Brilliance and ingenuity come from many places across Gibson’s lineage, but few individuals can claim the same stake in Gibson’s influence as Theodore “Ted” McCarty.
As the president of Gibson from 1950 to 1966 – a golden age of electric guitars, if there ever were one – McCarty’s responsibilities to the company extended beyond the managerial day-to-day. McCarty’s sixteen years as president were just as much about the creative process as the corporate. Lending a personal hand to help design the Les Paul, SG, ES-335, Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird, McCarty’s passion for the electric guitar was no secret.
With his mark left on Gibson as both a director and a designer, McCarty’s legacy lives to this day.
Wheels always turning, a common pastime of McCarty during his time as president was sketching new instrument ideas during meetings. One of his designs sought to modernize the Gibson electric guitar design. With a sketch and a signature dated March 18th, 1957, McCarty’s modernized Gibson creation ultimately fell into obscurity, never reaching the production floor – until now.
Sixty-five years later to the day, the luthiers at the Gibson Custom Shop introduce the product of McCarty’s fabled design – the Theodore.
The Theodore is not only a tribute to McCarty’s memory, but to the electric guitar as we know it today. Celebrating the unwavering creative spirit that drove Gibson forward for sixteen years, McCarty’s namesake Theodore lets the world in on one of Gibson’s best kept secrets and what must have been the buzz of Gibson’s corporate offices in 1957.
The Gibson Custom Shop Theodore is directly inspired by McCarty’s original sketch and notes, as if taken straight from his desk. A design that transcends “vintage” and “retro” descriptors, the Theodore is as reverent to the 1950s sketch as can be. The Theodore is authentically ‘50s and instantly reminiscent of early guitar designs of the day.
Gibson Custom’s creation begins with an alder body with Florentine cutaways and a walnut center strip. This unique body shape is instantly eye-catching and makes a bold statement of the Theodore right off the bat. The Theodore’s body is joined by a mahogany neck fitted in a “Chunky 1957 C Shape” profile. Sitting close on your leg or slung over the shoulder with a strap, the Theodore has a one-of-a-kind presence in your arms. The body shape differs from traditional double cutaway guitars from its Florentine cutaways that make the profile stand out in a collection or onstage. The scimitar headstock tops of the Theodore’s body with Kluson six in-line tuners.
The Indian rosewood fingerboard complements many styles of playing with chord fretting and lead riffing. A wraparound bridge and nylon nut keep the Theodore’s tuning solid and playability responsive. The Theodore is not only comfortable to play but tonally stable.
The classic and authentic voice of the Theodore is summoned from its two custom Soapbar P-90 pickups. These pickups, in combination with two volume and tone controls and a three-way pickup selector switch, create a versatile palette of P-90 tones that are perfect for a wide range of musical styles. Warm, punchy, and effortlessly sustaining, these Soapbars tap into a ‘50s tone one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
The Theodore comes with a Historic-style brown/pink case, a premium leather strap, a 1957-style catalog page print, a deluxe certificate of authenticity booklet, and a print of McCarty’s original signed drawing. Totally, Gibson Custom’s Theodore creates an experience down to the last detail.
Three hundred and eighteen total instruments have been produced for this special Archive Collection run. Transcending vintage, modern, retro, and futuristic, McCarty’s original 1957 design comes alive in a truly special way. A reverent tribute to one of the most influential figures in electric guitars, McCarty’s vision materializes before our very eyes – unlike any seen before or since.