1976 Gibson Explorer – A Coveted Classic
Scott Grove is an accomplished rock guitarist who generously shares his knowledge and opinions about guitars like the 1976 Gibson Gibson Explorer Limited Edition. The Gibson Explorer is a legendary guitar, but as Scott points out, it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Hello all! Scott Grove here from Groovy Music Lessons. I’m going to do another review on another old axe that I just got in. This one is the, well, let’s call it what it’s meant to be, first, one of the Holy Grails of guitars that people generally look for. But it’s not old. It’s a 1976 Gibson Explorer. Okay, there you go, the limited edition version. They always had a thing. It’s no big, huge deal, but some people just want to see this. Not all of them say limited edition on the back of it.
A Classic Gibson Explorer in Mint Condition
I’ll go ahead and actually this unplug this so I can show you around with a little bit. But on the back of the headstock, you’ll get this. Now the thing about this guitar is, it was bought and it was played for just a couple months and then, honestly, put in the case for all these years until I just bought it. OK, so I got it from the original owner. It’s perfect as perfect as can possibly be and this was actually made and purchased, yes, I’ve got the purchase order and the receipt, in 1975. So it was not made or sold in 76. It was made and sold to the guy I just bought it from in 1975.
So everything on here is as perfect as it can get. I’ve got the lights here showing you the nitro finish, which of course on plain old mahogany with no wood filler, is going to look like that. Okay, here’s the lights on the ceiling, the same lights I use over there. But just shows you what it is. Nothing had ever been opened before. These have never been opened. The pickguard had never been off. it was told to me that it never was, and it never had, just the wood from the screws when I took them off was just, you know, showing for the first time that it was finally taken off. But everything’s dated 1975 inside. I wanted to get the toggle switch, here, to actually just go straight up and down, but you can’t (and it kind of goes at an angle) so if I do it with the guitars hanging straight and show it to you, it kind of goes off to the side and comes off to that side because the hole in there is cut so narrow that you cannot move the toggle switch. The main body of it in there anyway you want a set at this angle. Okay?
The pickups are the, you know, what are supposed to be there and they are potted extremely with the epoxy. Gibson gives them, with their typical, horrible building ways, they’ve always been one of the worst guitar builders as far as I’ve always been concerned and this one was no exception. The bridge, of course, is in the wrong place and you cannot quite intonate it. I had to take the three saddles off the bottom here and turn them around the other way so I could get them shoved all the way up this way and I still could not get the D string quite intonated because on the, you see the D string there, and of course it’s got the wire that went across all living back then. So everything’s still here, but I had to pop everything as far as I could because the bridge is not located in the right place which is normal for Gibson.
But these are just one of those bucket-list guitars for me. I’m now trying to get some of these guitars, just you know, the staples, you know. This and the 52 tele and then the actual 59 Les Paul Standard and 62 and 57 Stratocasters, even though I don’t like them. I’m just out to get them just because they’re going to be easier for my wife to sell once I croak. That’s honestly the honest truth.
So it is what it is. It’s just a big huge hunk of mahogany the entire thing is except for of course the rosewood fretboard and then the overlay here on the top. Let me get it in for people who like to see this kind of thing in light and let the reflections tell you what they will. Okay and so anyway everything is what it is. The frets are perfect. There’s no no signs of even having ever been played before. So people are like how do you come up with this stuff man? I searched. That’s all I do with my life. I search for guitars. So that’s what I do and it was like right the $6,000 range is what I gave for it and it just came in today, so I gave it the good once-over, and twice over, and three times over. I got it to play the best as it can. I wanted the action lower than it is, but the truss rod will not allow for it.
So, again another thing. Ibanez actually built the Destroyer. Back about this same time, and it’s actually probably 10 times the guitar that these are. The Ibanez original Destroyer that was made at the same time, so if you’re ever looking for one, they’ll cost you about the same amount to get a good one in perfect condition like this one. But like I said, everybody has to have a 76 Explorer. But I ended up with a 75. But it does have the 76 decal on the back. Okay, so again, it was made in 75. You get your little pointers for your knobs. What else can I tell you. It is simply just an Explorer. If you look at the gold, there’s not one bit of tarnish there. It is exactly as you would expect to see it in the history books. So, a cleaner one they do not make. Of course, you’ll see other ones that are tinted, more of the amber color, which brings it to mind the Albert Collins thing. There’s still speculation to this day if they actually use corina or mahogany and I don’t know. I have no clue. I would not guess to say. So don’t care.
The necks on these things are like ball bats. Okay? So it is a very abundant it’s like definitely a 50s style neck. So it’s a big, huge chunk of guitar. Okay? So take it all in. I’m going to love just seeing it hanging here and I’ll go use it on a few gigs and I mean, does it sound good? It sounds fine. You know. It’s just the Gibson build is never as good as people make it out to be. The people that really know Gibson know better.
The Explorer Sound
Okay? So here it is on the cleanest setting I could possibly turn it on, both pickups on, everything dimed on the guitar. The pickup on that low E string is slightly out. Okay, I just want you to hear the guitar with zero processing other than my typical reverb. That’s always there. We all know what it sounds like with dirt on it and I will put dirt on it. And yes, I will play a couple Leonard Skynyrd licks just because people are going to be asking for it and think it’s a sin not to play some. The bridge pickup. Neck. You go get country licks from me because that’s who I am. I’m not changing my style just because, well, because. I want to hear all the sounds. I’m – I don’t get to hear it the rest of the night. Gotta go pick the little lady up at the airport. Okay, now let’s get it to a sound that actually allows me to use the tubes in the amp. Okay and we’ll stay on the neck. Let’s put a little more volume on it so we can actually get what’s going on inside there. So there’s your natural tube thing. Let’s go in the middle, same sound. And the neck. That would give you probably the most legitimate sound for like on, let’s just concentrate like on like Free Bird, just because. I’ll go ahead and be the guinea pig. The guy that does it. That will give you the actual rhythm sound for the fast part of the tune giving just a regular… pardon me while I do this. I just slammed my hand against the tuners. Very natural overdrive, okay. That’s just that. There’s no overdrive on the amp. That’s just the tubes. The 12ax7s doing their job. Two of them in there. Again, that it’s just the bridge pickup, so that will kind of give you that if you wanted to see what the lead tone would sound like. Maybe like, let’s stay there, see if it’s even close. It was done with the exact same sound, but (err) you’ve got that. Okay, now if we were to go to the actual, put some distortion on this monkey, on the bridge pickup still, and get that low string tuned in. Let me turn off all the noise here. I’ve actually got a tuner over there. I don’t know why I didn’t just use the dang thing.
And again, for those people who want to know the facts on this, yes this is a 1975. Okay? And a few were made in 75. Not many, so this, of course, I lucked out once again, is one of the first reissues that Gibson did. So being a 75 is ultra cool, okay? So I don’t know how to ever advertise it. I guess I would always just say that. You know, the serial number (sticker) says 76, but it was actually purchased in late75 and I can, of course, prove each and every bit of this. So it’s just cool. Kind of a neat little thing to know, which I did not know until I bought this. Okay, back to the distortion in the neck. I’m sorry, the bridge. We got to back to the neck for lead. You got to be able to have that fun there.
Okay, so now, if we were to actually do… here you got it. This part, the old slide part. I would actually stay with like the distortion and use both pickups and you would get this. As close as I’m going to come to it anyway, or as close as I remember after so many years of refusing to play that song. You know, basically along those lines. I’m not looking for perfection. But as you know, those who are studying it, it was all over the place, just like I was.
So there’s the ax. Cooler sounds coming from some of my favorite places would be… come over here, hit the compressor for the rest of these. Turn on just the sound, neck position. Pretty cool. Let’s see, Romeo Void. Anybody remember Romeo Void. There was a song, what was it called? Can’t remember the real name of it… I might like you better if we slept together. Ah, you guys have to help me once again remember the name of that song. Never Say Never, that’s the name of it. Never mind. Can’t remember the song I’m trying to think of. I’m trying to think of it. Can’t remember what it is. Oh well. Too bad for me. Nice sound. What do I have here? Oh, there’s something nice and pretty for me to show you what I can do. This kind of stuff I like. Very cool stuff. Um, and of course, just the bridge position playing with fingers with a little slight bit of delay and again, the compressor. So nothing really too bright on the top end that would allow me to actually play it on the country and except for the fact that I have a cool little hidden button over there. Oh, okay, everybody’s been asking me what that button was. But hey, some things are secret. No, that was actually just a tone control on the boss cs3 compressor. Fire it up and any Gibson will sound like a Fender or as close as it can, that quick. So once again, I am me you are you.
Again, Scott Grove Groovy Music Lessons. You can always click below, get tons of free lessons. Check out all my different guitar reviews. There’s links there for both and again the 1975-1976 Gibson Explorer Limited Edition and also in 76. Yes, they did have the ones that just said Explorer on the back, the Limited Edition. Is there any difference? No probably. Just the fact that they made it a couple of months later when they saw that these were actually going to hit because the Ibanez was hitting hard and doing well and playing amazing. I think Gibson was trying to copy what Ibanez was doing so well and Hamer, with their standards coming out at the same time, were ultra high quality. So these honestly did not keep up, okay. But the value is what it is. Like I said, it was like a six thousand dollar guitar for me to purchase which is about in the normal range for just being twenty thirteen you know. They might go back up once, if the economy ever goes up.
So there it is kids. As cool as they get. So hope you enjoyed that and got to learn that, yes, they did make the 76s and 75. That’s the most important thing I think here to know and that is actually proven. It is very cool.
So again, until the next guitar comes in or the next lesson comes out, whatever it is, I’ll see you guys soon. Hope you enjoyed it.