The Gibson Super 400

Elvis Elvis

In 1934 Gibson revolutionized the music world with another extraordinary guitar, the Gibson Super 400. It was the largest and most expensive (US$400) archtop guitar ever produced by any manufacturer, and it had the power to cut through any horn section. It is considered by many the highest peak of the arch-top design.

It featured an 18″ wide body with triple bound f-holes, an adjustable bridge and a Y-shaped tailpiece. It was assembled with figured maple wood back and sides, ebony fingerboard, and brown pearloid pickguards and open-back Grover tuners. Most of them have brown sunburst finish.

Very early Super 400 had “Super L-5″ engraved on the truss rod cover and “Deluxe L-5 Model” written on the label. They are known as “Super 400 Intro Models” or “Super L-5 Deluxe” and are especially sought after.

A rounded single-cutaway version was released in 1939, the Super 400 Premier or Super 400P. Natural finishes became also available for the non-cutaway (Super 400N) and single-cutaway (Super 400PN) versions.

The Gibson Super 400

The Gibson factory stopped production during WWII. When it was resumed, the Super 400 P was renamed to Super 400C (C for Cutaway).

An electric version was introduced in 1951, the Super 400CES. It featured two P-90 pickups and the 2 volume/2 tone/3-way switch circuitry that would become a standard for Gibson electrics. A natural finish version was introduced in 1952, the Super 400CESN.

Gibson discontinued the non-cutaway Super 400 and Super 400N models in 1955. The Super 400C and Super 400CESN remained in production until 1982, and the Super 400CES until 1987. However, different versions have been reissued since the 1990s as part of the Historic Collection or Custom Shop production.

Scotty Moore, who had been playing Gibson L-5 until then, received a 1956 Super 400CESN in early 1957, and got later a 1963 sharp-cutaway Super 400CES. The Gibson Super 400s became his main guitars for the remainder of his career with Elvis, and also during his comeback in the 1980s and 1990s.