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1964 Gibson Firebird III owned and played by Motown session guitarist Eddie “Chank” Willis - the sound of the Motor City heard on "Shotgun," "Bernadette," "Ain't to Proud to Beg," and more - truly a one-of-a-kind piece of history!
This is a one-of-a-kind piece of history. This 1964 Gibson Firebird III was owned and played by Motown session guitarist Eddie “Chank” Willis. He used this guitar to cut tracks for “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow,” “Second That Emotion,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Jimmy Mack,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and so many others.
When you start researching the musicians that helped cement Motown’s legacy, you see a lot of the same names over and over again. This collection of session musicians acting as Motown’s in-house band would become known as the Funk Brothers. This illustrious group of players included the likes of James Jamerson, Joe Messina, Robert White, Dennis Coffey and Eddie Willis.
Born in Grenada, Mississippi in 1936, Eddie learned to play guitar in the styles of Chet Atkins, Albert King and Wes Montgomery. After finishing school, he moved to Detroit to become part of the city’s bustling music scene. He kept busy with local gigs and session work until Motown founder Berry Gordy came calling and made him a member of the label’s house band in 1959.
Eddie would go on to play guitar on an incredible string of hits for the label, tour with The Four Tops and The Temptations and win a Grammy award for his incredible contributions to Motown. All along the way, this Gibson Firebird III was by his side acting as his weapon of choice in the studio and on tour.
The Gibson Firebird was originally released in 1963 with four different models, including the Firebird I, III, V and VII. This particular guitar features the traditional reversed body shape that made Firebirds famous and it is beautifully worn from years of use. The Firebird III employs an ebony fretboard and bound neck with block inlays that is similar to the classic 1959 Gibson neck profile.
Typically, Firebird IIIs only have two pickups, but this particular guitar is outfitted with three. Eddie Willis added the third pickup and it is a period-correct Firebird pickup. In addition, he also outfitted the guitar with phase reverse and coil tapping switches. The original Maestro Vibrola sidearm unit did break at some point and Eddie replaced it with an era-correct wrapped tailpiece.
This 1964 Gibson Firebird III comes with the original case used by Eddie Willis. The case itself is an incredible time capsule as it features backstage passes and stickers from many of the Four Tops and Temptations tours that he played on. Also included with the guitar and case is a photo of Eddie and a letter of authenticity signed by the guitarist from when he originally sold the guitar. In the letter, Eddie lists out the songs he played the guitar on:
|Condition||Used / Vintage|
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