To a vintage guitar fan there is a select group of musicians that has ultimate status and “Holy Grail” appeal because of their signature model instruments. Les Paul, The Everly Brothers, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith and a few others will forever be enshrined in the vintage guitar player hall of fame by virtue of their Gibson artist signature guitars. The same goes for Trini Lopez, the original Latin pop superstar, who for a few shining, Camelot-type years between 1964 and 1971 had not one, but two Trini Lopez Model electric guitars in Gibsons’s artist series.
Dallas’ Trinidad Lopez rose to stardom as a singer/entertainer/rhythm guitarist in that fertile golden age of the rock guitar instrumental immediately prior to the USA invasion by The Beatles and other British groups. Trini was talented, suave, fashionable, and more than one news article named him the favorite singer of Dean Martin.
A Reprise Records’ publicity photo of the time, shows a beaming Trini Lopez with his first gold record for the album “Trini Lopez at PJ’s” standing next to a smiling Dean Martin with Dean’s gold record for the album “Everybody Loves Somebody”. With his arms around both Trini’s and Dean’s shoulders stands Frank Sinatra. It was Frank who recognized Trini’s potential and signed him to an exclusive contract with Sinatra’s label, Reprise. On June 5, 1963, Reprise released “Trini Lopez at PJ’s” and six weeks later it was Number 2 in the hit album charts. A single, “If I Had A Hammer”
was taken from the album and became a Number 1 hit in 28 countries around the world, and made Trini a star.
A 1963 photo shows Trini, front-and-center, flanked by John, Paul, George, and Ringo. (See photo in the Memories' Celebrity Gallery). Brigitte Bardot called Trini while he was performing in France to tell him she had learned to dance the “Surf”, a dance Trini made popular because of his dancing on stage. Trini was among the top pop, folk, and rock performers featured on a cover of Time magazine in 1965. Trini was selected by MGM Studios in Hollywood, to be on of “The Dirty Dozen”, and the classic movie by the same name was filmed in England for release in the summer of 1967. Trini further nurtured his guitar fan base when he brought in The Ventures, now a 5 piece combo with Gerry McGee on lead guitar and John Durrill on organ, to co-star in Trini’s own variety TV show in 1969. But five years prior to this TV special, and into the world arena of Trini Lopez fame and fortune, rode Gibson Guitars with an offer to manufacture artist signature Trini Lopez Model Gibsons.
Click to read an interesting article on the Gibson Trini Lopez Standard model guitar.
Manufactured by Gibson between the years of 1964 and 1971, the Trini Lopez Model Gibsons were sometimes prominently featured in the Gibson guitar catalogs as Electric Acoustic Artist models at the front and beginning of the Gibson catalog, the catalog’s featured spot. The Trini Lopez Delux (a.k.a. “Custom”) Guitar, the guitar played by Trini himself, featured a deeper double cutaway and a curly maple top, back, and rim with cream binding and bound, diamond-shaped sound holes. A mahogany neck joined the body the 17th fret with diamond-shaped pearl inlays on a 20 fret, ebony fret board. The Deluxe had two hum bucking pickups with a standby switch and sported a tune-o-matic bridge on a rose bridge-base. The 24 ¾” scale guitar was 17” wide and 3” deep, was manufactured in a cherry sunburst finish, and featured, at Trini's request, 6-to-a-side tuning keys in the Fender tradition.
A mahogany neck joined the body the 17th fret with diamond-shaped pearl inlays on a 20 fret, ebony fret board. The Deluxe had two hum bucking pickups with a standby switch and sported a tune-o-matic bridge on a rose bridge-base. The 24 ¾” scale guitar was 17” wide and 3” deep, was manufactured in a cherry sunburst finish, and featured, at Trini's request, 6-to-a-side tuning keys in the Fender tradition.
The Trini Lopez Standard Guitar is a variation on the ES-335 theme with a thin line body, 16” wide. This 24 ¾” scale guitar was 1 ¾” deep, and also featured a double rounded cutaway, and a maple top, back, and rim with cream binding and bound diamond-shaped sound holes. It sported a mahogany neck with diamond-shaped pearloid inlays on the 22 fret, rosewood fingerboard. The neck joined the body at the 19th fret. Two hum bucking pickups and a tune-o-matic bridge added to the Gibson look and sound. Like The Deluxe, The Trini Lopez Standard Guitar featured 6-on-a-side tuning keys. It was most commonly seen in a cherry finish, but models have been reported in Sparkling Burgundy and Pelham Blue Metallic! Cowabunga, what shimmering babies those Trini models in burgundy and blue must be!
In an exclusive interview by Art Greenhaw with Trini Lopez for a famous guitarmagazine,Trini answered questions about his artist signature Gibsons:
AG: Trini, the readers and I want to thank you for your time with us. Do you recall the first time you heard about Gibson guitars…first saw one…first played one?
TL: My father bought me my first guitar when I was 12 years old. He went to a pawn shop and bought it for $12. Obviously, it was a used Gibson guitar! My very first guitar was a Gibson.
AG: Were there factors that prompted you to play Gibson guitars even when you became highly successful and could play any instrument of your choosing?
TL: Gibson contacted me from their headquarters in Chicago and approached me to not only design my own guitar but to make it my signature Trini Lopez Gibson guitar.
AG: What was the impact for you with your Trini Lopez Model Gibson on your album covers and in concerts/personal appearances?
TL: A great impact, indeed! I still get emails and letters from around the world from fans and guitarists admiring my two different Gibson Model Trini Lopez Guitars.
AG: Describe your reaction on seeing the first Trini models. Where you thrilled? Was it a long-time dream-come-true? Did you first approach the company, or did they first approach you with the offer of a signature guitar?
TL: Was I thrilled!! No one can imagine the excitement of seeing a beautiful instrument—a new Gibson guitar—let alone a new Trini Lopez Gibson guitar! To answer your question ‘was it a dream-come-true’, to be honest with you, I never dreamed I would be asked to have my own model signature guitar! And yes, Gibson approached me first with the idea.
AG: What part, if any, did your management play in the Trini-Gibson relationship?
TL: None. I was approached personally by the Gibson Corporation.
AG: Did you ever tour the Gibson factory during or before the production years of the Trini models?
TL: No, I was too busy in those days traveling and touring around the world.
AG: Did you stay in touch with any Gibson factory personnel or executives during the production years?
TL: Yes, one gentleman in particular that I stayed in touch with for many years.
AG: Trini, would you change any features on either Trini model if you had a chance to develop a new, revised model today?
TL: I would not change any features today that I originally designed for my Trini Lopez models.
In conclusion, the Trini Model Gibsons might just be a collector’s find and are ripe for a renaissance considering the instruments’ history, age, and marketing tie-ins to Trini’s records and alluring, 1960s Americana. As a singer and entertainer,
Trini has never sounded better than he sounds in the year 2002, and his rhythm guitar playing is still powerful and driving. Since some of Trini’s earliest successes were accomplished with just Trini, a bass guitar, and drums, he defined a minimalist “beat group” for years to come. Trini didn’t need an orchestra to concretize and create hit songs: his voice and his Gibson hollow body electric guitar were hisorchestra. Vintage Guitar shows would do well to feature Trini Lopez in person and on stage, playing his Trini Lopez model Gibsons. The music and personal of Trini Lopez have launched thousands of guitarists. How many times can fans see a performer who was propelled stardom in the guitar industry’s greatest period of exponential growth, the 1960s, still playing the same instruments that contributed to his earliest fame? Let’s raise a glass to toast a friend of vintage guitars and a legendary name in pop music, TRINI LOPEZ.
By Mr. Art Greenhaw, the leader of the legendary western swing outfit, The Light Crust Doughboys, considers moments of true joy to include dining on Tex-Mex food at Dallas’ Trini’s Restaurant, in the company of a beautiful, brown eyed girl (the subject of a Trini song), and then serenading her with a Trini Model Gibson plugged into an Am peg Reverb rocket amp. Art’s music and his record label artist including The Ventures’ and Nokie Edwards, can be found at www.artgreenhaw.com
NEW YORK -- A fundraising auction of music memorabilia from Jimi Hendrix , The Edge , Bono , Paul McCartney, former President Bill Clinton and others smashed expectations and brought in $2.4 million, some of which will go to a charity that replaces musical equipment lost to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"It was the best sale we've ever done," said Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien's Auctions, which ran the event benefiting Music Rising.
A red Fender Mustang guitar owned by Jimi Hendrix was sold for $480,000 after the night's most frenzied round of bidding.
Music Rising was co-founded by The Edge, joined by veteran music producer Bob Ezrin and Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of the Gibson Guitar Group, at its inception in the fall of 2005. The charity's focus on the Gulf Coast's musical heritage gained further support from a coalition of music and media industry organizations including MusiCares, the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, MTV Networks, Rolling Stone Magazine, Hard Rock International and other organizations.
During 2006, Music Rising expanded its goals beyond relief to working musicians who lost their instruments during the Gulf Coast devastation, announcing a second phase to donate instruments to schools and churches affected by the storms.
At Saturday's event, U2 rock group guitarist donated several instruments, including his favorite guitar, a 1975 Gibson Trini Lopez model that he has played for years and prominently featured on such signature U2 songs as "New Year's Day." The weathered, cream-colored instrument had been expected to bring $60,000 to $80,000, but it fetched $240,000 with a commision bringing the total to $288,000!
Bono's green Gretsch Irish Falcon electric guitar brought in $180,000, while a tenor saxophone donated by former President Bill Clinton captured $54,000.