Gibson Guitars Factory Tour

So the other day I finally went to Memphis… but more importantly for me, I went to Gibson Guitars for a tour of their factory. I had already phoned Gibson before Christmas and talked to them and decided to go when the factory restarted production in the New Year.

I’ve had a lot of questions for Gibson for a number of years, especially regarding build and play quality of the Les Paul guitars made in the early 2000’s. On arrival we entered the vast empty reception and then the shop. We looked about and then enquired about the factory tour. Moments later and $10 lighter for each of us and the tour was booked and would happen on the hour.
So I spoke to a female assistant and asked her questions about the Gibson Dark Fire which is basically a robotic guitar that tunes itself in any pitch you like etc. She was amazingly informative, really, and thoroughly knew her stuff. In fact I asked her dozens of questions for which she answered all of them in depth. She also invited me to play anything they had and to feel free to try all I liked… (you don’t hear that every day) I was frankly starting to feel impressed…
On the question of setup and overall quality she informed me they now use a thing called a “Plek” machine that traces the fret board and grinds the frets and the “nut” to the optimum height and “action” (the distance of the strings from the fret board). So the bottom line is: if you’re buying a new Gibson – make sure it has a “Plek’d” sticker on it, because it would appear they have bought a machine that allows them to possibly flaunt what would normally be a flushed guitar.
Before the tour we had to sign disclaimers to enter the factory floor, wear safety glasses and get told that absolutely no cameras are allowed and mobile phones etc. The mobile phones thing was because 90% of phones can take pics.. But this is where I started having a trouble with the tour!!
We were then taken through to a long windowless corridor where, upon the wall hung loads of guitars, one of which was a hand signed version of BB King’s “Lucille”. It was here we stopped for our tour guide to explain the very basics of guitar types, their respective parts…
Obviously we weren’t in any sensitive area, so why no pics of these great guitars? Now, don’t get me wrong here, you don’t want flash photography around moving machinery… but nothing of what we were about to see was anything near what you can actually see on YouTube!! In fact I’ll go further… there was only one person working in the factory putting on machine heads… So what in god’s name is so secret to prevent photography? Why do I say this? Well, I do understand when they’re working with new technology’s that they wouldn’t want others to see… And it’s kinda cool to hear over and over again “we invented (or) did this/that first”  – but how the hell would anyone know if you wont let them take a pic?? But the reason I will say it is this – I live 5000 miles away.. I got more information, images and background info watching YouTube!!! I didn’t see shit being made!! I didn’t get to touch, hold, have shown how or experience fk-ALL!!
THEN… while the guy showing us around kept holding up things and guitar parts and waving them slowly past us – he took time out to do the same with an 8” grounding wire!! And for $10 each we all stood there like frigging morons as he took his time to show each and every one of us an 8 inch bit of wire!!
I just thought ”this has got to be the ‘in’ factory joke” I even mentioned this to others there… The guide’s “patter” was perfect… then he suddenly turned and said “that concludes the tour, any questions?” which is ok for a 30 minute stroll – but then said nothing. We all looked at him blankly… I eventually asked where the hard shell cases are made – the answer was simply “in Canada”… Then more silence.. it was actually uncomfortable..

Gibson, for what you charge for guitars etc, there are thousands of things you can do to improve this tour – heck I didn’t even know it was for hollow-bodies only until we started the tour…

The lady in the Shop was totally awesome, the tour was dire. I’m not taking anything from the fact Gibson make some of the finest guitars in the world (but the great ones appear to be a stab in the dark), if it has the Gibson name on it, it’s exclusive made in the USA and over 60% of everything they make is exported globally and that is testament to their alleged craftsmanship, put another way – if you listen to or play music of any type, you’ve heard of and know who Gibson is. But there was an air of real disappointment with the tour  – so word up if you’re a Gibson fan, I’ll save you the time, air fare, patronization and disappointment… here is a video that will show you much, much more than anything a Gibson tour will show you. You won’t have to wear goggles, sign disclaimers, you can smoke, eat, drink and take all the pictures you like…

I think I’ll head to Taylor

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds like a lame tour. Took a Jelly Belly tour once, turned out they just had piles of beans and pics of the machines. At least we got free candy for the drive home.

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  2. Yeah, if you didn’t know anything about guitars etc, it could have been a little interesting, but your tour sounded seriously bad lol

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  3. Should have gone on the WB studio tour in LA. Close up and personal with the Batmobile and get your picture taken with the Hogwart’s express.

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