03|27|09   Memphis Part 1: The Gibson Factory Tour

The Gibson Factory in Memphis, Tennessee.

Evan and I arrived in Memphis mid-afternoon, just in time to go visit the Gibson Guitar Factory. Both of us were really looking forward to this, as I actually play a Gibson Les Paul, myself, and Evan works for a New Zealand music store, and sells them. So yeah, this was clearly going to be pretty cool, we thought.

View of the factory workshop.

We get there a bit early so, after parking our car, the first thing we do is wander into the Gibson Custom shop, where they have some phenomenal instruments on display. Most of the instruments have gorgeous inlay work done, are polished to a ‘T’, and are set up perfectly. Every guitar on the wall sings to me like a greek siren, but one guitar in particular peaks my curiosity more than others: a $6500 USD jumbo acoustic guitar with flower inlays. A stunning looking guitar, to say the least. However, as is typical of my run-ins with Gibson acoustics, I end up substantially underwhelmed by its sound and playability, so end up putting it back on the wall and content myself with eying up all the fantastic custom Les Paul guitars that surround me.

Sides of a hollow-body guitar.

After dilly-dallying around the shop for a bit, the tour finally starts. The first slight disappointment is that we aren’t allowed cameras into the factory. I was quite looking forward to writing a blog about the tour and including pictures of it all, but after learning that Gibson are pretty much the only major guitar factory in the world that even allows tours, I feet a bit more consoled about having to leave my camera at the reception (all the photos in the post are flickr rips and hotlinks :P).

Gluing together the sides and mounting the sustain block.

So, after putting on our safety glasses (saw dust, snapping strings, swarms of tooth fairies, etc.) we are greeted by our tour guide, who, unfortunately, is super annoying and constantly in the process of tapping into a seemingly bottomless abyss of lame jokes. Not cool, man!

Wrapping freshly glued guitar bodies in cloth to make sure all the parts are glued together firmly.

In addition to our tour guide being a tad crap, our tour also happens to be the last tour of the day, so most luthiers are off work and the factory shows few signs of activity. Of course, our comedian/guide appears rather eager to go home for the day, rushing us through the workshop like crazy, and not even asking us if any of us had any questions. Safe to say, this was probably not the ideal way to see the factory.

Getting there…

Either way, despite the odds being stacked against us, Evan and I manage to enjoy the tour quite a bit. We learn about the correlation between wood density and sustain, how semi-hollow bodied guitars are built, that Gibson sources its timber in Montana, that all factories destroy any guitar that has faults (they used to sell the B-stock guitars for cheap, but apparently word spread, and so a lot of musicians bought those instead, thus, driving down sales of their retail-grade guitars), and so on. In short, we learned a fair bit about guitars and Gibson trivia, which, really, is what we had come for.

Painting a sunburst finish.

In the end, as Evan points out, the half-hour tour is moderately interesting and is an event mainly because it is, well… Gibson, and seeing where and how Gibson guitars are made is awesome. Were it a factory tour of any other guitar brand the tour would have felt lame, but Gibson Factory + rose-tinted lenses = good time.


So yeah, if you are a Gibson fan and ever find yourself in Memphis, we’d both recommend you check it out. Just make sure you don’t take the last tour of the day like we did. That way you might actually get to observe luthiers working on the instruments, which is the one thing I really missed about our experience.

In the store.

Yay! Check out the new Enright House Shop I just finished making! Even if you’re not the type of person who buys music anymore, do take a look at how pretty and shiny it is! :)

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  • http://www.common-sense-usa.com/vintage-guitars/the-enright-house-%c2%bb-memphis-part-1-the-gibson-factory-tour Common Sense USA » Blog Archive » The Enright House » Memphis Part 1: The Gibson Factory Tour

    [...] Original post: The Enright House » Memphis Part 1: The Gibson Factory Tour [...]

  • http://www.theenrighthouse.com/getting-stuck-in-new-orleans/ The Enright House » Getting stuck in New Orleans

    [...] up north again. We had decided early on that we wanted to stop in Memphis in order to visit the Gibson Guitar Factory, but once we got on the road and studied the map, we realized we were pretty much passing right [...]

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  • JayDub

    Is there a way to know exactly what guitars they make in this factory? Is it just the model shown here?


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