Vintage Vibes | 1958 Gibson ES-355 Prototype

How Did CME Get Kenny Hough’s 1958 Gibson ES-355?

Yes, you read that year, make, and model right—and, no, it’s not a typo! Among the many awesome unlisted vintage and used instruments at CME, we’re parting at long last with one of our most prized possessions—and one of the coolest guitars we’ve ever had in our stash!

If you’re a Gibson guitar lover, you probably already know that Ted McCarty’s category-defining double-cutaway ES-335 design didn’t hit the market until 1958, only to be followed in 1959 with releases of the semi-hollowbody designs “upgraded” ES-345 model, featuring w/ stereo output and Varitone switch, as well as the top-of-the-line ES-355 model options—not to mention, the fully hollow, P-90 pickup–equipped variant on the ES-335’s signature thinline double-cutaway design w/ the ES-330, which also debuted in 1959.

10.18.23 - Gibson ES-355 1958 Cherry - U3616479501-13.jpg__PID:b7005994-16b5-4dbe-a1d9-b0cb18ccca9d
10.18.23 - Gibson ES-355 1958 Cherry - U3616479501-07.jpg__PID:328e5af5-008f-4700-9994-16b58dbe21d9

To get the full story of how this 1958 Gibson ES-355 came to be, you’d have to know a little bit about the man who first owned it. So, keep reading to find out how this ES-355’s original owner first got it into his hands and kept it as his prized possession for the next six decades!

10.18.23 - Gibson ES-355 1958 Cherry - U3616479501-01.jpg__PID:8ae865d0-fb05-4c32-8e5a-f5008fb70059
10.18.23 - Gibson ES-355 1958 Cherry - U3616479501-08.jpg__PID:8e5af500-8fb7-4059-9416-b58dbe21d9b0
10.18.23 - Gibson ES-355 1958 Cherry - U3616479501-11.jpg__PID:f5008fb7-0059-4416-b58d-be21d9b0cb18

Who Is KWH?

If you look closely at the photos we took of the 1958 Gibson ES-355 before CME safely delivered it into the hands of its next rightful owner, you’ll see the initials of this historic instrument’s original owner—Kenny W. Hough—on the body.

So, who is Kenny Hough? Well, included among the case candy in the pocket of this guitar are two newspaper articles written about Kenny Hough from over a decade ago, not long after he’d had the guitar appraised.

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Reading these articles gave us all a sense of just how relatable—maybe archetypal (or even prototypical?)—Hough’s story was. So, here’s a brief summary:

  • Kenny Hough started playing guitar while a junior in high school, playing in a band with his best friend—and eventual brother-in-law—until he graduated from Findlay High School (in Ohio) in 1950.
  • Not long after high school graduation, Hough enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and took his guitar hobby along with him throughout his service on the U.S.S. Mount Olympus, where he gained a reputation for his guitar prowess among the sailors, eventually buying his first Gibson for $50 from a retiring serviceman who was then getting discharged.
  • Kenny Hough got married soon after he was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1955, and he began work as a machine attendant at the RCA Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio, where he would work for the next two decades.
  • Meanwhile, alongside work at his new job and starting a family, Hough gigged with his new band, known as the Happy Rhythm Boys, playing low-key events and private parties, and also frequently performing on Saturday regional/local morning radio broadcasts.
  • While visiting the Grand Ole Opry with his wife in Nashville, Hough “got discovered” while fiddling on guitar in a Nashville music store by a full-time booking agent, Henry Ade, who hired Hough to start traveling 2-3 weekends per month, gigging as a backup guitarist for some of the Grand Ole Opry’s biggest stars, among them Loretta Lynn, Don Gibson, and Carl Perkins—the last of whom even tried to buy Hough’s beloved 1958 Gibson ES-355, which Hough (of course) refused!

How Did KWH Acquire His Prototype 1958 Gibson ES-355?

Although Hough knew his guitar was special, it wasn’t until he had it appraised more than a half-century after he purchased it that he found out just how special it is.

What happened was this: Hough, then already a locally-known guitar player with his band the Happy Rhythm Boys, was visiting his local music store, where a Gibson salesman was hanging out at the shop with one of just three prototype ES-355 models known to exist at that time—none of which were ever supposed to have left the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo—presumably hoping to get Gibson customer impressions and feedback.

And, since Hough was already a longtime Gibson guitar fan and a talented, gigging semi-professional guitarist, he got to talking with the salesman, who allowed Hough to take home the prototype ES-355 model and play it some more.

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Now, here’s the mystery: Hough took the guitar home for a month or so, played it, and brought it back to the shop, unable to afford the hefty price tag (even for the time) of $860. Still, he offered his suggestions to the Gibson salesman for what he would do to change the original prototype model if he were to purchase the guitar.

So, the salesman brought the 1958 Gibson ES-355 prototype back to the factory, implemented Hough’s suggested changes—none of which were documented—and brought it back to the music store a month later.

Although Hough still couldn’t afford to buy the guitar, his wife Kay saw how much he loved playing it, took out a loan, and gave Hough the prototype Gibson ES-355 as a Christmas gift—which, with Hough’s changes, became the model for the top-tier ES-355 models released the following year.

Still, the question remains—what changes did Kenny Hough suggest? We may never know. What we do know is that Kenny Hough was one of the only guitar players in possession of any Gibson ES-355 for the first year he played it in 1958 with his band, the Happy Rhythm Boys—and still, this particular model remains one of the most playable vintage guitars we’ve ever had in our CME vintage and used instrument collection!

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SHOP VINTAGE & USED GEAR

Stay tuned for more stories about all the awesome guitars in our CME vintage and used instrument collection, and check out our past Vintage Vibes stories on the CME Soundboard Blog!

SHOP GIBSON GUITAR ARRIVALS

Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware
Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware

Gibson Modern SG Modern Ebony w/Gold Hardware

$ 29,545.00
Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
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Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
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Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
Gibson Custom Shop 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
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Gibson GA30RVS 30-Watt 2x12
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Gibson Custom '58 Les Paul Standard Reissue Black 2016
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Gibson Custom '58 Les Paul Standard Reissue Black 2016
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Gibson Custom '58 Les Paul Standard Reissue Black 2016
Gibson Custom '58 Les Paul Standard Reissue Black 2016
Gibson Custom '58 Les Paul Standard Reissue Black 2016
Gibson Custom '58 Les Paul Standard Reissue Black 2016
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