The History and Evolution of ES-335 in Country Music

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Introduction: The Birth of the ES-335

Introduction: The Birth Of The Es-335
When discussing the history and evolution of the ES-335 in country music, it is important to understand the roots of this iconic instrument. The ES-335, first introduced by Gibson in 1958, was a revolutionary guitar that combined the rich tone and sustain of a solid body guitar with the warmth and resonance of a hollow body. This hybrid design quickly caught the attention of professional musicians across different genres.

The ES-335 became a popular choice for country music due to its ability to produce a wide range of tones suitable for the genre. The guitar’s double cutaway body design allowed for easy access to the higher frets, making it a great choice for lead guitarists. Additionally, the ES-335’s semi-hollow construction gave it a natural reverb, which provided a warm and full sound that was perfect for rhythm guitar.

As country music evolved throughout the years, so did the ES-335. The guitar went through several changes and upgrades, including different pickups, finishes, and hardware. Despite these changes, the ES-335 has maintained its signature sound and continues to be a staple in country music today.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the ways in which the ES-335 has made its mark on the country music scene throughout the years, including the popular artists who have played it and why it remains a top choice for country guitarists. For more information on choosing the perfect ES-335 for country music, check out our guide on how to choose the right ES-335 for country music.

The Early Days of Country Music with the ES-335

The Early Days Of Country Music With The Es-335
When it comes to the history of country music, the ES-335 has played a significant role in shaping the genre. The versatile electric guitar was introduced by Gibson in 1958, and quickly found its way into the hands of some of the greatest country musicians of all time. Its unique sound and design made it a popular choice among artists looking to blend the sounds of country, blues, and jazz. In this section, we will take a closer look at the early days of country music with the ES-335, including its use in classic country hits and by popular country artists. For a list of the top 5 ES-335 players in country music, check out our previous article.

ES-335 in Classic Country Hits

The ES-335 guitar made its way into the country music scene in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and quickly became a staple in classic country hits. Its unique sound, versatile tone, and comfortable playing experience were a perfect match for the genre’s diverse styles of music.

Here are some of the most iconic classic country hits featuring the ES-335:

Song Title Artist Year
Crazy Patsy Cline 1961
The Devil Went Down to Georgia Charlie Daniels Band 1979
Heartaches by the Number Ray Price 1959
Mama Tried Merle Haggard 1968
Rhinestone Cowboy Glen Campbell 1975

These classics were made possible in part due to the ES-335’s semi-hollow body design, which allowed for more resonance and sustain than solid body guitars. The guitar’s unique tone controls and humbucking pickups allowed musicians to achieve a warm, full-bodied sound that perfectly complemented the twangy tones often associated with country music.

Interestingly, one of the most well-known ES-335 country hits, “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, was not actually played on an ES-335, but rather a Telecaster. However, the ES-335 is still a popular choice among country guitarists today for its versatility and range of tonal options.

The ES-335’s contribution to classic country music cannot be overstated. Its warm, rich sound and comfortable playing experience made it a beloved tool of country musicians for generations to come. For more information on the sound of the ES-335 in country music, check out this article on ES-335 country music sound.

Popular Country Artists Who Played the ES-335

Country music legends like Chet Atkins, Merle Haggard, and Emmylou Harris were notable ES-335 players throughout their careers. Chet Atkins’ finger-style guitar playing was particularly well-suited to the ES-335’s versatile tone, as showcased on hits like “Yakety Axe” and “Mr. Sandman”. Merle Haggard’s twangy Telecaster sound may be more associated with his music, but he also frequently played an ES-335 on songs such as “Workin’ Man Blues” and “Always Wanting You”. Emmylou Harris, known for her angelic voice and heartfelt ballads, often played an ES-335 in live performances and recordings, including on her song “Beneath Still Waters”. Other popular country artists who played the ES-335 include Vince Gill, Glen Campbell, and Marty Stuart.

The versatility of the ES-335 made it a popular choice for country guitarists, allowing them to achieve a range of sounds and styles. In the words of Chet Atkins himself, “The ES-335 is a wonderful-sounding guitar that is very versatile—you can get a good country sound, a good jazz sound, and a good rock sound out of it.” Its signature semi-hollow body design and high-quality pickups made it a favorite of musicians across musical genres.

But the ES-335 was not the only guitar favored by country musicians. Some, such as Brad Paisley, have also used Telecasters in their music. To learn more about the differences between the ES-335 and Telecaster in country music, check out our article on ES-335 vs Telecaster: Which is better for Country Music?

The ES-335 in the ’80s and ’90s

The Es-335 In The '80S And '90S
As the country music genre continued to evolve, so did the role of the ES-335 guitar. In the ’80s and ’90s, musicians pushed the limits of traditional country and experimented with new sounds, all while utilizing the versatile tool that is the ES-335. From electric twang to smooth ballads, artists during this period proved that the ES-335 was a crucial component in shaping the sound of country music. Let’s take a closer look at some of the innovative styles and notable players that emerged during this time.

Innovative Styles of Country with the ES-335

During the ’80s and ’90s, country music saw a rise in experimentation and fusion with other genres, and the ES-335 was no stranger to this evolution. From the traditional twangy sound to the contemporary electric tones, the ES-335 proved to be a versatile tool for innovative styles of country.

Rockabilly: The rockabilly movement combined country and rock and roll, and the ES-335 became a staple instrument for this style. Rockabilly artists like Brian Setzer and Carl Perkins were known for their dazzling guitar solos and fast-paced rhythms, achieved by the iconic semi-hollow body design of the ES-335.

New Traditionalism: In the late ’80s, country music saw a revival of traditional country sounds, dubbed the “New Traditionalism.” Although this genre was a throwback to classic country, its sound was updated with modern techniques and instruments, including the ES-335. Artists like Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart were known for their use of the ES-335 in their modernized traditional sound.

Alt-Country: The alternative country movement emerged in the ’90s and brought a new, edgier style to country music. ES-335 players like Son Volt’s Dave Boquist and Wilco’s Nels Cline used the guitar’s versatility to achieve a unique sound that blended punk, rock, and country influences.

The ES-335 played an important role in the evolution of country music during the ’80s and ’90s. Its versatile sound and unique design allowed for experimentation with various styles, from traditional to modern to alternative. The ES-335 proved to be a valuable tool for artists who wanted to push the boundaries of what country music could sound like.

Notable ES-335 Users in ’80s and ’90s Country Music

During the ’80s and ’90s, the ES-335 was still a popular choice among country musicians. With its versatile sound and comfortable playability, it was a go-to option for many guitarists in the genre. Here are some notable ES-335 users in ’80s and ’90s country music:

  • Chet Atkins – Known as “Mr. Guitar,” Chet Atkins was a legendary country guitarist who played a significant role in the development of the Nashville sound. He often played an ES-335 in his later career, which can be heard on his albums like “Read My Licks” and “Almost Alone.”
  • Albert Lee – Albert Lee is a British guitarist who gained fame for his work with Eric Clapton and the Everly Brothers. However, he also made a name for himself in country music, becoming a sought-after session player in Nashville. He used an ES-335 extensively, particularly on his solo albums like “Speechless” and “Gagged But Not Bound.”
  • Marty Stuart – Marty Stuart is a country singer and guitar player who emerged in the ’80s with his traditional yet innovative sound. He often used an ES-335 on his recordings, including his hit song “Tempted.”
  • Steve Wariner – Steve Wariner is a versatile musician who can play multiple instruments, including guitar, bass, and drums. He had several hits in the ’80s and ’90s, and his use of the ES-335 can be heard on songs like “Lynda” and “I Got Dreams.”
  • Buddy Miller – Buddy Miller is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who has worked with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Robert Plant. He used an ES-335 prominently on his solo albums like “Your Love And Other Lies” and “Poison Love.”

These are just a few examples of the many talented musicians who incorporated the ES-335 into their country music in the ’80s and ’90s. With its twangy, warm tone and ability to handle both lead and rhythm parts, the ES-335 continues to be a valued tool for country guitarists.

The ES-335 Today: A Versatile Tool in Country Music

As the decades passed, the ES-335 became a favorite amongst country guitarists for its versatility and outstanding tonal quality. Today, this instrument has cemented its place as a go-to tool for country artists, offering a wide range of sounds to suit various musical styles. Its exceptional sound capabilities paired with its striking appearance make the ES-335 a valuable asset in any country musician’s arsenal. Let’s dive into the various ways this iconic instrument continues to shape the sound of country music today.

ES-335 in Modern Country Hits

The ES-335 has continued to make its mark in the modern country scene with its versatile sound and sleek design. It has become a popular choice among country guitarists looking for a guitar that can handle a variety of playing styles.

Here are some modern country hits that feature the iconic ES-335:

Song Title Artist ES-335 Player
Body Like a Back Road Sam Hunt Derek Wells
Marry Me Thomas Rhett Dan Huff
Girl Crush Little Big Town Phillip Sweet
Tequila Dan + Shay Derek Wells
H.O.L.Y. Florida Georgia Line Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard

As shown in the table above, some of the top country hits of recent years have featured the ES-335. These songs are not limited to a specific sub-genre of country music, but rather reflect the versatility of the instrument.

Derek Wells, a session guitarist in Nashville, has prominently used the ES-335 on several modern country hits, including Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” and Dan + Shay’s “Tequila”. Dan Huff, another prolific session player, has used the ES-335 on Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me.” Meanwhile, Phillip Sweet of Little Big Town has used the ES-335 on the emotional ballad “Girl Crush.”

Even popular country duo Florida Georgia Line, formed by Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, have used the ES-335 on their hit song “H.O.L.Y.”

From the smooth tones of Sam Hunt to the country-pop sound of Florida Georgia Line, the ES-335 has proven its versatility in modern country hits. As a result, it remains a go-to instrument for country guitarists looking to achieve that classic yet modern country sound.

New Generation of ES-335 Country Players

As the world of country music continues to evolve, a new generation of talented musicians are picking up the ES-335 and incorporating it into their sound. These young musicians are putting their own unique spin on the classic country sound, and the ES-335 is playing a big role in their success.

Player | Genre | Notable Work
— | — | —
Lindsay Ell | Country | “Criminal”, “I Don’t Love You”
Sam Outlaw | Americana | “Tenderheart”, “Angeleno”
Sarah Potenza | Blues/Country | “Monster”, “Road to Rome”
Daniel Donato | Country/Rock | “Sweet Tasting Tennessee”, “Luck of the Draw”
Sunny Sweeney | Country | “Lavender Blue”, “Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame”

Lindsay Ell is a rising star in country music, and she frequently plays an ES-335 in her live performances. Her hit single “Criminal” showcases her impressive guitar skills and unique sound. Sam Outlaw incorporates Americana influences into his country sound, and his album “Tenderheart” features several tracks with the ES-335. Sarah Potenza combines blues and country influences in her music, and the ES-335 adds a raw, gritty edge to her sound. Daniel Donato is known for his impressive guitar skills, and his use of the ES-335 adds a rock and roll influence to his country sound. Sunny Sweeney has been a mainstay in country music for over a decade, and her use of the ES-335 adds a classic country sound to her music.

These young musicians are proof that the ES-335 has a timeless sound that still resonates with modern audiences. They are taking the classic sound of the ES-335 and putting their own unique spin on it, creating a new sound for a new generation of country music fans. Whether playing classic country hits or innovative new styles, the ES-335 remains a versatile and essential tool for any aspiring country musician.

In Conclusion: The Timeless Sound of the ES-335 in Country Music

When it comes to country music, there are a few instruments that immediately come to mind – the acoustic guitar, the fiddle, and of course, the pedal steel. However, for over half a century, the ES-335 has been a prominent fixture in the genre as well, proving that it’s not just a rock and roll guitar.

With its smooth, warm tones and versatile capabilities, the ES-335 has remained a staple among country musicians for decades. Its rich sound has been featured on classic hits from artists like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Merle Haggard. But the guitar didn’t stay stuck in the past – innovative players throughout the ’80s and ’90s brought new life to the instrument, with players like Vince Gill and Marty Stuart making use of its vast tonal range.

Today, the ES-335 continues to show its versatility in country music. From traditional twangy sounds to more contemporary pop-influenced styles, the guitar remains a go-to for many players. Artists like Brad Paisley and Keith Urban have incorporated the iconic guitar into their live shows and studio recordings alike, leading a new generation of country players to continue the legacy of the ES-335.

When it comes down to it, the ES-335 has proven time and time again that it’s not just a guitar for a specific genre. Its timeless sound and versatile capabilities have allowed it to span decades and styles, making it a true classic in the world of music. As long as there are players looking for the perfect blend of warmth and clarity, the ES-335 will surely continue to have a place in country music and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does ES-335 stand for?

The ES-335 stands for Electric Spanish 335, which was introduced by Gibson in 1958.

2. What makes the ES-335 a unique guitar in country music?

The ES-335 has a semi-hollow body design, combining the warmth of a full-bodied acoustic with the versatility of a solid-body electric guitar. This creates a distinct tone that has become a staple in country music.

3. Who were some of the early adopters of the ES-335 in country music?

Pioneers like Hank Garland and Chet Atkins were some of the earliest adopters of the ES-335 in country music. Their innovative use of this guitar helped shape the country sound we know today.

4. What is the difference between the ES-335 and other Gibson guitars?

The ES-335 is unique because of its semi-hollow body design, which is a combination of a solid-body and hollow-body electric guitar. This produces a more versatile sound compared to solid-body electric guitars.

5. What are some of the most iconic country songs that feature the ES-335?

Songs like “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and “El Paso” by Marty Robbins feature the distinct sound of the ES-335. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band is another classic country hit that showcases the versatility of this guitar.

6. What are some of the modern country hits that feature the ES-335?

Artists like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley continue to use the ES-335 in their music. Hits like “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and “River Bank” feature the rich and versatile tones of this guitar.

7. Can the ES-335 be used in genres other than country music?

Definitely! The versatility of the ES-335 makes it a popular choice in genres like blues, jazz, and rock. Its unique sound has also made appearances in hip hop and pop music recordings.

8. What are some of the different styles of play that the ES-335 can handle?

The ES-335 is known for its ability to handle a wide variety of playing styles, including fingerpicking, flatpicking, and slide guitar.

9. How has the ES-335 evolved since its introduction in 1958?

The ES-335 has undergone several design changes over the decades, including variations in hardware, pickups, and finishes. However, it has remained a favorite among guitarists and has managed to maintain its iconic sound.

10. How can someone choose an ES-335 that suits their needs?

Choosing an ES-335 involves considering a few key factors, such as the type of sound you want, your playing style, and your budget. It’s always a good idea to try out different models and pick the one that feels the most comfortable and sounds the best to you.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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