Hitmakers: Scotty Moore 1952 Gibson ES-295

The big, bold jazzbox that shared the stage with the King himself.

What is it?
A gold-finish ES-295 (upmarket ES-175) that Moore bought in 1953, the year before he and a young Elvis Presley were joined together in Sun Studio.

Anything special?
Gibson built only 1,770 ES-295s back then, so it was pretty rare. Moore played other Gibsons with Elvis – after the ES-295, he moved onto a Super 400 and an L-5 CESN – but his first was used to drop rock ’n’ roll bombs such as That’s All Right and Good Rockin’ Tonight.

© Steve Bonner www.scottymoore.net

After buying it from Houck’s Piano Store in Memphis, Moore modified it with a Melita Synchro-Sonic with adjustable saddles to allow better intonation. This meant a new trapeze tailpiece, too; he chose a Kluson, as used on Gibson’s ES-125. “I dearly love the hollowbody sound,” Moore later recalled.

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“To me, that’s the sound of jazz – and rock and roll. To me, a hollowbody is the sound of wood making music. A solidbody is the sound of an amp…” Brian Setzer calls the Gibson ES-295 “the ultimate rockabilly guitar”.

An aside
It was Les Paul who initiated a gold Gibson archtop. Les and Mary Ford had played a show for WWII vets in the early 50s, and Les later recalled: “One vet, Dean Davis, had his head all bandaged up from a brain tumour operation, and he was propped up so he could see us.

He said, ‘I am a guitar player, but I’ll never play again because I am paralysed down one side of my body’. Les reassured Davis how he’d re-learned to play with just one arm, after breaking his own. After requesting Les play him a song – Just One More Chance – Davis started crying.

Moore

© Steve Bonner www.scottymoore.net

“I told him that I would have a guitar made for him, any kind he liked,” Les recounted. “He said he would like a golden archtop.” Les made it happen, despite Gibson’s bemusement.

Sadly, Davis died soon after and never got to see the golden ES-175. But gold remained Les’s choice for 1952’s Les Paul solidbody and the ES-295.

Signature sounds
With two pickups (unlike the single P-90 ES-175), Moore added extra punch to early Elvis – check the first four King singles and The Sun Sessions album for pioneering twang.

Similar retail buy
The Gibson Memphis ES-295 Scotty Moore was released in 2013, but is now sadly discontinued.

Moore said
“That ES-295 enhanced Elvis’s voice better than anything else I could have used.” To his delight, Moore was eventually reunited with his original ES-295 in 2007.

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