The 335 came out in 1958 and was the first attempt by Gibson to find an electric guitar that could handle big output without having a completely solid body. They had already brought out the Les Paul, but probably wanted to diversify a bit from a market that Fender had pretty much cornered at the time.
Not only were they probably trying to grab a niche in sales terms, but the attempt was to create a different tone from the solid body, and it did work at the time, and it still does today. It retailed at over two hundred and fifty dollars which was near two grand at the time, and it’s design was a ground breaker, a combination of partially open resonant sound, and slim guitar design.
Different models feature different pickups with varying output levels, and as the 335 is a chunky beast of a guitar, they developed the CS-336 a slimmer version, which was probably more in keeping with the ideas of modernism at the time.
Different variants on the model include the ES-355TD (Thin Line, Dual Pick-up) which went out of production in 1982. There were wiring and tremolo options, as a tailpiece could be fitted. B.B King having played the ES 335 it went on the market later became the ‘Face Of the 335’, Gibson, like Fender and the others were quite savvy in using stars to sell guitars and gave Hendrix a Gibson 335 as a gift but as he died shortly after they probably didn’t get much publicity mileage out of their generous act.
Further developments of the guitar included the CS Series which was a smaller model, and the CS-356 which has gold-plated hardware, and as a result was a bit too expensive for your average Joe. When it comes to custom guitars a run of fifty is pretty exclusive, and that’s what they did with the Gibson Custom Made Canadian Edition, and its one of the few guitars that you are unlikely to find on eBay at any price.
Gibson have brought out several other custom/signature guitars including the Eric Clapton Replica, one of which went for auction for $847,500. Although, being as not everyone can afford a custom or even a standard original, they brought a cheaper version, the Epiphone, which has a dot inlay style on the fret board as opposed to the original blocks.
Apart from Eric Clapton, there have been many successful musicians who use the 335, and it is one of the few guitars from the fifties that is still in production today, which says a lot about the original design – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Probably the best recommendation is the players themselves, and two of the most diversely talented guitarists of their generation hang on the their 3335s, Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, and Bernard Butler originally of Suede. Two great guitarists who stand out not just as good guitarists, but innovative players that are truly an inspiration, and the best sort of advertising that Gibson could hope for.