Competition. Innovation. Gibson Moderne

Competition. Innovation. Gibson Moderne

The legend of the Gibson Moderne is as legendary as Robert Johnson’s meeting with the Devil. 

The 1950s was the wild west in the solid body guitar world and competition between manufacturer’s was intense.  Who was going to develop the next best design kept executives awake at night.  

Ted McCarty, President of Gibson Guitars, was cool as a cucumber.  

He banged out three revolutionary designs in 1957.  

Well… with the help of an artist he influenced the designs for the Flying V, Explorer, and Moderne. That being said, the patents bear his name only.   

Gibson Guitar Patents 1958 Photograph by Mark Rogan

The Explorer was originally dubbed “Futura”.  The Futura and Moderne names expressed Gibson’s thoughts on the “future” generations of “modern” guitars with the trio of radical designs.  The Explorer and V went into production in 1958. Both had similar hardware. 

Gibson Flying and Explorer

However, they were too futuristic and sales were unimpressive resulting in both models being shelved by the early 60s. The V resurfaced a few years later in 1966.  The Explorer’s return had to wait another decade.  --- Hey Ibanez DESTROYER, Gibson owes you a beer! (Ibanez’ copy helped ignite Gibson’s Explorer sales)

The Moderne never made it to the production line and rumors of rumors of original prototypes have haunted Gibson fans ever since. 


Money ain’t cheap and theoretically understanding what they had in pent-up demand, Gibson launched the Moderne as the Moderne Heritage in limited production from 1981 to 1983 and again in 2012. 

1981 Gibson Moderne Heritage Specs: Korina body and neck, Rosewood fretboard, Billhook paddle headstock, two humbuckers, Tune-o-matic bridge, two volume and one master tone control, 3-way switch.

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