UPDATE (2/8): While the original video by BJ Wilkes has been unpublished, a new clip making its rounds online reportedly shows Gibson destroying ES guitars in its Memphis factory.
Announced in 2010, the Firebird X was one of the notorious missteps during Henry Juszkiewicz’s reign at Gibson, with its bizarre combination of odd pickups, clunky toggle switches and robot tuners.
A strange video has now surfaced that documents hundreds of these guitars being destroyed, reportedly by Gibson itself. The clip opens with a phalanx of Firebird Xs lined up in what appears to be a construction site before being trampled by a heavy vehicle.
The video was taken by a former Gibson employee named BJ Wilkes, who revealed details about the clip in an interview with YouTuber The Guitologist. Wilkes explained that the footage was shot during the “post-Henry” era, when Gibson’s new investors “were trying to clean up the mess before the end of the fiscal year. […] Gibson literally could not sell these guitars and they were on the books.”
While it is unclear if there is anything truly nefarious about the massacre, Gibson has responded with a statement: “The Firebird X destruction video that surfaced months ago was an isolated batch of Firebird X models built in 2009-2011 which were unsalvageable and damaged with unsafe components. This isolated group of Firebird X models were unable to be donated for any purpose and were destroyed accordingly.”
Wilkes, who worked for six years in maintenance and facilities in Gibson’s now-shuttered Memphis location, echoed Gibson’s statement. He said that because of the many body cavities on the Firebird X, the wood from these guitars could not be repurposed. “[The Firebird X] was a horrible guitar, with too much technology all based on Windows 98 or something,” he said.
The former employee also mentioned that this is far from the first time Gibson has destroyed its own guitars. In the interview, he recalled his experience in the Memphis factory. “I’ve seen them take, daily, 10, 20 ES guitars that were painted and ready to go, and just cut ’em up because there was some teeny-tiny little blemish,” he said.
He claimed that the guitars were not repurposed into relic’d instruments or given away to charity because “under Henry, nobody was allowed to do that for the fear of losing their job – that’s firmly ingrained in the company now”.
However, that’s looking to change under new CEO James ‘JC’ Curleigh. Gibson has recently announced the relaunch of the Gibson Foundation, which provides “thousands of guitars and donations to schools and charities in excess of $30 million”.
The company continued: “As a starting point, Gibson has committed to giving a guitar a day away over the next 1,000 days. 100 per cent of donations to the Gibson Foundation go directly towards giving the gift of music, reaffirming Gibson’s commitment to giving back, helping under-served music education programmes, empowering music culture and encouraging the creation of music.”
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