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Gibson Guitar Company Gives the Feds the Finger

The award for P.R. champion of the week goes to the Gibson guitar company, makers of the famous Les Paul guitar, and headquartered, I’m proud to say, here in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.

A couple of years ago, the Feds raided the Gibson factory here in Music City, SWAT-team style, and shut the whole company down, allegedly for possessing illegally imported wood. From what I gather, it had mostly to do with how the shipping containers were labeled. Anyway, it didn’t merit a commando operation.

It was a disproportionate action on dubious grounds.

Gibson later settled for $300,000. But not until after it had already lost far more than that by virtue of being forced to shut down operations.

This week Gibson has announced the “Government Series” of guitars, to celebrate the end of its tussle with the eager enforcers of the U.S. Customs Department.

It’s a series of guitars made, purportedly, with the very same wood that was seized by the United States government, which was later returned at the end of the fiasco.

Ladies and gentlemen, Here’s a photo of the Gibson Les Paul Government Series II. The body is painted in a custom color the company has named “Government Tan”–suitably drab–a nod to the joyless reality of living under the heavy thumb of stifling bureaucracy.

I promise you, I’m not making this up. Go to the website and see for yourself.

I don’t need another guitar, but I may have to buy one of these.

P.S. If a savvy marketing person down at Gibson HQ wants to cut me a “special deal” on one of these, I promise I will personally upload a video here on Ricochet, demonstrating the doubtlessly liberating tones of of this musical monument to freedom and due process.

(h/t Mark Hemingway)

  1. Mike Rapkoch

    I don’t even know how to play the guitar, but I want one, suitable for framing, to put up in the living room.

  2. BrentB67

    Play it Nathan!

  3. Whiskey Sam

    Excellent!  This almost makes me want to switch from Fender.

  4. wmartin

    Wish I liked Gibson more….like Whiskey Sam, I am a Fender man.

    That said…bravo to them!

  5. John Peabody

    Oh, the color should be very pale green. My Dad called it “Federal Green”, and pointed it out when we visited post offices, etc. I’ve lived in barracks rooms painted that color.

  6. Marion Evans

    Nice, but shouldn’t a government guitar have only one string? One string connected directly to your wallet. You’re taxed for every strum.

  7. Blue State Blues

    The description at the link says that the guitar “is topped by a pickguard that’s hot-stamped in gold with the Government Series graphic—a bald eagle hoisting a Gibson guitar neck.”  I see no pickguard in any of the pictures.  It might have improved the looks.

    I almost want to buy one on principle, but the color is really awful.  I understand Gibson is steamed but why create an ugly guitar just to make a point?

  8. Valiuth
    Blue State Blues:   I understand Gibson is steamed but why create an ugly guitar just to make a point? · in 4 minutes

    Because this is America!

  9. Jimmy Carter
    Valiuth

    Blue State Blues:   I understand Gibson is steamed but why create an ugly guitar just to make a point? · in 4 minutes

    Because this is America! · 1 minute ago

    Amen. It’s called principle.

    If They guaranteed Me that it wouldn’t work, hell, I’d buy one.

  10. Nathan Harden
    C

    I think they were going for the Soviet aesthetic.

    Blue State Blues: The description at the link says that the guitar “is topped by a pickguard that’s hot-stamped in gold with the Government Series graphic—a bald eagle hoisting a Gibson guitar neck.”  I see no pickguard in any of the pictures.  It might have improved the looks.

    I almost want to buy one on principle, but the color is really awful.  I understand Gibson is steamed but why create an ugly guitar just to make a point? · 5 minutes ago

  11. RushBabe49

    I passed this on to my boss’s boss, who is a rock musician.  Thanks!

  12. Matty Van

    Great story! Reminds me of another where the company was not awed by the government, or the media, or PC attitudes. A few years back, Newsweek interviewed the head of the Organization of Lichtenstein Bankers (or some such name) (Lichtenstein is, apparently, a virtual or de facto canton of Switzerland). The German govt. had just caught several Germans hiding their money in Lichtenstein to avoid taxes using laws designed to catch terrorists. They found zero terrorists, just tax “evaders.” Newsweek, expecting the bankers to be all contrite and apologetic, asked about them about providing safe havens for tax evaders. The good banker, far from contrite or apologetic, replied, “We don’t consider tax evasion a crime.” If I played the guitar, and had a meaningful stash of cash, I’d be playing, Gibson and Lichtenstein would be the beneficiaries.

  13. Blue State Blues

    The look just doesn’t float my boat.  And I wish it did, because I’d like to support Gibson.

  14. skipsul
    Jimmy Carter

    Valiuth

    Blue State Blues:   I understand Gibson is steamed but why create an ugly guitar just to make a point? · in 4 minutes

    Because this is America! · 1 minute ago

    Amen. It’s called principle.

    If They guaranteed Me that it wouldn’t work, hell, I’d buy one. · 58 minutes ago

    I don’t even play, and I want one just ’cause.

  15. skipsul
    Nathan Harden: I think they were going for the Soviet aesthetic.

    Blue State Blues: The description at the link says that the guitar “is topped by a pickguard that’s hot-stamped in gold with the Government Series graphic—a bald eagle hoisting a Gibson guitar neck.”  I see no pickguard in any of the pictures.  It might have improved the looks.

    I almost want to buy one on principle, but the color is really awful.  I understand Gibson is steamed but why create an ugly guitar just to make a point? · 5 minutes ago

    58 minutes ago

    If that were the case, they should have made it out of rebar reinforced concrete with a socialist-realistic bust of Barry at the end.

  16. Merina Smith

    Darn–just bought a cutaway for Christmas or I’d buy one.  I actually like the color.  I love this in your face move!

  17. Chris Campion

    If there was ever a guitar built to be smashed at the end of an interminable solo, it’s one of these.

    Right over an AG’s forehead.

  18. Boymoose

    How many guitars do you need?

    One more!

    Great post Nathan

  19. Spin

    The owner of the company I work for has a saying, and I’ve heard it many times:

    “It’s like [expletive] Soviet Union around here!”  

  20. Jimmy Carter
    skipsul

    Jimmy Carter

    Amen. It’s called principle.

    If They guaranteed Me that it wouldn’t work, hell, I’d buy one. · 58 minutes ago

    I don’t even play, and I want one just ’cause. · 25 minutes ago

    My point was that if the color of the guitar was to symbolize the government, then so should it’s ability to work and be productive.