The Greatest Gibson Acoustic Artists Ever

Published on 13 June 2024

8 minutes

Historically speaking, Gibson are one of the ‘big two’ in the world of acoustic guitars. It’s them and Martin, basically, in terms of appeal, influence and longevity.

Like Martin, Gibson are responsible for many iconic designs that have not only endured timelessly for decade upon decade, but have also been… how should I put it…’paid tribute to’ by a great many subsequent manufacturers. They are a classic brand through and through, and this is reflected in many ways.

Gibson Acoustic Artists

One of the most obvious ways in which Gibson can display their massive appeal is in the roll call of grade-A artists who’ve used Gibson acoustics throughout their careers. 

There are actually far too many to list, so what I’ve done today is take a small slice from the Gibson cake; a tasty helping of a select number of glorious artists who play Gibson acoustics. I’ll check out what models they play, and I’ll share a song that makes deft use of said Gibson guitar.

You with me? Let’s see how many of these artists you already know and love…

The Lineup At a Glance

 

Bob Dylan

Ol’ Bob always comes to mind for me first, mainly because few people have ever appeared so effortlessly cool. Quite aside from his sublime lyrics, he’s just got that ‘thing’ that iconic people have, and he often has ‘it’ in tandem with his signature Gibson SJ200 Jumbo.

It’s the perfect guitar for a strumming songwriter: it’s loud, percussive, rich sounding and looks great onstage, no matter how close or how far you may be from it.

A classic deserves a classic.

John Lennon

You may have heard of this adventurous pop singer from Liverpool? John Lennon is easily one of the most influential musicians in history, and so his musical instrument choices are held up to perhaps greater scrutiny than Lennon did himself.

It’s not that he didn’t choose great guitars - his Gibson 160E is as iconic as his tiny Rickenbacker and paint-stripped Epiphone Casino - but it’s more that you get the feeling he’d be able to get a great song out of absolutely anything.

Still. Bonus points for having an acoustic guitar with an electric guitar pickup in it, long before Cobain!

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow is accessible enough to trouble the charts but authentic enough to get songs written for her by Bob Dylan. She’s an excellent writer in her own right, but the real star of the show is that voice: a glorious mix of supersonic technique with a slightly frazzled, worldly edge, it’s just the perfect vehicle for her music.

Crow has been a Gibson artist for a long time, and her signature model is so popular that you actually see other notable artists choosing it for their own careers.

Jesse Malin

One such artist would be New York City’s own Jesse Malin, the ex-punk (D-Generation supported Green Day in the 90s) who has gone on to forge a career as a songwriter with one foot in the confessional and the other in scuzzy rock n roll. His guitar of choice is Gibson’s aforementioned Sheryl Crow model, of which he owns several.

Jesse has collaborated with Bruce Springsteen and many other artists, and whilst a recent illness has seriously threatened his health, Malin’s a true fighter and we hope to see him on his feet again soon. Read more about Jesse in our exclusive Jesse Malin interview.

Billie Joe Armstrong

Green Day’s main man has long since chosen Gibson for almost all of his six-string tools of trade. In terms of acoustics, Billie Joe needs a good strummer for songwriting, and is frequently seen with a very cool black Gibson J-180, with a double tortoiseshell-style pickguard, or as seen here, a classic Sunburst J-45. This guy has some great taste in geetars!

Dave Grohl

Only a Gibson is good enough for our Dave, and that applies to both acoustics and electrics. We all love his Trini Lopez-style signature electric, but when he goes unplugged, Grohl tends to go for an Elvis Presley black Dove model. Black is more ‘rock’ and black Gibsons are as cool as it gets. Should the Foos do more unplugged stuff?

Lucinda Williams

One of the greatest singer-songwriters in the alternative country universe, Lucinda Williams is a connoisseur's choice with the common touch that appeals to a mass audience.

Since the late 70s, WIlliams has steadily built a reputation for quality Americana, reaching a breakthrough with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Lucinda Williams has collaborated with Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and David Byrne amongst many others, and her guitar of choice has routinely been her trusty Gibson J-45.

Jimmy Page

One of the most famous and influential guitarists on the planet is of course Jimmy Page. Most of us instantly think of his ‘59 Les Paul Standard when we consider his guitars (or indeed the ES1295 Double Neck used on live renditions of Stairway), but a good percentage of his music in and out of Led Zeppelin was acoustic.

Page used a number of acoustic guitars over the years but perhaps his two most notable models were a Martin D-28 and a 1963 Gibson SJ-200. The SJ-200 provided the sound for all of the acoustic moments on Led Zep’s debut, and interestingly, he didn’t even own it!

“That was a Gibson J-200, which wasn’t mine; I borrowed it. It was a beautiful guitar, really great. I’ve never found a guitar of that quality anywhere since. I could play so easily on it, get a really thick sound; it had heavy gauge strings on it, but it just didn’t seem to feel like it”.

Jerry Cantrell

Alice in Chains’ axe-slinger Jerry Cantrell mixes his meaty riffing up with a large degree of haunted strumming, which adds an extra layer to his band’s mournful, doom-laden sound.

Indeed, a good percentage of their most famous songs are at least partially acoustic, and Alice in Chains also have a number of acoustic records available, too.

Previously a fan of Guild acoustics, Cantrell has, for a long time now, been a Gibson man. Initially, he favoured the iconic Hummingbird, but has now enjoyed a number of signature acoustic guitars with the company.

John Renbourn

Should John Renbourn be a bigger name than he is/was? The late Pentangle guitarist was a very early adopter of mediaeval music, blending it with folk styles back in the 1970s. He was also renowned for a playing style that took several techniques from flamenco and classical into the world of steel string guitar playing.

Renbourn favoured the Gibson J-50 for the significant part of his career.

Classic Guitars for Classic Artists

So, there’s a brief but potent list of talent that prefers Gibson acoustics. Of course, a great many artists have played them, and some, like Neil Young for example, are well known for playing a number of brands. The people I chose are, I feel, quite representative of Gibson, and show the depth of versatility on offer from the brand.

If you want to learn a little more about Gibson acoustics, please check out the video below. It’s a conversation I had recently with Robi Johns from Gibson Montana, and Robi certainly knows his stuff! He shares a lot of interesting facts (all Gibson acoustic guitar tops have a curve that has a 24 FOOT radius?!!), so be sure to have a watch when you have the time!

 

Click to Browse our Full Selection of Gibson Acoustic Guitars

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Ray

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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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