Let's talk about Vintage Melody Makers...

Discussion in 'Vintage Les Pauls' started by Palladio, May 25, 2014.

  1. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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    I'm a big fan of vintage Melody Makers, and I've mentioned mine in other people's threads here. I thought I'd go ahead a start a new thread for those who own them or are interested in learning more.

    I really dig slab bodied vintage Gibsons, and have had a number of them over the years. I currently have a '58 single cut TV Special and a '59 double cut Junior (and a '63 SG/LP and '64 SG if those count as "slabs"). However, I had always dismissed the Melody Makers, as I never thought they sounded very good plugged in. Then a few years ago I bought a '59 MM from fellow forum member "singlecut", and that was the beginning of a whole new experience with these guitars. That '59 is one of my favorite guitars - light, super resonant, very comfortable full C neck profile, and it sounds great with the stock pickup. It's got a bit of a Tele-like sound, or maybe closer to what I hear when Neil Young plays his "Old Black" LP on the bridge pickup (a Firebird pickup) with gain. Anyway, I fell in love with that guitar and started looking for another. I ended up buying several more MM's, but they all came with the later narrow pickup, which I've never bonded with. Over the past few years I've been experimenting with installing different replacement pickups in them.

    This thread is for anyone who wants to talk vintage Melody Makers. Post photos of yours, point out any mods or changes that you may see in mine or others, provide specs if you can, discuss modifications you may have made to improve them, etc. I'd like to learn more myself, and I figure this would be a good way to do it.

    I'll post more photos and specs on my various MM's later, but here's a photo of that first one I bought from Singlecut to kick it off.

    1959 Melody Maker - wide pickup

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. jeggz

    jeggz Senior Member

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    A vintage melody maker with a 70s dimarzio SuperDistortion is one of the best guitar sounds I ever had.
    Though it could be rose colored glasses.
     
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  3. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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    A few more details and pictures of my first MM.

    1959 Gibson Melody Maker Serial # 932586
    Gold tophat knobs, wide pickup
    Kluson Deluxe 3 on strip tuners (they are from this era, but I think are replacements not original to the guitar)
    Neck measurements
    1st Fret .87” deep, girth 2 11/16”
    12th Fret .97” deep, girth 3 1/16”
    Width Nut 1.69”
    Width 12th 2.078”
    Weight 5.5 lbs
    Pickup ouput 7.1K ohms (as read through the jack, so probably 7.2K+ actual)

    [​IMG]

    This photo shows how the red in the burst has turned to green over time. My later ones from 1960 haven't done this so much. My guess is that the finish of the guitar may have used a similar dye to that of the '59 Les Pauls, hence the green fade.

    [​IMG]

    This shows the early wider version of the MM pickup. I think the pickguard screws are replacements, as my other MM's have smaller black Phillips head screws. Also note the tailpiece is a modern MojoAxe model (thanks Dan!) for better intonation.

    [​IMG]

    Check out the grain in this one piece slab cut Honduran Mahogany. Not bad for a "student" model guitar! I think this Mahogany is one of the main ingredients in why these guitars are so resonant.

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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  5. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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    This was the second one pickup Melody Maker I bought (also from "singlecut").

    [​IMG]

    It's from 1960 and came with the later version narrow pickup. Unlike the '59, I didn't find this pickup all that useable. It's wimpier, with lower output and much less bass. Just too trebly for my taste. As a reference, this pickup read around 6.8K on my meter as opposed to 7.2K for the wider version. I'm not sure if there were other changes in the magnets or design of these pickups other than the width and winds/output. If anyone here knows, please jump in.

    I decided that if I was going to use this guitar to gig and record with, I would need to find a suitable replacement pickup. I don't like making any irreversible mods to vintage guitars, so my goal was to find something that would drop in without routing, etc. First I tried the Curtis Novak model that looks identical but is constructed to sound more like a P90. Which can be found here: CurtisNovak.com - Pickups and Guitars | Melody Maker 90 Pickup It's a really nice drop-in solution, sounds great, and is a huge improvement over the stock MM pickup. However, after using it for a while I found that it didn't sound quite like a full sized P90 and I wanted to take this guitar in more of a LP Junior direction. The problem is that the baseplate on a regular P90 is slightly too big to fit in the MM route. So I called Wolfe Macleod at http://www.wolfetone.com and asked for his help. After sending him a tracing of the pickup cavity, Wolfe said he could custom build a true soap bar P90 with a smaller base to fit. He also explained that I'd have to install the pickup without a cover due to the lack of space. So he went to work on it and a few weeks later I had exactly what I needed.

    The other problem was that I didn't want to cut the original pick guard. So for that I contacted Tony at Pickguardian Custom Pickguards. I sent him my original guard to trace, and he made an exact reproduction guard to fit the new P90.

    I also had Izzy Lugo (a local luthier in NYC who also builds "Ronin" custom guitars) wire up a new harness with a 250K tone and 500K volume like on a 1950s LP Junior. As far as my experience goes, the Melody Makers came with 500K pots all around. Izzy also cut a wood shim and lightly glued it to the body, so the pickup could be mounted without adding any new screw holes in the body. This can be removed without damaging the body if I ever decide to return it to stock. Plus, he thought the direct surface mount might offer a fuller sound, much like a dog-ear P90.

    Here's a photo of the new pickup and guard in place. Wolfe did a beautiful job with the P90. He polished the upper bobbin (they are usually left with a raw surface on soap bars, as the are meant to be covered) and wound extra tape around the coils to protect them. Also note what I believe are correct original pickguard screws as compared to those on my '59.

    [​IMG]

    Please note, I have no affiliation with any of the manufacturers listed other than being a very satisfied paying customer. Tony, Wolfe, and Izzy were all great to work with, and really went out of their way to help me get this project done correctly. Also, I want to give a shout out to Dan at MojoAxe, for his excellent replacement intonated wrap tailpieces.

    Here are the specs and a few more photos:

    1960 Melody Maker Ser # 0 6650
    Gold top hat knobs
    Open backed 3 on a strip tuners
    Replaced pickup with custom Wolfetone “Meaner” P90 output 8.75K
    1st Fret .885” deep
    12th Fret .995” deep
    Width Nut 1.695”
    Width 12th 2.08”
    Weight 5lbs 14 oz

    Here's a close photo of the top, where you can see the burst hasn't faded to the green shade of my '59 MM.

    [​IMG]

    The body has less figure, but is still one piece. The finish on this guitar is still very glossy, so what you are seeing are reflections and not flaws in the finish.

    [​IMG]

    This guitar turned out better than even I had hoped. It's got every bit of the tone and mojo of my '59 Les Paul Junior.
     
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  6. roxrob

    roxrob Member

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    This is mine purchased a few years back

    1961 double cut single pickup. Pickup has now been changed for a Curtis Novak MM90 Dogear P90 which fits without any extra routing. I've got some later pictures somewhere. This thing is acoustically the loudest electric I have ever played and rings like a bell. For the money it has to be the best value vintage Gibson available today.

    Cheers

    Rob


    http://img137.imageshack.us/img137/5013/guitargibsonmelodymaker.jpg

    http://img843.imageshack.us/img843/5013/guitargibsonmelodymaker.jpg

    http://img705.imageshack.us/img705/5013/guitargibsonmelodymaker.jpg

    And with the P90, sorry the picture quality is lousy on this one

    https://imageshack.com/i/b54pogj
     
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  7. LanEvo

    LanEvo Senior Member

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  8. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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    LanEvo and roxrob, thanks for posting those the photos and soundclip. Beautiful guitars!
     
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  9. hecube

    hecube Senior Member

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    I bought mine (a 1959) on eBay. The seller sold the body stripped of all hardware. It was a good way to get old vintage Gibson wood for not too much.

    I chose a non-historical "restoration" to bring it back to life.

    Tuning pegs are Planet Waves auto-trim
    Pickups are both WCR (P90 neck and Crossroads for bridge, with a Seymour Duncan Triple Shot coil splitter)
    Custom Terrapin pickguard
    RS Guitar Works Premium vintage Melody Maker electronics upgrade kit (x2)
    Pigtail 54 wraparound bridge

    Before:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    After:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  10. mfolet

    mfolet Senior Member

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    My '59 Melody Maker.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
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  11. dangerdog

    dangerdog Senior Member

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    Rose colored glasses can do almost anything!!
     
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  12. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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    mfolet, it's hard to tell exactly with photos on a computer monitor, but it looks like the burst of your '59 may have greened in a similar fashion to mine. Also interesting to see the black knobs. My MM's came with either plain gold top hat, or gold top hats with reflectors. My guess is since this was a student model guitar, Gibson just used whatever they had in the parts bin at the time.
     
  13. Palladio

    Palladio Senior Member

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    Hecube, really nice job of rescuing a guitar that had been parted out, and doing something cool with it. The new sunburst finish looks great.
     
  14. hecube

    hecube Senior Member

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    That's the one thing I didn't do!

    I thought about changing the finish but decided to keep the finish it came with...
     
  15. Danelectro

    Danelectro V.I.P. Member

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    The Poor Man's Junior" is what I call them, and with the right pickup they can be just as much fun. :)

    I have three SC MM's, a '59 and a '60, both of which are wide pickup models, and a '61 Epi Olympic, which is identical to the Melody Maker except it has the Epiphone name on it, a different TRC, and a cool celluloid pickguard. Here's a quick comparison of the specs:

    [​IMG]

    All three play great. The '59 and the '60 have very comfortable '59 profile necks and the '61 has the thinner '60 style profile. I've tweaked the '59 and '60 a bit to make them more usable. Here are some details on each:

    1959

    The tuning keys were replaced with RS/Kluson Junior-style tuners which is a drop-in replacement. I installed a Lollar MM P90 pickup which sounds great. It has a little more modern tone than a vintage P90, but still excellent clarity and lots of growl. The pickup fits within the existing rout without any modifications. Of course it doesn't fit the pickguard (which I didn't want to modify), so I made a replica pickguard with the larger pickup opening. The Lollar pup does not have a cover nor holes in the bobbin for mounting one, but I shaved the height of a P90 cover to match the height of the pup and attached it with double-sided tape.

    With original pickup
    [​IMG]


    With P90 installed
    [​IMG]

    Lollar P90 resting in un-modified pickup cavity
    [​IMG]


    Mounted into pickguard
    [​IMG]

    double-back tape for cover
    [​IMG]

    Cover in place
    [​IMG]


    1960

    I pickup this guitar up on eBay. It had a Duncan JB Junior screwed down to the body and lousy auction photos so I got a good deal on it. When I received it I was pleased to find that it was in better condition than expected and the original wide pickup and cover were in the case. I mounted the original cover over the JB Jr (again with double-sided tape) which gives it a stock appearance. The JB Jr is actually a very good sounding pup for something so small.

    [​IMG]

    JB Jr pup
    [​IMG]


    1961

    This guitar still has the stock narrow pickup in it which is not good for much. Its a nice playing guitar that could be killer with a pickup upgrade, but I've got the other two Melody Makers hot-rodded so I left this one alone. It looks great on a stand in the living room and makes a great couch guitar. I imagine that the Epi version probably sold for a lower price than the MM, but its the same guitar and in my opinion, the tortoise guard gives it an upgraded appearance.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    The Trio

    [​IMG]


    Here are a couple more Melody Makers that I no longer own:

    1960 in near mint condition. Narrow pickup and beautiful color in the burst finish
    [​IMG]

    1962 DC MM that still has the 1950's style angled bridge
    [​IMG]
     
  16. Smash88

    Smash88 Senior Member

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    Vintage MM's are great guits and still affordable. This is a 59 that was found with nothing on it and put back together with a P90 by Dominick Ramos sometime in the 80's.
     

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  17. 27sauce

    27sauce Senior Member

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    Those Olympics are so badass, I need one!
     
  18. Username2

    Username2 Senior Member

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    I played one at a guitar shop a couple of weeks ago.

    It was a single-cut, cherry red melody maker that was some heavy checking.

    It was up for $800 and it played rather nicely.
     
  19. Fracture

    Fracture Senior Member

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    I finally got to restringing mine and was hesitant about cleaning it.
    Force of habit, a small amount of some very light chain lube on the open tuners.
    Some bore oil for the board.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Fracture

    Fracture Senior Member

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    [​IMG]

    Lollar sends out some nice pics made out the very same material.
    Very easy to grip.
     
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