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Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

As recording industry icon Chris Isaak introduced James "JC" Curleigh, the relatively new President and CEO of Gibson Brands, he mentioned that there was a lot of pressure living up to those initials before name-checking Jimmy Carter and Johnny Cash as examples. The more obvious comparison would be that other J.C. The gospel truth is that the storied instrument manufacturing company is undergoing a miraculous resurrection and rebirth that is being heralded in all quarters as the second coming of Gibson Brands.

Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville
James "JC" Curleigh, President and CEO of Gibson.

To celebrate the good news Gibson's Summer NAMM Jam was held at the Wildhorse Saloon Thursday, July 18, 2019. The much anticipated gala included an evening of stellar musical performances by acclaimed GRAMMY-winning and chart-topping artists along with drinks, food and fun with the Gibson team.

Central to the event was a phenomenal lineup of legends and legacies representing the Gibson sound across generations. The evening spotlighted one of Americana's most-lauded songwriters Jason Isbell in the headlining slot preceded by genre-defying show-stopper Nathaniel Rateliff, My Morning Jacket front-man Jim James, timeless crooner Chris Isaak, and country mainstays Lee Roy Parnell and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Emerging acts included Parmalee, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Travis Denning, Temecula Road, Honey County and Cassadee Pope.

Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville
Jason Isbell played a vintage Gibson at the Wildhorse Saloon.

A short film in advance of the performances opened with a snippet of AC/DCs "Back In Black" blaring away to footage showing images of the rock legends who put Gibson on the map over its grand 120-plus year history including B.B. King, Jimmy Page and electric guitar pioneer Les Paul who stamped his named on Gibson's most famous brand.

"JC" promised a night full of once in-a-lifetime collaborations and they were available in abundance. Most notable was the third crowned champion of NBC's "The Voice" Cassadee Pope pairing up with Chris Issak on his own "Foolish Game" and Roy Orbison's ample "Pretty Woman". Jason Isbell went back to his rock roots and delivered the goods courtesy of a cover of "Simple Man" played on a vintage 1959 Les Paul known as "Red Eye" that was previously owned by Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ed King.

Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville
Nathaniel Rateliff at Gibson's Summer NAMM Jam.

The proceedings were kicked off by some not-to-miss next gen talent fronted by the perky and attractive Big Machine recording artist Alanis Sophia backed by young gun guitarists Ben Goldsmith, Carter Wilkinson, Reece Malone, and Jayden Tatatiscore.

This demonstration of chops represented another newly announced initiative that over time will invite a select group of young musicians to join the new Gibson Generation Group (the "G3"). The goal of the G3 is to create a platform to nurture new eras of guitar players and propel them to the main stage. The Gibson Generation Group program is a two-year curriculum with the first G3 class due to graduate in the Summer of 2021.

In addition to working with upcoming talent the newly created Gibson Alliance gives legendary and visionary musicians across genres the opportunity to help guide the future of Gibson. Gibson Alliance artists will have a voice on product development initiatives at the recently launched Gibson Lab and the ability to introduce partners inside and out of the musical instrument industry for creative, collaborative opportunities. Gibson will support important projects for Alliance artists, fund charitable initiatives, as well as contribute to programs that help the community through the Gibson Foundation. Alliance artists will identify and actively support emerging, young generations of new players across all demographics.

Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville
Scenes from Gibson's Summer NAMM Jam.

Over at Music City Center where Summer Namm 2019 was underway we spoke to several retailers who agreed that Gibson was back in a big way and many told us they can't keep the new line of guitars in stock because the re-imagined six strings are flying out the door. Even more impressive was the dominant and centrally-located Gibson Brands booth at the convention hall that featured dozens of colorful electric and acoustic guitars along with a stylish and functional concert stage that showcased national acts and the iconic guitars.

This was no last supper, either! Gibson's Summer NAMM Jam spared no expense and offered extensive food and liquor service from a friendly and attentive wait staff over the course of the three-hour extravaganza that was held for media and VIP members of the industry in town for the popular annual event in Nashville. The Wildhorse dinner menu was first rate all around with chopped brisket, broiled shrimp paired with a mac & cheese and biscuit bar leading the way. Appetizers were abundant followed by a sumptuous pie and pudding cart for dessert. Let's just say the generous party struck a chord with all in attendance.

More tasty news emerged in the announcement that Gibson is only just getting started in Nashville as they stage for future growth. The iconic guitar-maker announced their intentions for their new global headquarters to be located at Cummins Station, a historic property in the heart of downtown. For the past 30 years, Gibson's headquarters has been located on the outskirts of Nashville proper. Gibson plans to expand into their new HQ by the end of 2019 and states it will be home to 100+ employees. The new leadership at Gibson is focused on setting the best conditions for success for both the team and the business.

Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville
Scenes from Gibson's Summer NAMM Jam.

The choice of selecting an iconic venue that has modern work amenities and is located in the center of Nashville supports that focus. The unique property near Union Station will allow the Gibson HQ to function with improved workspace functionality and flow, including expansion options for the future. There will also be the opportunity to create guitar showrooms for artists and more options to showcase the iconic Gibson brand and story to the public in the heart of the music community.

"I'm proud of the progress we have made re-building Gibson and I'm excited to move our new Headquarters to the heart of Nashville," said Curleigh. "Cummins Station is the perfect choice for our expansion needs, our cultural evolution and our connection to Nashville, Music City U.S.A."

With "JC" at the helm Gibson Brands are back in a big way in Nashville, Tennessee and that message is quickly spreading around the globe. With the critically-acclaimed release of its revamped classic and modern line of guitars earlier in the year at the Winter NAMM show in Los Angeles the iconic guitar centric company has put the world on notice that they are once again the class of the industry. Their amazing and committed efforts to emerge from a difficult few years has culminated in restored faith in the brand by both consumer and retailers resulting in a triumphant tale that's right up there with the greatest story ever told.

Gibson Brands Are Back in a Big Way at Summer NAMM in Nashville
A look at Gibson's Summer NAMM booth at Music City Center.

Related Links: For more information on GIBSON BRANDS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Gibson Brands | Gibson Brands Get Back to Business | Summer NAMM | Wildhorse Saloon


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