1947 Gibson ES-150

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Historically significant, condition, all‑original finish and parts, bold acoustic and electric tone, great old P90 pickup

Thumbs down: Large body size, chunky neck, string tension, lack of upper neck access, fully hollow limits styles, no FON/serial number, non‑OHSC

Decree: A superb vintage musical instrument from the 1940s, gorgeous aesthetic and a bit of history all in one guitar, although a fully hollow non‑cutaway archtop ‘jazz’ guitar may not be everyone’s taste

Model Description:

In November 1936, Gibson introduced a historically significant instrument, the ES‑150. The model was the industry’s first commercially successful, Electric Spanish (ES) guitar. While Rickenbacker had made the first solid body electric guitar in 1932, the ‘frying pan’ as it was nicknamed was a Hawaiian lap steel, not a ‘standard’ guitar as we might think of it. Gibson designed the ES‑150 from the ground up to be an electric arch top hollow body guitar, rather than just add a pickup to an existing model. The model number derives from the model’s original selling price of approximately $150USD. American jazz guitarist Charlie Christian was a famous early adoptee of the ES‑150 and did much to make the model popular as a lead instrument. The first ES‑150s had a 16¼” wide body with f‑holes and no cutaways, a flat back and a ‘Charlie Christian’ blade pickup mounted near the neck, which joins the body at the 14th fret. By 1940, the ES‑150 featured an arched back and with a metal covered pickup by the bridge. Manufacturing at Gibson was stopped to support the WWII effort between 1942 and 1947. When post‑war production resumed and the ES‑150 was re‑introduced, it had a 17” wide body and a laminated maple top, back (both arched) and sides with a single P90 neck pickup. After 1950, the neck was bound and featured trapezoid fingerboard inlays. All ES‑150s came in sunburst nitrocellulose finish. The ES‑150 in its original form was discontinued in 1956, although Gibson did release a deep‑bodied double cutaway ES‑150DC from 1969‑1975 that resembled the ever‑popular ES‑335. Pre‑war models are the ones most favoured by collectors although any of the original ES‑150s are now increasingly desirable, particularly given its unique position in electric guitar heritage.

Guitar Description:

Wow! Meet ‘Maggie’, which is a beautiful early post‑war Gibson ES‑150 in a gloriously glowing sunburst finish. Why ‘Maggie’. No particular reason. I don’t usually name guitars but this one seemed to warrant it, so Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ sprang to mind and that, as they say, was that. Just ponder on the thought that this was made before Fender even released their first solid body electric guitar in 1950. The feature set narrows it down to 1947‑1950, indicating the ‘V2’ model with the P90 rather than earlier Charlie Christian pickups. This example, like many of the time, doesn’t have a Factory Order Number (FON) or serial number label, which is quite normal. The authority on identifying guitars, A.R. Duchossoir states, “FONs were inconsistently assigned after WWII, and many post‑war models do not feature any number at all. For instance, 1947 instruments typically show no factory order number. Visible FON allocation reappeared in 1948.” The original pots date to the end of 1946, so it is very likely from the first year of post‑war production in 1947 before FONs were routinely re‑introduced in 1948. The guitar is all‑original and in truly exceptional condition for being over 70 years old. While not quite museum grade, she is nevertheless superb. There is a modicum of subtle, and I think cool, crazing in the thin nitrocellulose finish on the front but nothing of any consequence. She also plays wonderfully and sounds great. The original P90 reproduces the acoustic tone remarkably well, supporting the primary rationale for the ES‑150, which is volume. Even with semi‑flatwound strings, the acoustic tone is loud, bright and, compared to, say, a Martin acoustic of the same age, a little brash but that’s the nature of the laminated ‘Electric Spanish’ configuration. Being fully hollow with the trapeze tailpiece and arched top taking the string strain, the top is very resonant, contributing to its attack and sustain, reverb‑y harmonics and bold acoustic projection. In use, she is more like an acoustic to play with taught, heavier strings, chunky neck and no cutaway. Overall, with a 17” body, she’s quite a handful, especially when placed next to a modern solid body. Not only is the ES‑150 historically significant but also just a fantastic early electric ‘jazz box’. Overall, ‘Maggie’ makes for a wonderfully evocative companion – just don’t tell your partner! Also, I think I’m now going to have to learn a few jazz chords and licks!


  • Manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in c.1947
  • Bound 17” wide laminated maple body finished in sunburst nitrocellulose finish
  • Honduran mahogany set neck
  • Unbound Brazilian rosewood 12” radius fingerboard with 20 frets and dot markers
  • Unbound headstock with gold screen‑printed ‘Gibson’ logo
  • Nut width 111/16” (43mm)
  • Scale length 25½” (647mm)
  • Original chrome plated hardware
  • Original 4‑ply black/white/black/white ‘floating’ scratchplate
  • Original P90 single coil neck pickup
  • Original clear volume and tone controls
  • Original compensated rosewood bridge and trapeze tailpiece with embossed diamond motif
  • Weight 6lb 3oz (2.81kg)
  • Non‑original fitted Gibson TKL hard shell case
  • No FON or serial number


  • Charlie Christian
  • Eddie Durham
  • Floyd Smith
  • Hank Garland
  • Barney Kessel


Despite innovations to increase the acoustic guitar’s volume, up to 1936 the guitar was generally used to accompany other instrument in jazz/swing bands and orchestras of the time. The ES‑150 was the first ‘real’ electric guitar and thus plays a significant part in guitar culture because the amplified electric guitar created a whole new opportunity for musicians, not only because it was now loud enough to take on a primary role in a band context but also to become a lead instrument in its own right. The fundamental impact created by the ES‑150’s introduction was hugely important for the guitar, musicians and for modern music that followed. Legendary jazz guitarist Charlie Christian led the popular revolution.

Detail Gallery:

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