you've nailed it, Peter. So, it's a "U2". Thanks so much!  Armed with that info, I see where Gruhn's book describes an....

"Asymmetrical double cutaway, body shape similar to a Fender Strat, basswood body, contoured back, 2 single-coil PU's and I humbucking PU, Kahler vibrato, 2 knobs, 3 mini-toggles switches, bound top, rosewood fingerboard, dot inlay, 6-on-a-side tuner arrangement. Introduced in 1987 and still in production".

My only quibble would be that this guitar I have in front of me definitely has an ebony fingerboard, not rosewood. Meh. 

But there's no other Gibson model that seems to even come close to this particular description, so my hat's off to Peter!  Gracias, amigo. 


Hmmm, guess I need an up-to-date Gruhn book. Mine was published in '91 and said the U2 was "still in production".  It was at the time, but '91 was also the year Gibson discontinued the U2 :)

In doing some research, U2's weren't especially liked by most Gibson fans. The company was going through some financial woes in the mid-80's and decided they needed something "for the kids"... with the result being the U2, their version of the super-strat.  

It sold for just under $800 new, and was intended for metal shredders, but didn't quite hit the mark.

The Rose-licensed trem was unique, in that the string balls didn't have to be detached prior to installing strings in the trem unit.  Wish that little featured had been universally embraced! 

So, the bottom line is yes... they're fairly rare, but not particularly valuable as they weren't well received by their intended market.  Still pretty cool, though! 

Quote: "the bottom line is yes... they're fairly rare, but not particularly valuable as they weren't well received by their intended market.  Still pretty cool, though!"



In general, Gibson Enthusiasts are very Conservative towards the Popular Traditional Designs. So this Style of Instrument was always going to Horrify many Gibson Fans.

However, for whatever reasons, and there are a number of factors that contribute to it, owners of this Gibson Model tend to be enamored by and hang on to them. As a consequence they only appear to the general masses, very infrequently. Thus, not that much tends to be widely known about them.

In regard to the Fingerboard, Gibson would at times  use whatever material was currently available to them during Production, even if it changed the Published Specification of a given Model at particular moment, for a short period. Therefore this type of Material Switch Issue is not something that altogether surprises me. Many Manufacturers experience this, with Machine Heads for Example.

But this Fingerboard Material issue does appear to come up from time to time with Gibson Guitars, whether the problems are due to Gibson's Production Planning or because they experienced temporary difficulties, from relied upon Material Suppliers. Furthermore, if you think about it, to find an Ebony Fingerboard instead of a Rosewood One is a kind of upgrade alternative few if any would complain about. Commonly Gibson fitted Ebony to their High End Custom Models and Rosewood to their Standard and Junior Models so it's a Switch they could make with No Negative Comeback if they were in a Bind, and could keep Production Going. Very Important for any Factory.  

There was also a U1 Model, so it may have had something to do with the Marketing Dept. Attempting to widen the perceived difference Qualitatively to Customers to further justify the Higher Price Point of the U2 Model. But that is Complete Conjecture on the basis of no evidence. Usually, in truth, these idiosyncrasies with Gibson Models, came down to the ready availability, of "In Stock Material" to fulfill Production Runs, in my understanding of these matters..



The Marketing Dept, definitely Changed the Model Name as the last gasp of keeping this Models Production Figures Up, I think in the last year or so of Production and to little positive avail.

If you think about it, throughout that period, many different Newer Brands and Manufacturers had brought out their own slightly distinctive variant of a Modernised and Manned Up Fender Stratocaster with considerable sales success, though generally towards the Lower End of the Solid Body Electric Guitar Market.

This was mostly spurred by use involving the Latest Guitar Hero of the Day featuring ever more Wilder Playing Styles, though truth be told often the Active Driver for Sales was in point of fact, Group and Musical Genre Based, Consumer Identification. With so many Manufacturers, Producing Models with Heavier and Ever More Exotic, Hardware for Extreme Effects, the Design of a Model to give Gibson a New Product with specific  appeal to that Newly Surging Sector of the Market, should come as no surprise.

The use of a Lighter Basswood Body to compensate for and accommodate the extra weight of the Heavier Hardware delivered Practical, Supply, Cost and Profitability Advantages. Whilst the Harder Thick Painted Finish would give a further degree of Protection for its Wood Softness, Seal Up its thirsty "Soak in" Qualities, and make up for the Materials often otherwise naturally Poor and Bland Appearance.

Tonally Basswood works best in Basses is my experience, for instance, the Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo Bass and certain Fender Squire 50's Traditional Basses feature this Basswood to very good effect and at either extremes of the Regular Markets.

The top and bottom of the U1, U2 and subsequent M Gibson Models, is that the Guitar Hero's representing  the affections of Potential Consumers for these Instruments, already had very good relations with Alternative Manufacturers.

Younger Guitarists were starting to want to look and sound more strongly individual and rather different from what had gone before, i.e. The commonly encountered Traditional Fare. Today, Boutique Branding is Rife.

It's a Gibson, but fairly unusual to see anywhere about, whilst being alike to well established practical forms, so a useable Instrument, o.k. for Certain Styles.

That's why I think folks tend to hold onto these, and personally value them quite highly, more so than many might imagine.

I am not an owner of one, I should state, just trying to positively contribute.




© 2024   Created by Frank Ford.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service