Grace Potter by Glen Rose

Few guitars boast as distinctive a history, on several fronts, as the Gibson Flying V. With origins that coincide with the glory years of sci-fi film, space exploration and talk of personal jet packs, the Flying V, along with its sister the Explorer, sported a futuristic look hitherto unseen in a six-string instrument. Indeed, upon its introduction in 1957, the Flying V was perhaps a bit too innovative for some dealers—as a result, within just two years of its introduction, this now-classic guitar was phased out of production. Who knew, in those early days, that future generations would revere this now-classic instrument?

Actually, right from the get-go, two legendary bluesman were swept up by the Flying V’s appeal. With his 1958 V, dubbed “Lucy,” Albert King forged a funk-driven blues style that deeply impacted the burgeoning wave of rock players. Likewise, the great Lonnie Mack, in 1958, nabbed the seventh Flying V manufactured in Gibson’s very first production run. By 1960, Gibson had discontinued the Flying V, but thanks to the Kinks’ Dave Davies—who snagged a V in 1965—fascination with the instrument began to surge among rock and rollers.

Gibson reintroduced the instrument in 1967, and almost immediately Jimi Hendrix adopted the Flying V as one of his main guitars. Hendrix famously played his custom V at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival; similarly, Keith Richards cut a striking image performing with a late ‘50s V at the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert in the summer of 1969. Still, the explosion in demand remained a distant rumble, and—with the exception of a special limited-edition run in 1971—Gibson shut down production for five years beginning in 1970.

Alas, with the advent of glam, metal and hard rock in the mid ‘70s, the Flying V was permanently reintroduced in 1975—and since then its popularity has never waned. Devotees in the past 40 years include a Who’s Who of legendary figures, including Michael Schenker, Marc Bolan, Billy Gibbons, Wishbone Ash’s Andy Powell, and Paul Stanley. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield helped establish the V as a fixture in ‘80s metal, while Lenny Kravitz and (more recently) Grace Potter have made the V their go-to instrument for straight-up rock. Today, the Flying V is represented in every genre of contemporary music—from country to punk, from pop to nu-metal. For music of every stripe, the V’s appeal runs both deep and broad.

Fittingly, for its 2016 models, Gibson has opted to provide players with a choice of two versions of the Flying V—keeping one eye on tradition, the other on the future. Let’s take a quick look at each model.

Gibson Flying V 2016 HP

Gibson Flying V

As its “High Performance” designation implies, the Flying V 2016 HP brings enhancement and innovation to the V’s rich history. Great tonewoods abound, beginning with a mahogany neck that features a thin, fast SlimTaper profile. A thicker one-piece rosewood fingerboard provides for great tone and sustain, while a zero-fret nut ensures superb playability. Straight-up rock and rollers and metal guitarists alike will appreciate the powerful Gibson USA Alnico II humbuckers—a ’57 ZB Classic in the neck position, and a Burstbucker 3ZB in the bridge. G-FORCE Tuners provide for a range of tuning options and stunning accuracy, while the classic Tune-o-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece further enhance spectacular sustain. Visually dazzling, the Flying V HP is offered in both Ebony Black and Wine Red, with cream binding around the body and fingerboard. To learn more, click here.

Gibson Flying V Pro 2016 T

Gibson Flying V

Whereas the original Flying V was ahead of its time, the Flying V 2016 “Traditional” model is emphatically of its time. Sporting features that have made the instrument a classic, the 2016 T boasts a pair of powerful humbuckers—a scorching hot ceramic 496R in the neck position, and a high-output 500T super-ceramic in the bridge. Superbly engineered vintage-style tuners adorn the arrow-shaped headstock; likewise, in keeping with tradition, a 1-11/16” neck width at the nut ensures the legendary “V” playability. As with the HP model, the “T” is available in both Ebony Black and Wine Red, with elegant cream binding around the body and fingerboard. To learn more, click here.