Gibson’s ES models offer a ‘woodier’ sound than a straight solidbody, but there’s pretty much nothing they can’t do. If you play in a hardcore metal band, you can leave an ES in the store – but otherwise they’ve been made famous across a melange of great guitar music.
The first Electric Spanish, the ES-150, is best heard played by Charlie Christian. The Genius Of The Electric Guitar (4CDs) is a superb primer for early guitar solos. Elvis Presley’s Sun Sessions showcases Scotty Moore’s work on various ES’s, notably the ES-295. As for other deep-bodied ESs in a later, different context, Yes’s Steve Howe recorded much on an ES-175: take your pick from early-’70s Yes albums. He’s still playing it now: ‘I consider it essential because it’s got a big, fat sound and the chords just sound wonderful.’
For blues, head to BB King’s post-1961 releases. Live At The Regal has BB on a 355 and is a blues classic, full stop. Freddie King: The Ultimate Collection has some of him playing a Les Paul, but it’s mostly ES-345s.
For blues rock, head to Cream’s Farewell Concert on DVD where you’ll see Eric Clapton’s 335 playing up-close. Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee used his modded 335 throughout his career: for its cover alone, try Saguitar.
The Beatles used Epiphone Casinos – rebranded ES-330s. They are all over The White Album, particularly by Lennon. U2’s Edge favoured Casinos and Sheratons in the mid-2000s. U2 hits All Because Of You, Miracle Drug and Breathe are played on these 330/335-alikes.
In the ’80s, Johnny Marr used a red ES-355 extensively: his ’63 Epiphone Casino is the main tremolo sound on How Soon Is Now. Johnny later gave Bernard Butler his sunburst ’66 ES-335 12-string used to record the Smiths’ Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. Butler first used his red ES-355 for most of Suede’s Dog Man Star album – listen to We Are The Pigs for great Bigsby wobbles.
Oasis’s debut was mostly recorded on overdriven ’70s Epiphone Casinos made in Japan: they couldn’t afford ‘proper’ Gibsons at the time. For the last decade, Gallagher’s main guitars have been a ’60s cherry red ES-335 and a 355. And, of course NG’s Supernova signature of the ‘90s was a modded Epiphone Sheraton (akin to a 335) in Manchester City blue. Dave Grohl’s DG-335 is a hot-rodded version of the ES-335 variant, the Trini Lopez, in custom colour Pelham Blue. From BB to EC, Elvis to Alvin, Gallagher to Grohl… it seems the 335 design can sound like anything any player wants.