On January 6th, 1958, the patent was granted for the Gibson Flying V, changing rock history forever. But upon its debut later that year, the guitar was a failure. According to Gibson, only 81 Flying V’s shipped in 1958, with 17 shipping in 1959. They were then phased out of production until 1966, when the Kinks’ Dave Davies,who’d bought one at a shop for only $60, popularized the design. Still, only 111 shipped in ’66, and less than that each year until 1970, when it was again discontinued. Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards eventually led to them being put back in production again in 1975, and they’ve been an iconic instrument ever since.
Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett played a Flying V on the first five Metallica albums, and spoke to Gibson last year about it.
“My first-ever Gibson was a Gibson Flying V, and I just loved it,” Hammett told Gibson. “I think it’s either a ’78 or ’79 Flying V. I bought it mainly because Michael Schenker had one but also because it had humbucking pickups (the guitar that I had before that had single coil pickups). I was looking for a fuller sound, a sound that I could achieve ‘heavy metal’ with [laughs], so I bought myself the Gibson Flying V and that was my guitar.
“That’s the guitar I played on the first five albums – Kill ’Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets …And Justice For All and The Black Album. All those albums have that guitar somewhere. I think I played all of Kill ’Em All on that guitar as well as all of Ride the Lightning. I love Flying Vs. I bought my first Les Paul in 1988. I went on to buy another after that in 1989 and then I just started buying Les Pauls on a regular basis.
It’s hard to imagine metal without the Flying V design. Whether it’s Randy Rhoads’ polka-dotted guitar or Robb Flynn from Machine Head’s custom V, the angular design is synonymous with heavy music, and it’s been patented to do it for 57 years now.
[info via Guitar Aficionado]