Gibson L-6S Gibson L6S

For many guitar players, the L-6S is Gibson’s most underrated guitar. Introduced in 1973 and discontinued in 1978, the single-cutaway, set-neck L-6S came in three versions - the Custom, the Deluxe, and the Midnight Special.

The three versions of the L-6S feature a three-piece solid maple body, a three-piece laminated maple neck with a 24 ¾” scale maple (or ebony) fret board and 24 frets.

Measuring 13 ½” across and 1 ¼” deep, the guitar’s flattop body is thinner, wider, and lighter than a Les Paul Standard. The L-6S has Schaller M-6 tuners. The Custom had a Schaller “wide travel” tune-o-matic bridge, and a diecast zinc stop tailpiece. The Deluxe and Midnight Special anchored their strings through the body for richer sustain.

L-6S Custom:

The best known was the L-6S Custom, which was available in four finishes: Natural, Ebony, and Tobacco Sunburst. Carlos Santana endorsed the L-6S Custom, touting its six switchable sounds as being ideal for progressive jazz. He called the L-6S his “rainbow” - a reference to the instrument’s wide sonic spectrum. The heyday of the L-6S was 1974. That year, Gibson shipped more than 5,000 of these maple instruments. The numbers dropped slowly each year after than, with less than 1,500 shipping in 1978, the final year of production.

But it’s the Custom’s electronics that set it apart from all other Gibsons. With a pair of chrome metal-covered Super Humbucking ceramic-magnet pickups and a unique six-way pickup selector - both designed by Bill Lawrence - 16the L-6S offers a fistful of switchable sounds. As you’d expect, the selector accesses the pickups individually and in combination. But in the latter instance, the pickups can be connected in series or in parallel, as well as in or out of phase. Specifically, the six-way pickup switch yields these settings:

The Custom’s master volume and two passive tone controls (treble roll-off and midrange-range roll-off) provide further sonic shaping.

L-6S Deluxe:

On the L-6S Deluxe, the strings pass through the body, anchoring in ferrules mounted in the back, rather than a stop tailpiece. Though the pickups are the same as on the Custom, the Deluxe’s humbuckers have plastic covers, and are selected with a standard three-way pickup switch. The Deluxe has two knobs - a master volume and master tone, and a rosewood fretboard. The Deluxe was available in four finishes: Natural, RedWine , Ebony, and Tobacco Sunburst.

L-6S Midnight Special:

The third and rarest variation was the L-6S Midnight Special, which combined the string-through-body design and standard three-way pickup switch electronics of a Deluxe with a Custom’s chrome metal-covered Super Humbucking ceramic-magnet pickups and 24 fret maple fretboard. Called the Midnight Special, this model shipped with a Natural or RedWine finish. In 1975 only 200 were made with the Red Wind Finish. Also in 1975, some were named Anniversary Models which had the Red Wine finish, multi-colored glitter and a clear pick guard.

In 1976, the base price for a Deluxe L-6S was $449, a Custom had a base price of $529 and the Midnight Special was $549. A hardshell case was $94.

Finding an original L-6S can be a challenge, but worth the effort. These overlooked instruments sound great, and their relatively slim neck profile and belly cut make them comfortable to play. An L-6S provides the sustain and chunk of more traditional set-neck Gibson solid bodies, yet delivers a bright sound with extra snap and punch, courtesy of the maple neck and maple body with the super-charged ceramic humbuckers. In particular, slide players appreciate the mix of balls and clarity that are the hallmarks of L-6S tone.

*I have obtained this information from purchasing one of these fine guitars in 1975 and from all the reading I have found on them since then.

Below are photos of a 1975 Anniversary Model L6-S Midnight Special in Red Wine with multicolor glitter and clear pick guard.
This guitar is stock as it came from the factory. The guitar was purchased in Cedarburg, Wisconsin in 1975.

Gibson L6S FrontGibson L6S body front

Gibson L6S BodyGibson L6S Midnight Special Head

Gibson L6S full imageGibson L6S Body Front

Gibson L6S ControlsGibson L6S Pick Guard

Gibson L6S BackGibson L6S Body Back

Gibson L6S Strings Thru Back

Gibson L6S Statistics Info

Gibson L6S Midnight Special Body Large Photo Image