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Gibson: Leader in Guitar Quality, Technology, and Sales


If rock and roll is the fusion of musical creativity with human energy, then the guitar is certainly the foundation of the genre. The largest guitar manufacturer of them all is Gibson, and they manufacture their guitars in the U.S.  

Talk to Gibson executives, and they will tell you that their substantial market share is due the quality, beauty, and technology associated with their products. (In fact, some of their guitars employ as many as eight microprocessors.) They are made in factories in Memphis, Tennessee and in Bozeman, Montana. Gibson spares little or no expense in making high-quality instruments capable of producing extraordinary sound.

Gibson’s history is as illustrious as their current success. It was founded in Michigan in 1902 by Orville Gibson, with an emphasis on making durable, single-piece mandolins. Though Orville passed away in 1918, the business carried on, introducing new offerings such as electric guitars, banjos and mandolins starting in the 1930s. Chicago Musical Instruments bought the company in 1944. The new leaders introduced the phenomenal Les Paul guitars, Byrdland guitars, and the Firebird, and began carving out Gibson’s role in modern music history.

After several ownership changes, the venerable brand was close to bankruptcy in 1986. But some sound business decisions, coupled with a renewed focus on product quality, technology, and 24/7 service, revived the Gibson brand, to the delight of its legions of fans.

Today, the company’s stable of brands includes Gibson, Wurlitzer, Baldwin, Kramer, Aeolian, and Epiphone, among others. On the plant floor, technicians use the finest manufacturing equipment, some of which Gibson says must be purchased and imported from Germany because it is not made in North America. Skilled technicians set up and operate CNC mill machines as part of the manufacturing process, while other employees make sure each instrument has an impeccable finish.

By providing the highest-quality instruments, Gibson sells them at a premium. That also allows them to invest in their workforce with highly competitive wages, benefits and training.

Gibson received publicity in 2011 when federal authorities raided its plant to seize wood that they claimed was illegally imported. Millions of Americans felt the case was an example of government overreach, especially since the government told the company that use of the wood would be okay if they manufactured the guitars overseas. In some ways, the story had a happy end. After settling the case with the government, Gibson unveiled a Government Series guitar using the wood returned by the feds. The new guitars sold out in near-record time.

Even after all these years, the Les Paul guitar remains Gibson’s best seller. With continually enhanced technology and a commitment to quality, Gibson is a true Great Manufacturing Story.