Essentially a short-scale (23-1/2"), thinbody version of the L-5CES, the Gibson Byrdland—named for both Billy Byrd and Hank Garland—is one of the more interesting electric archtops ever produced. This 1962 Gibson Byrdland is probably one of the more interesting Byrdlands we'll ever see. When we first opened the case of this '62 Byrdland, our first question was simple: why does this one have a Vibrola tailpiece? Well, sometimes simple questions have simple answers.
The original owner of this guitar was a gentleman named Paul Butts. Paul was the inventor and patent holder of the Vibrola vibrato design, and this tailpiece is one of his prototypes (outfitted with a Gibson cover-plate after the fact). Because of that, the tailpiece and the vibrato arm in particular are subtly different from the factory "Lyre" Vibrolas.
This 1962 Gibson Byrdland includes the U.S. Patent Office Certificate of Patent for the Vibrola design, and it also includes Paul's royalty agreement with Gibson, which licensed Gibson to use the design on their guitars. Of course, that 1962 agreement was signed by none other than Ted McCarty whose visionary work at Gibson during the '50s and '60s helped establish what is now considered Gibson's golden age of electric guitars. This guitar also includes a 1963 Gibson catalog, which shows Paul's Vibrola design in use on a variety of instruments including the brand new, smoking hot Firebird.
Some guitars have a story. Some have impressive provenance, almost like a work of art or fine antique furniture. And some guitars may pose interesting questions, but the good ones will answer those questions, too.
This 1962 Gibson Byrdland is one of the guitars that has it all—it's a rare, collectible model that plays well, and it has provenance and a story that will be hard to match.