A ’61 from 16 to 61


Aug 14, 2015
On 6/1, I’ll be turning 61, having been born on 6/1/61 and reaching 6’1’’ tall.

In 1977, when I was 16 years old, I bought a 1961 ES-335 and have had it ever since. It has undergone many changes and even transformations, and remains my all-time favorite guitar. Whenever I stop to think about it, I feel astounded and lucky and thrilled to have been able to acquire such a guitar as such a youngster, and that I’ve managed to hang onto it all this time. I’ve taken to calling it Angel because it’s like an angel that came into my life and stayed with me.

Its story has been told here a time or two, but this seems a good occasion to tell it again. Let’s start with pictures, then follow with the narrative.

1978 or so after some of the lefty conversion

With the brass block in place and my brother's refinish, circa 1980



1993, after Brad Nickerson's fine work

2008 with Bill Lawrence L609's

2011 in action with the Hipshot Trilogy

Current state

When I got my first real job, I knew what I wanted to spend my hard-earned tips on was a dot-neck 335. This was before the dot-neck craze, but I had always preferred the look of the dots over the blocks. So I kept a close eye on the want ads and amazingly enough this thing turned up after probably only a couple weeks. $400 and that included a Pignose! I had to make two trips from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to complete the buy; $200 the first trip so seller would hold it for me until I had the rest a couple weeks later.

The Pignose is long gone, and all that's left of the original guitar is the body and the binding. Two of the original knobs are in the case, but they were switched out on the guitar for Tele knobs a few years ago. The original neck broke a couple times so I had a maple neck/ebony fretboard put on in 1980. The guitar was right-handed originally, and some shoddy attempts to have the bridge re-set at the lefty angle (including a poor Badass installation) left the wood in that area compromised and ultimately led me to decide to have all that wood routed out and a brass block installed (and hey, this was the 70's, brass was king!). I went with an Ibanez Gibraltar bridge because of its very long travel for compensation. There were other scars from the lefty conversion, so I somewhat foolishly let my brother refinish it. His paint job was visually very cool, but he did something weird that caused dirt to cake up on it. By 1992 that finish was shot and I didn't like the neck, so I turned it over to an archtop luthier in Amherst MA named Brad Nickerson (he's in Asheville NC now). He put on a real wide maple/ebony neck that I just love, and did a dark burgundy-burst finish. 30 years into the Nickerson incarnation, it's still my favorite guitar I've ever played.

The original pickups were PAF’s, which were starting to be quite valuable at the time I acquired the guitar. I sold one of them, and bought an early Bill Lawrence dual-blade humbucker. For the next 10 years or so it had the Lawrence at the neck and the PAF at the bridge. When that PAF crapped out in about 1989, I traded it in its non-working condition for a set of Fender re-issue Strat pickups that went into my Ibanez Strat copy. A DiMarzio PAF replaced the real PAF in this guitar. The Lawrence/DiMarzio arrangement stood for several years, until I went to install coil splitter switches and found it impossible to do with the Lawrence; it was a 3-wire set up and the coils were completely encased in epoxy, making it impossible to separate the connection between the coils. So, the Lawrence was forced to give up its seat to make way for a Seymour Duncan PAF. The dual PAF-copy with coil splitting for each (via push-pull pots) stayed for the next 10 years. I never found that entirely satisfying; generally, I prefer single-coils to humbuckers, but hb’s running on half power don’t quite cut it. In 2006 I discovered the Bill Lawrence L609, which was pretty much his version of a noiseless humbucker-sized P90. That was an appealing concept, and with the maroon housing that matched the color of this guitar, I couldn’t resist. I got a set, put them in this guitar, and haven’t looked back.

The next change was the addition of a Hipshot Trilogy trapeze tailpiece in 2011. The Trilogy has levers that allow you to flip between three pitches on each string individually, making it so you can switch between tunings on the fly. The latest alteration was the switch to Tele knobs mentioned earlier.


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Tele Axpert
Ad Free Member
Nov 15, 2009
Austin, Tx
Happy Birthday, fellow Gemini!
My B day is next Sunday.
I’ll be officially, and undeniably an old guy.
I’m another 6 footer, too.
I was 6 ft. 2 1/2 inches (and 140 lbs.) when I graduated high school.
I’ve shrunk in height, and grown in width.
I rock (or country;)) about 190 lbs, these days.
I’m 6 ft. 1/2 inch now.
Cool guitar!
Cool story!
Here’s to 61 more guitar playing years!