This is the Mick Ralphs signature model, designed by Mr Mott the Hoople himself with Fuji Gen Gakki's head luthier during a Bad Company tour of Japan in the mid 70s (or so the legend goes). Mick Ralphs, then guitarist for Bad Co, had for years been into double cut LP Jrs, but had recently gotten his first '59 burst and was diggin' it to. He musta missed the fret access and wraparound bridge because while he was in japan he came up with this hybrid design. These were mainly sold to the Japanese market and given to popular players like Mr Ralphs and Ace Frehley (who seemed to really dig this model). Greco's factory, Fuji Gen later tweaked this design and released it to the USA market as the Ibanez Artist model (one of Bob Weir's favorite solid bodies, dude still plays his Artist all the time and he has every vintage guitar on the planet).
Mine was sold to me as an MR800, the middle model between the P90 equipped 600 and the 1000, but as it turns out this is probably an MR1000. Good for me, I only paid $480 shipped from a dealer who doesn't typically handle vintage MIJ stuff. These usually go for anywhere between $750 to $1500 based on condition and the year. '77 is a really good year I gather. I feel lucky.
These guitars have a really long, really tight-fitting neck tenon that runs all the way to the end of the neck pickup cavity and shames modern Gibson craftsmanship. They feature a badass type intonatable wraparound that has an extra bolt to secure it better while changing strings and to prevent leaning and inconsistent tone. Its no tonepros locking stud, but its a reputable solution to a classic Gibson design flaw. This guitar has 2 cutaways and a 2 octave neck that required a slight adjustment of the neck pickup position fro a 59 burst making this a REALLY long tenon and a super secure neck joint. She has a 2 piece solid maple plaintop, a 1 piece Honduran mahogany back and neck, single ply binding on the body and headstock, a brazillian rosewood fingerboard with real shell inlay and nice binding with nibs and she is equipped with 4 nice 500k pots, black Sprague tone caps and a pair of Maxon made U-3000 PAF copies. They finished her in lacquer like all their LP copies of the mid 70s sporting model numbers 800 and up.
First impression... WOW!
This guitar is fairly light for a carve top ade from traditional materials. I noticed that its a little thinner than a real LP. Add in the removed chunk from the upper bout and that explains it. The neck is slimmer than I expected. More of a '66 nut width and way more in the 1960 LP Standard camp. Very comfortable though. Something about the shape and the taper. Mine needs a serious setup, but even with too much relief in the neck and funky action this guitar is a player.
What surprised me most is how good -no, GREAT- the humbuckers sound. These are killer vintage-to-moderate output PAF style pickups. Very vocal in a vowel-like sense of the word. Complex sounds roll out of this guitar that encourage you to use more and more nuance with both your hands. I am totally surprised. I was all set to put some nice Duncans in this guitar, but now I don't think I should. I can only imagine what a neck adjust will do for her, because the lack of setup is eating sustain I'm sure (and she sustains really well out of the case). This poor guitar did not enjoy her cross country trek. Sorry Old Girl, I'll get you fixed up.
The craftsmanship on this guitar is just outstanding. The binding and inlays are superbly executed. The body binding gets wider as it approaches the neck joint with thise asome zebra-stripe angle to it. Hard to describe. Just great attention to details.
One of the many nice touches is that it has a really cool heel shape that really blends into the body as the neck depth increases. Its not abrupt like an LP, its a gradual thing (a kinda curved, evolving angle? like very fibonachi spiral sort of shape). In an age where CNC routers were not prevalent (if they existed at all) the heel must have been eyeballed on every guitar after the neck was fitted. I want another one of these. Seriously.
Interestingly, this guitar came with a really nice OHSC and in the little storage compartment I found a pack of 70s or 80s Fender Super 150 strings, never opened. Weird. I'm considering framing them for shits and giggles.
Domo Arigato previous owner.
Update after a full setup: This guitar is amazing and I have named her Number One.
Update: I can't put this guitar down. It plays so well and it sounds amazing. I got curious and unscrewed the pickup rings to have a looky. They are not Maxon U-3000 humbuckers as claimed in the 77 catalog, they are the fabled "Dry Z" PAF copies that MyLP forum guys pay $1k+ for on ebay... they are really good, I get the hype.
This is a pretty comprehensive demo and video look over I created of this weird old MIJ burst variant. Excuse the little bits of clipping and my confused playing, it was a fast and dirty podcast recording and I had no idea what Iw as going to play until I hit record.