5 Best Gibson SG Guitars Available

Updated on November 15, 2017

The first Gibson Les Paul guitars did not catch on with the guitar playing community. Not at the time, they didn't. Of course later on the whole world wanted to own a 1950s Gibson Les Paul.

The Gibson Les Paul often weighed ten or even more pounds. Because of the beauty and detail of its construction, the guitar was quite a lot more expensive than what Leo Fender was building and selling. You could break your back buying a Les Paul, then break your back again playing the thing on stage for hours. By 1960 Gibson was scrapping the thing.

Birth of the Gibson SG

The Gibson SG was born in 1961, but it was called a Les Paul. Les Paul himself loathed the product. He much preferred the original incarnation of the solid body guitar with his name on it. Les Paul lived to see the real Les Paul guitars make a huge comeback. But that happened later, a few years after the SG was born as a new Les Paul.

The SG was built to overcome the problems with the original Les Paul guitars. Namely, those problems were 1. weight, and 2 price. Gibson dropped the maple top or cap and went with a single slab of mahogany for the body. They also used a double cutaway. Both the omission of the maple and the double cutaway helped to make for a much lighter weight guitar. There was no need for body binding to bind the maple top, so a lot fewer man hours were needed to make these new guitars.

According to Gibson Guitars, they called these SG guitars Les Paul guitars until they ran out of truss rod covers with Les Paul's name on them. Then the SG or solid guitar was born. The necks were much thinner, and dubbed 'the fastest necks in the world.' The first run of SG guitars was very popular, but the necks were literally so thin they were unstable.

At the time George Harrison was probably the single most famous guitarist in the world.
At the time George Harrison was probably the single most famous guitarist in the world. | Source
A younger Eric Clapton with his Gibson SG known as 'the fool.'
A younger Eric Clapton with his Gibson SG known as 'the fool.' | Source

Winning characteristics of the Gibson SG

By 1962 the guitar with the fastest neck in the world had to have a thicker neck put onto it. The neck was still plenty slim and plenty fast, if you will. But the continuing issues led to further contrivances to bolster the neck of the things.

The Fender Telecaster was already established as the most desirable solid body electric guitar for country and western players. The SG, with its aggressive shape and howling pickups, became the go to instrument for rockers. Are those devil's horns, or are they angel wing tips on that body?

John Lennon and George Harrison had to have one. They got one each for the making of Revolver, and used the guitars on The White Album too. George and John are both long gone from this world, but in a sense, they will be with us still for a long long time. Their music is long lasting music. The George Harrison Gibson SG sold for $570,000 in recent years.

Soon, Eric Clapton would make a Gibson SG the most desired guitar in rock music, as he along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed Cream, the first rock and roll super-group. Eric's SG was purchased to replace his 1959 Les Paul which was stolen. His 'the fool' SG was a 1964 Gibson SG Standard. He used it to play the live Crossroads guitar solo many think of as the single most famous and impressive electric guitar solo of all time.

The SG design allows for terrific access to the upper frets of the guitar. The Les Paul and the Telecaster both are prohibitive to some chords and single note playing afforded by the double cutaway SG. The SG also has a smaller heel than the Les Paul.

Most SGs are two humbucker pickup designed instruments with a three way toggle switch allowing for the play in either position, or with both pickups engaged. Push-pull coil tapping is not a standard feature, but it is available. Also, an SG with single coil P90 style pickups or even the newer mini-bucker pickups are available.

The Gibson SG standard is the single most widely sold Gibson guitar in Gibson history. Most of the guitars discussed here will be variations on the theme of the SG Standard. There have been multiple pick-guard configurations or permutations. Bridges have also been offered of various styles. And there are walnut body SGs out there, but they are rare. The great thing about the Gibson SG is its price. Less expensive than the Telecaster, the Stratocaster, and the Les Paul, the fourth most iconic solid body electric guitar is a true value purchase for a guitarists. Here are five of the best of them.

Eric Clapton Gives Guitar Lesson On Psychedelic Gibson SG

The Gibson SG Angus Young is instantly recognizable for its lighting bold fret-board positioning marker inlay.
The Gibson SG Angus Young is instantly recognizable for its lighting bold fret-board positioning marker inlay.

The Gibson SG Angus Young

When it comes to loud, aggressive, raucous music, the Australian band AC/DC pretty much does only that. And their lead guitarist, Angus Young, has played a Gibson SG almost exclusively throughout his long career.

The mahogany body of the SG is just suited to mid range crunch power chords, and wailing lead playing. Angus has always primarily used the exact same Gibson SG. The guitar is either a '68, '69, or '70 model. The instrument is seriously played in. Angus does have others. The primary one is a SG Standard. Angus originally had Jaydee Guitars build him a signature series SG with the lightning bolt inlays. Since that time, Gibson built Angus an SG to his exact specifications.

Players who've played a Gibson Angus Young signature SG rave about the guitars pickups. Angus designed the bridge pickup for the guitar himself. The neck pickup is a '57 Classic Humbucker. The neck of the Angus Young SG is very thin. One should probably play one before purchasing the guitar, especially if your fingers are longish. An Angus Young SG is always going to be recognizable for the lightning bolt fret-board positioning marker inlay. On the web I'm pricing these Angus Young SGs for between $1,100 used and $2,400 new or in mint condition. Here are further specifications:

  • Aged Cherry Finish
  • Mahogany Body
  • Mahogany Neck
  • Genuine Rosewood Fretboard
  • Slim G Neck Profile
  • 24-3/4" Scale Length
  • 12" Fretboard Radius
  • 1.550" Nut Width
  • 22 Frets
  • '57 Classic Neck Humbucker, Angus Young Bridge Humbucker
  • Two Volume and Two Tone Controls
  • 3-Pickup Selector Switch
  • Lightning Bolt Inlays
  • Tune-O-Matic Bridge
  • Vintage-Style Tuners
  • Chrome Hardware

Gibson "Angus Young" Signature Series SG Review

Gibson SG Special 50th Anniversary Pete Townsend Arctic White

Here is another Pete Townshend Signature Series Gibson SG. This one is not the 50th anniversary edition, as those are all arctic white in color.
Here is another Pete Townshend Signature Series Gibson SG. This one is not the 50th anniversary edition, as those are all arctic white in color.

Gibson Pete Townshend SGs all feature P90 single coil pickups

The 50th Anniversary Gibson Pete Townshend SG isn't the only Gibson Pete Townshend SG out there. There are more, but the others will be red, and the 50th anniversary ones will all be white. Basically, it is an SG Special which also happens to be a signature series instrument.

What is an SG Special? It is an SG with single coil pickups in it instead of humbuckers. Gibson's most famous single coil is the P90 pickup, and that is what is found in the Pete Townshend SGs. The single coil P90 is extremely versatile, and can even produce some nice twangy country and western tones along with some crunch for rock and roll.

Now one should also realize here that when one is talking about an SG Special, that the originals had P90s, but over the years, the term SG Special evolved to mean something else. In more recent years the term SG Classic is used to denote an SG with the P90 pickups in it. In any event, the SGs used by Pete Townshend nearly always if not always had P90s.

Why does Gibson change what the names mean? I have no idea, and I can't do much of anything about it. I'm pricing the white 50th anniversary Pete Townshend SGs at around $1,500 dollars. I'm seeing some of the red ones at that price, and some up around $3,000 dollars. I suspect the ones where double the money is being asked are ones which have never been played at all, and were bought by investors simply to sell later on for twice what they paid for it. Here are some more exact specifications for this terrific instrument:

  • Gibson SG Special Details:

    • One-piece mahogany body and one-piece set neck, cherry finish.
    • Full black pickguard (1966–1970 models) or small black pickguard (1962–1965 models), white binding.
    • Bound dot inlay neck with rosewood fingerboard.
    • Schaller or Grover tuners. Nickel or Chrome-plated hardware.
    • P-90 “soapbar” pickups.

    Pete’s Modifications:

    • Stock Gibson/Maestro Vibrola vibrato tailpiece removed (leaving visible screw holes).
    • Strings attached directly to wraparound — or stop — “stairstep” tailpiece (bridge is not the Gibson Tune-O-Matic).

Gibson 50th Anniversary Pete Townshend SG • Wildwood Guitars Overview

Gibson Tony Iommi SG

Gibson Tony Iommi SGs all have crosses as fret-board positioning marker inlay

Probably no single guitarist defined heavy metal guitar or helped push the genre's popularity more than did Tony Iommi. A lot of people will just up and say Tony Iommi invented heavy metal guitar music, I'm not sure that is true, but I'm not sure it isn't true either.

In any event, Tony is a highly underrated and underappreciated iconic guitarist. Somehow or another Angus Young gets more attention as a metal guitarist, and as an ambassador of the Gibson SG than does Tony. I think this may be because Angus wears a costume and plays a lot of flashy solos. Tony Iommi, and everyone else in Black Sabbath, was forever in the background doing the music while the wild-man Ozzy Osbourne and his endless antics got the attention.

Like the Angus Young SG, the Tony Iommi SG is most easily distinguishable by its fret-board positioning marker inlay. In the case of the Iommi guitars, you have a cross fingerboard positioning marker inlays. Not all of the Iommi SGs are black either. You can find red ones. You can probably find brown ones even. Tony owns and plays a lot of Gibson SGs, and Tony's guitars are all left handed. Most of the Gibson Tony Iommi SGs will be right handed instruments.

There is also a lower cost and built over-seas Epiphone Tony Iommi SG made and sold widely. Positively every one of the Epiphone's I've seen was black. There are also 24 fret models produced in the Epiphone. So far as Gibson Tony Iommi SGs go, I can not find any for sale online. But the Epiphone Tony Iommi SGs are available all over the place.

Black Sabbath Live in 2013

Gibson SG Gothic Morte

Gibson Gothic SG guitars

The Gibson SG was always an American Gothic looking guitar, so why not make it even more so? Gibson also produced Les Paul Gothics. These are really SG Standards with an all black finish.

Originally, the SG Gothic guitars had ebony fingerboards and just one fret-board positioning marker inlay at the 12th fret. Later on Gibson started using a sustainable tonewood on the fretboard, African Obeche, and no positioning markers at all. There are still going to be the dots on the side of the neck for the player to know where they are at with their fingers, and where they are going.

The early versions of the Gothic SG had passive pickups. There were complaints the guitar was targeted to heavy metal guitarists, but the pickups were rather classic rock. By the time Gibson made the Gothic 2 and the Gibson SG Gothic Morte, they'd corrected the mistake and produced the guitar with active pickups voiced for much more heavy metal crunch.You can find these guitars in plentiful supplies used for from between $600 -$1,100. The later years are more favored by most for the pickups, and are distinct visually for having no fret-board positioning markers visible on the fretboard. More specifications to follow:

  • Satin Ebony Finish
  • Mahogany Body
  • Mahogany Neck
  • African Obeche Fretboard
  • SG Rounded Neck Profile
  • 24-3/4" Scale Length
  • 1.695" Nut Width
  • 12" Fretboard Radius
  • 22 Frets
  • Gibson "GEM" Active Pickups
  • 2 Volume, 2 Tone Controls
  • Grover Tuners
  • Tune-o-Matic Bridge, Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Black Nickel Hardware

Gibson SG Gothic - This guy can really play well once you get past the intro, this is a fabulous video.

Gibson Frank Zappa "Roxy" SG

The Gibson Frank Zappa Roxy SG

Frank Zappa has been gone from this world for a while now. I just wish he'd taken an IQ test. Prolific composer of completely original music in forms or genres which are hard to describe, Zappa was a person like none other. Besides all the music one can never get done discovering, I literally love to listen to Frank talk. Yes, just talk, as in interviews. I'm blown away by how intelligent his was. Not that his intelligence is surprising to me at all. Musicians are typically intelligent persons, but Frank likely never lost an argument in his entire life.

Frank Zappa released somewhere over 60 albums over his 30 year career. I doubt I've ever heard a single Zappa song on the radio in my life. So to introduce myself to the music of Frank Zappa, I bought his Hot Rats album. The album had his single most popular instrumental tune, Peaches en Regalia on it. Of course Frank didn't do things alone too often, almost everything he did was with The Mothers of Invention. Another of the most famous or notable of the Frank and the Mothers albums is Roxy & Elsewhere, and the Gibson Frank Zappa SG is made for the guitar Frank used on the album.

Of course Frank Zappa played and owned a lot of guitars. But the Roxy is one of the more notable ones. It is also a very different sort of Gibson SG. Frank had a lot of modifications done to his SG to turn it into the Roxy guitar. His son Dweezil made the thing available to the people at Gibson so they could recreate Frank's guitar with all of its modifications to exact specs for everyone. The initial run was of 400 Roxy SGs.

If you take a closer look at his axe, you will notice two mini-toggle switches; modifications that Zappa worked with Gibson to create, which could split the coils and swap the phasing. The result is a variety of single coil, hum-canceling sounds that would become a Zappa signature.

Tremelo was another huge part of Zappa's sound. The "Roxy" SG comes equipped with a Maestro-style vibrola with decorative Lyre tailpiece and flat bar handle to give the same creative kick to your own playing. Also, there is the very distinct for an SG white head-stock. Because of the limited numbers of these, and the fancy electronics added, these instruments are selling for from between three to five thousand dollars.Here are further specifications:

  • Heritage Cherry Finish
  • Mahogany Body
  • Mahogany Neck
  • Bound Rosewood Fretboard
  • Slim Early 60's SG Neck Profile
  • 22 Jumbo Frets Made To Zappa Measurement
  • Pearloid Dot Inlays
  • Custom '57 Classic Humbuckers with Four-Conductor Wiring
  • Two Volume and Two Tone Controls
  • 3-Pickup Selector Switch
  • Mini-Toggle Switch for Coil-Splitting
  • Mini-Toggle Switch for Phase Switching
  • Maestro-style vibrola with decorative Lyre tailpiece and flat bar handle
  • Tune-O-Matic Bridge
  • Grover™ Tuners with 16:1 Tuning Ratio
  • Chrome Hardware

Gibson Frank Zappa® "Roxy" SG - Enclosure Guitar Lesson by Dweezil Zappa

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