1958: Explorer and Flying V first introduced, as is the ES-335
Designed by Seth Lover and Ted McCarty, both the Explorer and Flying V sported Lover’s PAF humbucking pickup. Gibson was not known for bold design moves at this point, but chose to develop these ‘Modernistic’ guitars due to the growing threat from Fender. The ES-335 saw Gibson responding to player requests for a middle ground between its new solidbody models and traditional archtops.
1959: The Flying V is discontinued
Despite (or perhaps because of) its radical new approach, Gibson managed to ship just 81 Flying Vs, paling in comparison to more conventional solidbody models such as the Les Paul Junior, which sold over 2,400 units.
1963: The Explorer is discontinued
Appearing on Gibson’s annual product tally as “Korina (Mod. Gtr)” in 1958, the Explorer sold just 19 units. That made it the lowest selling guitar that year, but it still stumbled on into ’59, selling just three guitars. The Explorer was officially discontinued in 1963.
1967: Gibson reintroduces the Flying V
Some Flying V models were made in 1963 using leftover parts from the late 50s, but featuring nickel hardware instead of gold. The guitar was officially reinstated in the Gibson catalogue in 1967, with updated and simplified design features such as a stopbar or vibrato tailpiece – in place of the string-through arrangement on original models – and a larger pickguard.
1975: Gibson gets the patent on the ‘Dove Wing’ headstock
Filed in 1974, Gibson received confirmation of its ‘Gibson Dove Wing Peg Head’ patent in 1975. The design had been used by Gibson since at least 1922, and since 1952 has been a prominent feature of the company’s branding.
1976: Gibson reintroduces the Explorer
Gibson made two production models of the Explorer in 1975, before officially reinstating it into its catalogue in 1976. The guitar continued with a stopbar tailpiece and offered alder-body models from 1981.
1977: Dean Guitars founded by Dean Zelinsky, introduces the V and Z models
Founded in Chicago, Illinois, Dean Guitars revealed its V and Z models the same year. Based on the Flying V and Explorer respectively, the guitars also featured a split-V headstock, similar to those used on early iterations of Gibson’s Flying V and Explorer guitars.
1986: Dean Guitars is sold to Tropical Music
In 1986, Dean Guitars was sold to Tropical Music, run by Oscar Medeiros, which maintained control of the guitar manufacturer for the best part of a decade.
1997: Dean Guitars is sold to Armadillo Enterprises, Gibson gets trademarks on V and Explorer body shapes
Dean was sold to Armadillo Enterprises, which was under the tutelage of former Michael Schenker bass player Elliot Rubinson. Rubinson previously spearheaded Thoroughbred Music, a world-renowned music retail store that he later sold to Sam Ash. His new aim for Dean was to enter the wider guitar market, developing budget models alongside acoustic and bass guitars.
2007: Dean Guitars celebrates its 30th anniversary
To commemorate its 30th birthday, Dean Guitars released limited-edition anniversary editions of its V and ML models, equipped with mahogany bodies and engraved satin necks.
2016: Armadillo president Elliot ‘Dean’ Rubinson hands over control of the company to his son, Evan
Armadillo – comprising Dean Guitars, Luna Guitars and ddrum Percussion – announced Evan Rubinson as the new CEO, taking over from his father. During his time at Duke University, Evan interned with Wall Street private equity firms.
2017: Elliott ‘Dean’ Rubinson dies, Gibson issues cease and desist to Armadillo over V and Z models
In February 2017, the CEO passed away from cancer at just 62 years of age. Meanwhile, as the Gibson Explorer and Flying V entered their 40th birthdays, Gibson – then presided over by Henry Juszkiewicz – issued a cease and desist letter to Armadillo over its V and Z models.
May 2018: Gibson files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
On 1 May 2018, Gibson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, announcing plans to restructure its debts, offload or restructure its unprofitable areas and focus on its profitable ventures. In September 2018 it was announced that a global settlement had been reached that would enable the company to emerge from Chapter 11. As part of the restructuring, longtime CEO Henry Juszkiewicz would step down.
October 2018: Gibson announces new leadership team
To lead Gibson into a new era, the company appoints a new management team, headed by new CEO & President James ‘JC’ Curleigh, who was credited with turning around the fortunes of iconic clothing brand Levi Strauss & Co.
May 2019: Gibson issues expanded C&D for Flying V, Explorer and ES shapes, plus Moderne and more
On 13 May 2019, Gibson sends Armadillo another C&D. One day later, the company files a lawsuit against Armadillo in the US District Court For The Eastern District Of Texas. The lawsuit, which was later amended on 6 June, accused Armadillo of trademark infringement over the Flying V body shape, Explorer body shape, ES body shape as well as the Hummingbird and Moderne trademarks.
June 2019: Gibson issues amended lawsuit in Texas court
As reported first on Guitar.com, Gibson issued a lawsuit against Dean Guitars in Texas court, and has also requested a jury trial to resolve the case. Dean Guitars issued a statement in response which you can read here in full.
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Read more about Gibson’s original lawsuit in our full breakdown of their claims and demands.