1961 Gibson Melody Maker D

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Cool single cutaway outline, dual pickups and controls, light weight, originality and condition, OHSC, vintage values

Thumbs down: Narrow headstock, single coil pickups, ‘student’ model reputation

Decree: It is what it is, a very cool, straightforward and relatively scarce early 1960s Gibson with an unmistakable outline

Model Description:

The original production run of the humble Gibson Melody Maker ‘student’ guitar lasted from its introduction in 1959, going through several incarnations until it was discontinued in 1971. The Melody Maker was originally developed as a direct response to the success of Fender’s ‘student’ models (the Musicmaster and Duo‑Sonic). The Melody Maker comprised a thin slab mahogany body finished in sunburst nitrocellulose. The mahogany set neck had an uncharacteristic (for Gibson) narrow headstock, a rosewood fingerboard and plain dot markers. The electrics involved one or more single coil pickups unique to the Melody Maker mounted with other electronics on a single‑ply scratchplate. Other hardware was similarly stripped back to keep manufacturing costs down and the retail price low. The original ‘type 1’ Les Paul‑shaped single cutaway slab body Melody Maker was introduced in 1959 and stayed in production for only about 18 months before Gibson changed the body shape to a very pretty double cutaway ‘type 2’ design in 1961. The Melody Maker really isn’t a second class instrument, it was made by the same people in the same factory using the same materials as other models. Over the years, it became very popular for owners to modify the Melody Maker by replacing the pickups with P90s or humbuckers (involving irreversible routing of the body) and substituting other hardware such as the tuners and bridge. These modifications didn’t magically transform the Melody Maker into a Junior or a Special, it just butchered what was a very capable instrument in its own right. Gibson has reissued the Melody on‑and‑off in various formats over the years, although none compare to the originals. The relatively simple and straightforward Melody Makers, especially the early ones are quite rare and are becoming increasingly collectable. As a result, original, good condition Melody Makers are quite difficult to find at reasonable vintage prices. However, compare prices with other professional level Gibsons from the early 1960s and they still look like a real bargain.

Guitar Description:

I present to you a very creditable all‑original single cutaway 1961 Gibson Melody Maker D. What was once a basic ‘student’ guitar now has a really cool cult vintage look and feel. This particular example is a rare 2‑pickup Melody Maker D (standing for double‑pickup), along with 3‑way pickup selector switch, 2 volume and 2 tone controls. It has a great sound, unique for the Melody Maker and very different from the humbucker or P90 Gibsons of the time. The simple wraparound bridge/tailpiece and single coil pickups make it ideal for reggae or indie rock. While I have a preference for single pickup guitars, the dual pickups give it a bit more flexibility over a single pickup model. The surprisingly thin one‑piece mahogany body and slim neck make it very light too at only 4¼lb (1.93kg), so it is easy on the spine while also being remarkably resonant. This Melody Maker is all‑original and in very good condition for her age. There is a small section missing from the scratchplate (how?) and the white paint has worn away from the ‘Melody Maker’ logo in front of the neck pickup. Being picky, there is a thin line along the fingerboard join near the headstock, which only looks finish deep and there are no signs that there has ever been a break or other serious damage. The ‘G’ tuner shaft is a little bent but still works perfectly. The dark 3‑colour sunburst finish is still vibrant and the mahogany wood grain can be seen through the yellow base coat, giving it a lovely up‑close appearance. The finish to the back of the body and neck are plain translucent dark brown. There are just a few nicks, scuffs and scrapes of honest play wear to give away her age. There is nothing fancy going on here but there is also nothing at all to detract from this being a very clean, all‑original classic Gibson from the ‘golden era’.


  • Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in 1961
  • Tobacco sunburst nitrocellulose finish
  • Single piece mahogany single cutaway slab body
  • Mahogany set neck
  • Narrow headstock with screen‑printed Gibson logo
  • Unbound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and dot markers
  • Scale length 24¾”
  • Original open-back Kluson tuners with white plastic buttons
  • Original single-ply black plastic scratchplate
  • Original dual single-coil Melody Maker pickups
  • Original knobs, strap buttons and jack socket
  • Original lightweight wraparound bridge/tailpiece
  • Original Gibson hard shell case

Detail Gallery:

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