This futuristic-looking all-metal lap steel guitar from 1935 is a major historical piece and a fine example of the Gibson company's first-ever electric guitar. The hollow cast aluminum body is fitted with Gibson's earliest bar magnet pickup - later nicknamed the "Charlie Christian" pickup. This seminal pickup - the first designed by Walter Fuller in mid-'35 - has an unbound black plastic coil form with a single metal blade pole-piece for the three bass strings and segmented blades for the treble strings.
The very advanced for 1935 circuitry features both volume and tone controls with a fancy Bakelite knob on either side of the lower bout-a feature requested by Gibson's consultant Alvino Rey. The body's shoulders are more rounded and angle into neck at a sharper angle compared to the subsequent wooden-body EH-150. The unbound ebony fingerboard has a V-shaped end, white flush fret inlays and mother-of-pearl dot markers. This instrument has the second style of bridge, with slots to hold the strings but only two securing screws. The body, neck and headstock on the E-150 are finished in raw aluminum, no doubt influenced by the Rickenbacker Electro instruments. The original open back Grover tuners are stamped with the company logo and are nickel- plated.
This model was originally designated both the "EHG" (Electric Hawaiian Guitar) and "E-150" reflecting the original $150.00 list price of the guitar-amp set. Gibson's records indicate that somewhere around 100 of this model were shipped from Kalamazoo from October 1935 into the beginning of 1936. The production run was very limited; Gibson quickly deduced that the metal body (which had to be outsourced) was not an advantage and switched to a wooden body built in-house.
The serial numbers on this model-apparently beginning at 100 and running up to just over 200-are a specific series impressed into the metal, and records indicate that the same instrument was sometimes shipped out to several different dealers before eventually finding a home! By any standard this is one of the rarest models in Gibson history. Not only were a very limited number originally produced, but more than a few were likely sacrificed to the WWII aluminum drives enforced from around 1942! In terms of not only Gibson history but the story of the 20th century guitar in general the E-150 is a milestone design, and marks the progress of the electric guitar from novelty to ubiquity.
The guitar was paired with Gibson amps.(see TYS electric guitar collection Gibson EH 150 guitar amplifier (Version 1), 1935)