Up for sale, a 1962 Gibson Barney Kessel signature model archtop in excellent condition and in perfect working order, complete with the original PAF and Patent # pickup pair. This "Regular" model Kessel (as opposed to the "Custom" which was also available at the time), boasts features unique to its regular-ness, including nickel hardware, a spruce top, and split-parallelogram inlay. First introduced in 1961, the Kessel models endured in the Gibson catalog for an impressive 13 years, yet very few were actually produced year to year compared to most of Gibson's other models, with only 153 Kessels leaving the factory in '62.
As a transitional year for Gibson's pickup labeling, the humbuckers in this Kessel are the original pair, with a Patent Applied For (PAF) decal on the bridge pickup, and an early Patent # decal on the neck pickup. This pair is original to the instrument, with untouched solder on both covers. Identical in construction, these humbuckers deliver great articulation, complex harmonics, and an even, smooth tone that's truly in a class all its own.
The spruce top is a feature seen on sparingly few Kessels compared to the more common maple-topped iterations, and as such there's a distinctive woody bite and percussive, girthy quality to the overarching sound. The tonal breadth and string-to-string clarity of this fully hollow, 17" wide archtop imparts a muscle and authority that translates well through the pickups. The bridge pickup meters at 7.47k ohms and the neck pickup meters at 7.36k, putting these humbuckers firmly in the "low wind" PAF/Pat # range.
The bridge pickup has a complex and sweet upper midrange character with a sparkling treble register, offering plenty of snap and punch on the plain strings and a thick growl on the wound strings. Out-of-phase from the factory in the middle position, there’s a vowel-like musicality to the sound, accentuating the percussive cut of the instrument with plenty of spank without sounding thin. The neck pickup is fat and very responsive to pick attack, perfect for complex Jazz chord voicings and spirited lead work. This Barney Kessel weighs 7lbs, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar and strung with fresh 12-52 roundwound strings.
The one-piece mahogany neck has an extremely slender, fast-feeling profile carve with modest shoulder, measuring .755" deep at the 1st fret and .775" at the 9th. The bound Brazilian rosewood fretboard retains the original medium jumbo frets which have their full factory height and a surprising amount of crown and meat, showing only very light wear on the crowns of frets 1-3. The guitar plays cleanly up the 25 1/2" scale with a straight neck and responsive, optimally adjusted truss rod. The upgraded hand-carved bone nut has the full 1 11/16" width seen only on the earliest Kessel models produced prior to 1965. The headstock has the length typically reserved for the Super 400, with a clean Gibson pearl logo and crown inlay. Modern Kluson Deluxe single line double ring tuners have been installed, matching the footprint and style of the original gears, and the guitar at one time was fitted with a different tuner set, with small individual touched-up and cleanly doweled mounting holes just inset from the Klusons.
There is very clean older black nitro lacquer overspray across the back of the headstock extending down the profile behind fret 3. This presumably covers a previous headstock repair, yet the work is ostensibly invisible and perfectly smooth to the touch, with the stamped serial number retained on the back of the headstock as well.
All of the electronics work as they should, with original pots that still have their shielding cans soldered over them. Both pickups have clean decals on their baseplates and untouched solder joints on the nickel covers. The original hardware is intact, with the signature "Barney Kessel" tailpiece with rosewood insert, as well as an era-correct Gibson Brazilian rosewood bridge with compensated saddle, properly intonated for the wound G string on the current set of roundwound 12s. The neck set is ideal, and there is room for adjustment on both bridge thumbwheels. Plastics comprise a set of early gold reflector cap knobs, white switch tip and original switch gasket, along with the stock four-ply pickguard. Visible through the bass side F hole, the original orange Gibson label is present and very clean.
The body finish is 100% original with no touchup or overspray, and the Cherry Sunburst on the body has great warmth and saturation with zero finish fade. There is prominent lacquer checking across the body and some additional minor dings and finish scratches consistent with careful use. A black plastic jack plate was added, and the plastic matches Gibson factory material for the era. Interestingly enough, it does not appear the space around the jack has been enlarged. While the jack itself firmly holds the plate to the side, rotating the plate and flexing it shows some finish chipping but no cracks or egregious reshaping of the input jack route. The neck profile retains its smooth gloss finish with no palm wear.
A modern black tolex hardshell case is included.