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James Curleigh - Honeymoon is over.
Old 31st May 2019
  #1
Lives for gear
James Curleigh - Honeymoon is over.

EDIT as of July: Gibson is building me a new guitar. Seems like there is a change a Gibson. I like the new new phone message, which is something along the lines of "Gibson, The best Guitar in the world". I like that - it gives employees a target of excellence to work by. I do want to see Gibson do well. Excellence is recognized by the customers and we WILL reward you for that.



James Curleigh, I think the honeymoon is over and I am personally still seeing a Gibson that does NOT put out CONSISTENT quality Acoustic instruments. Are you going to fix this? Why is it that Martin puts out consistent instruments but Gibson is inconsistent. The answer is simply management taking responsibility.

I ordered two SJ-200's. Two, due to returning, because both were sub par and never should have made it to a retailer. One had a wavy fretboard at the body and the other one the neck was set into the body off center. My guitar tech muttered, "maybe Gibson can't build guitars anymore".

I figured, OK, I will call Gibson and ask them to repair the new flagship instrument. Gibson told me they would only replace with another model of like kind. Unfortunately, there is no model of like kind to it being made. Sure, I get it that it is far more cost effective to replace rather than fix a serious guitar issue. Maybe, they will make me a new one that comes up to the par of this one. We will see.

This is your top of the line acoustic product and the company policy is to not fix the issues and just try to provide another instrument. Is the bad guitar sold to another guy who can live with the sub par workmanship? Or is the bad guitar thrown away wasting premium wood and shell materials?

Honestly, for some reason Gibson gets away with this --- most people would totally trash a new guitar company with this sort of QC and remedy. People really had a lot of hope with James. I will post what happens with sending the guitar back and see if Gibson is really getting it's act together like we all are hoping for.

Last edited by piano; 8th July 2019 at 07:31 AM..
Old 3rd June 2019
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

I've owned several Gibson's including 2008 LP built in the heyday of the Henry era, a Nolin era LP Deluxe and a 1971 es-335. I've never had quality issue with any of them. Other than having to get a good setup (and cleanup several fret nibs) on the '08 it has been perfect. Contrast to my new in 92 Strat which would snap strings just looking at it. Turns out to have had a bad bridge which Fender replaced for free. Also, my 86 Martin D-28 that has a visibly crooked tuner. I hear these stories about Gibson all the time on this forum and others - apparently I've been lucky!
Old 6th June 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
To be fair, I own a Henry era 59 Les Paul and a Supreme. Both guitars are well done. Of course both were very expensive and I would expect that.

This was two SJ-200's in a row I ordered that were not fit to leave the factory.
Old 7th June 2019
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Definitely time to move on from Curleigh. He's had 7 months to fix Jusk running the company into the ground.
Old 20th June 2019
  #5
Lives for gear
I have sent the 2nd bad SJ-200 back to the factory. It was not cheap - well over $100 in shipping Continental US.

I was told today it would be up to six weeks before they resolve the fix or what ever they decide to do. That seems like quite a bit of time to me - but that may be an over estimate to give them a cushion.

I will continue to report what happens. If good I will be happy to report a good outcome! I am hoping to see a turn around for the company.
Old 20th June 2019
  #6
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bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
James Curleigh, I think the honeymoon is over and I am personally still seeing a Gibson that does NOT put out CONSISTENT quality Acoustic instruments. Are you going to fix this? Why is it that Martin puts out consistent instruments but Gibson is inconsistent. The answer is simply management taking responsibility.

I ordered two SJ-200's. Two, due to returning, because both were sub par and never should have made it to a retailer. One had a wavy fretboard at the body and the other one the neck was set into the body off center. My guitar tech muttered, "maybe Gibson can't build guitars anymore".

I figured, OK, I will call Gibson and ask them to repair the new flagship instrument. Gibson told me they would only replace with another model of like kind. Unfortunately, there is no model of like kind to it being made. Sure, I get it that it is far more cost effective to replace rather than fix a serious guitar issue. Maybe, they will make me a new one that comes up to the par of this one. We will see.

This is your top of the line acoustic product and the company policy is to not fix the issues and just try to provide another instrument. Is the bad guitar sold to another guy who can live with the sub par workmanship? Or is the bad guitar thrown away wasting premium wood and shell materials?

Honestly, for some reason Gibson gets away with this --- most people would totally trash a new guitar company with this sort of QC and remedy. People really had a lot of hope with James. I will post what happens with sending the guitar back and see if Gibson is really getting it's act together like we all are hoping for.
Did you order these online?
Old 21st June 2019
  #7
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgood View Post
Did you order these online?
I did indeed order online. There is not a store anywhere near my area that carries these guitars. Yes, it sure would have been nice to try them in person to scope out problems.

I asked the dealer to scope them out for me....
Old 21st June 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
Email return is poor at Gibson. I've have several unreturned emails.

After I sent the NEW guitar in for corrections, I was told it would take up to 6-8 weeks to get it corrected.

I also asked for Curleigh's email (nothing there yet). I would like the Gibson CEO to know what sort of experience it's high end customers are having. If you want to pull the company out of financial mud, you have to know what to correct - and you do that by listening to it's customers. I just do not see that happening at the moment.
Old 21st June 2019
  #9
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

Probably an unpopular opinion, but Gibson hasn't made quality acoustic instruments since the 50's...
Old 22nd June 2019
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bstapper View Post
Probably an unpopular opinion, but Gibson hasn't made quality acoustic instruments since the 50's...
Nah! Mid-60s.
Old 25th June 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin Karlsson View Post
Definitely time to move on from Curleigh. He's had 7 months to fix Jusk running the company into the ground.
This is the only post you have made?

The point is James Curleigh needs to actually listen to it's customers. Is there any way for a well meaning customer like me to contact him - no. Guitar customers know a lot more about the product than people who wear Levis. A NEW flagship SJ-200 guitar, that never should have left the factory with poor workmanship, should not have to sit at Gibson waiting a six weeks - two months to be replaced or corrected. A large part of stabilizing revenue is improving the perception of it's customers and that is done with good old fashioned quality and service. Customers are smart; it's safe to assume guitar buyers are smarter (as in we are very guitar savvy and appreciate good service and products). I want to see Gibson return to a high level. In many caases it has but this situation is not good.
Old 25th June 2019
  #12
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
This is the only post you have made?

The point is James Curleigh needs to actually listen to it's customers. Is there any way for a well meaning customer like me to contact him - no. Guitar customers know a lot more about the product than people who wear Levis. A NEW flagship SJ-200 guitar, that never should have left the factory with poor workmanship, should not have to sit at Gibson waiting a month - six weeks to be corrected. A large part of stabilizing revenue is improving the perception of it's customers and that is done with good old fashioned quality and service. Customers are smart; it's safe to assume guitar buyers are smarter.
I don't know that he can do much unless he can change Henry J's Harvard business school training that the hourly employees who do most of the work on an instrument are an undesirable "cost" and you should get them cheap as possible, turn them over quickly, and put them on the line as soon as they start work.

Remember that this was a guy who moved production from Michigan to the South because of the "economic advantages" i.e., explicitly so he could avoid the employee union, environmental and safety regulations, and higher wage and benefit expectations.

If you're making low-margin plastic nick-nacks, that may makes sense, but it's very hard to maintain production of a purportedly high quality musical instrument made of variable materiel and with a lot of hand work without experienced labor.
Old 26th June 2019
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
I don't know that he can do much unless he can change Henry J's Harvard business school training that the hourly employees who do most of the work on an instrument are an undesirable "cost" and you should get them cheap as possible, turn them over quickly, and put them on the line as soon as they start work.

Remember that this was a guy who moved production from Michigan to the South because of the "economic advantages" i.e., explicitly so he could avoid the employee union, environmental and safety regulations, and higher wage and benefit expectations.

If you're making low-margin plastic nick-nacks, that may makes sense, but it's very hard to maintain production of a purportedly high quality musical instrument made of variable materiel and with a lot of hand work without experienced labor.
I'm afraid you're a bit behind the times. Henry J has been gone for over 7 months. We now have James Curleigh, an "investor" who has vast experience - manufacturing Levis.

We now have Curleigh's business school training to deal/put up with. It appears to be not much different than Henry's.
Old 27th June 2019
  #14
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
I'm afraid you're a bit behind the times. Henry J has been gone for over 7 months. We now have James Curleigh, an "investor" who has vast experience - manufacturing Levis.

We now have Curleigh's business school training to deal/put up with. It appears to be not much different than Henry's.
Hey...a lot of guitarists WEAR Levis. Maybe that will make it OK Otherwise, I guess wait for the denim finish Les Paul.
Old 27th June 2019
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
telegramsam's Avatar
 

I've seen a few interviews with James Curleigh. It kind of annoys me that he goes by "JC". Also none of the interviewers asked him if he actually played guitar, which seemed a bit strange, considering that would be my first question.
Old 28th June 2019
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by telegramsam View Post
I've seen a few interviews with James Curleigh. It kind of annoys me that he goes by "JC". Also none of the interviewers asked him if he actually played guitar, which seemed a bit strange, considering that would be my first question.
He does, this was made pretty clear when he was first appointed... I guess they feel it's meant to be common knowledge now.
Old 29th June 2019
  #17
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Moonwhistle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
Why is it that Martin puts out consistent instruments but Gibson is inconsistent.
They don't. My D28 is proof of that.
Old 29th June 2019
  #18
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonwhistle View Post
They don't. My D28 is proof of that.
Those formica guitars are consistent though. Can cut onions on those things...
Old 29th June 2019
  #19
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Don't know a lot about this topic regarding management changes at Gibson, but it seems to me that buying guitars that you don't get a chance to actually play first has always been difficult.


Best,

audioforce
Old 22nd July 2019
  #20
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
I don't know that he can do much unless he can change Henry J's Harvard business school training that the hourly employees who do most of the work on an instrument are an undesirable "cost" and you should get them cheap as possible, turn them over quickly, and put them on the line as soon as they start work.

Remember that this was a guy who moved production from Michigan to the South because of the "economic advantages" i.e., explicitly so he could avoid the employee union, environmental and safety regulations, and higher wage and benefit expectations.

If you're making low-margin plastic nick-nacks, that may makes sense, but it's very hard to maintain production of a purportedly high quality musical instrument made of variable materiel and with a lot of hand work without experienced labor.
I actaully have a lot of respect for Henry J.

Cost of labor DIRECTLY affects price of the instruments. All those union and regulations can kill a company. One of the major complaints of Gibson is the price is too high.

I love that he moved it to another cheaper State in the USA to keep it cost effective. High tax and big union labor states have deserved to have companies leave thier states for more favorable states.
Old 22nd July 2019
  #21
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
I actaully have a lot of respect for Henry J.

Cost of labor DIRECTLY affects price of the instruments. All those union and regulations can kill a company. One of the major complaints of Gibson is the price is too high.

I love that he moved it to another cheaper State in the USA to keep it cost effective. High tax and big union labor states have deserved to have companies leave thier states for more favorable states.
I remember Gibsons being comparably priced to other US brands of equal quality when they were made in that "High tax and big union labor state."

Now the guitars are comparatively more expensive than ever, and of very variable quality.
Old 22nd July 2019
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
I actaully have a lot of respect for Henry J.

Cost of labor DIRECTLY affects price of the instruments. All those union and regulations can kill a company. One of the major complaints of Gibson is the price is too high.

I love that he moved it to another cheaper State in the USA to keep it cost effective. High tax and big union labor states have deserved to have companies leave thier states for more favorable states.
You know what's even more cost effective - moving production into a whole other country ! Less regulations, no pesky unions, lower wages, lower safety standards - yay capitalism !
Old 22nd July 2019
  #23
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

That's the problem with the whole short term gain gameplan. It only lasts so long and if you are an investor you better be at the tip of the pyramid...
Old 23rd July 2019
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by piano View Post
I actaully have a lot of respect for Henry J.

Cost of labor DIRECTLY affects price of the instruments. All those union and regulations can kill a company. One of the major complaints of Gibson is the price is too high.

I love that he moved it to another cheaper State in the USA to keep it cost effective. High tax and big union labor states have deserved to have companies leave thier states for more favorable states.
He abandoned all the original craftsmen when he movbed to a cheaper state. That was the most idiotic move he could have made besides trying to position Gibson as a "lifestyles" company with a whole lot of subsidiaries that he picked up for what he thought were cheap because he didn't understand that those companies no longer had a market.

As to "cost of labor" - he raised prices way higher than necessary - much higher than the competition - while cutting quality to the bone. I've seen Chibsons that were better made (on the woodworking side) than a lot of Gibsons.

The problem was that Henry was not a real guitar guy. Neither is Curleigh. The problem continues.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 24th July 2019 at 01:45 AM..
Old 24th July 2019
  #25
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

So economic theorists, riddle me this:

The '59 Gibson price list shows the Les Paul as retailing at $265 without case. The 1960 Fender price list shows a non-custom color Strat retailing for $259.

Fender are still making guitars in the "high-tax high wage union state " of California.

Gibson moved to the low tax low wage non-union south.

So shouldn't an American made Les Paul reasonably similar to the 59 model cost substantially less than an American made Strat reasonably similar to the 59 model?


(Strangely , the Les Paul case was listed at $47 in '59, which is about $400 today!)
Old 24th July 2019
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
So economic theorists, riddle me this:

The '59 Gibson price list shows the Les Paul as retailing at $265 without case. The 1960 Fender price list shows a non-custom color Strat retailing for $259.

Fender are still making guitars in the "high-tax high wage union state " of California.

Gibson moved to the low tax low wage non-union south.

So shouldn't an American made Les Paul reasonably similar to the 59 model cost substantially less than an American made Strat reasonably similar to the 59 model?


(Strangely , the Les Paul case was listed at $47 in '59, which is about $400 today!)
If you believe Gibson's corporate BS that would appear to follow. The problem with Gibson is that they have a huge debt load left over from Henry's idiocy and the new owners expect to make money off their "premium" guitars. Which is kind of a double whammy. Gibson's high prices mean lower sales - which nullifies any additional per-guitar profit.
Old 25th July 2019
  #27
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
So economic theorists, riddle me this:

The '59 Gibson price list shows the Les Paul as retailing at $265 without case. The 1960 Fender price list shows a non-custom color Strat retailing for $259.

Fender are still making guitars in the "high-tax high wage union state " of California.

Gibson moved to the low tax low wage non-union south.

So shouldn't an American made Les Paul reasonably similar to the 59 model cost substantially less than an American made Strat reasonably similar to the 59 model?


(Strangely , the Les Paul case was listed at $47 in '59, which is about $400 today!)
You cannot make price comparisons vs cost like this. A company that knows what it is doing will price according to what the market will bear, not what it costs to make it. Was Gibson successful in 1959 with the Les Paul? No. They could have been losing money at the price they sold them for all we know. (And they had trouble selling them at that price)
Old 25th July 2019
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffw5555 View Post
You cannot make price comparisons vs cost like this. A company that knows what it is doing will price according to what the market will bear, not what it costs to make it. Was Gibson successful in 1959 with the Les Paul? No. They could have been losing money at the price they sold them for all we know. (And they had trouble selling them at that price)
Hardly. Costs of materials, labor, rent, utilities all were much cheaper in 1959. The dollar was worth much more - $100 in 1959 was worth what $880.22 is worth now. In 1959 the inflation rate was .69%; now it is 1.65%.

If you do the math a Strat sells for about what it did in 1959. A Les Paul in considerably more expensive, but Gibson was hardly hurting in 1959, either. However their main market at that time was not solid body electric guitars, it was flat top acoustics and jazz boxes (not all of which were used for jazz, most rockabilly and country players played jazz boxes back then.)

Incidentally, moving the factory from Kalamazoo to Nashville was a pretty boneheaded move - the economy in Michigan has been pretty bad since the US auto business around Detroit tanked in the late 20th century. I doubt they really saved much of anything.
Old 25th July 2019
  #29
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Hardly. Costs of materials, labor, rent, utilities all were much cheaper in 1959. The dollar was worth much more - $100 in 1959 was worth what $880.22 is worth now. In 1959 the inflation rate was .69%; now it is 1.65%.

If you do the math a Strat sells for about what it did in 1959. A Les Paul in considerably more expensive, but Gibson was hardly hurting in 1959, either. However their main market at that time was not solid body electric guitars, it was flat top acoustics and jazz boxes (not all of which were used for jazz, most rockabilly and country players played jazz boxes back then.)

Incidentally, moving the factory from Kalamazoo to Nashville was a pretty boneheaded move - the economy in Michigan has been pretty bad since the US auto business around Detroit tanked in the late 20th century. I doubt they really saved much of anything.
I don't think you got what I was trying to say, maybe I didn't say it very well.

To maybe put it another way, the cost to make something has no bearing on what it should sell for. (just because the Les Paul and the Strat in 1959 were priced similarly doesn't mean they cost the same to make.)

Gibson made 34,000 guitars in 1959. Les Pauls accounted for 7,800, but 4,300 of them were Juniors and 1,800 of them were Specials. Only about 600 bursts were made, and they didn't sell well. Dealers still had new bursts on the shelves until the early to mid 60's.

Another way of looking at it. A 59 strat could have cost $75 to make, a 59 Les Paul could have cost $225 to make. We don't know any of this data so you cannot draw any conclusions relative to selling price of either instrument.

I don't agree with your move conclusion. Michigan is still a higher cost state to make things in relation to Tennessee. The move was probably one the least significant issues with the modern Gibson. Trying to diversify probably the biggest gaffe.
Old 25th July 2019
  #30
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffw5555 View Post
You cannot make price comparisons vs cost like this. A company that knows what it is doing will price according to what the market will bear,
You can certainly make them, although their utility can be disputed. Not many companies sell things at a loss for long, however (unless they are trying to drive others from the markets in a classic unfair trade practices situation)

To some degree, the market pricing was my point, however. I think their continuing aggressive market probing is turning a lot of potential customers off. When an apparently identical Firebird is $1500 one year, then $2,300 the next, or a 335 goes up by $600 in one year it is obvious what they are doing, and I don't think people like it much. Business school teaching to the contrary, the consumers of Gibson guitars are somewhat more sophisticated than consumers of plastic widgets or breakfast cereal. They company appears to have alienated a large part of their potential customer base by constant price probing like this.

Further, it's hard to sustain both the "this is a high quality American product, the gold standard of guitars " pitch out of one side of the mouth, and the " but to get one that was as good as our old standard factory production used to be, you need to buy a $6,500 R series" out of the other. The message it sends to young players is that "we can't make (and therefore you can't get) a top quality Les Paul for under $6,500."

I own four Gibsons, (2 X Les Pauls, a 335 and a Blueshawk), but I'm 60 years old, and grew up with the Gibson reputation. I'm not by any means, a Gibson hater. But I think there is something about about what the company has become that has turned a lot of customers off. None of the younger bands I run sound for are using Les Pauls or even SG's or even seem to aspire to them. They are using practically everything else, however. I ran an eight band festival last weekend, and the only Gibsons in sight were in the oldest band on the bill..

Jimmy Page and Billy Gibbons and the other famous Les Paul payers won't last much longer, and I don't see Joe Bonamassa inspiring a generation of young folks. the average age at one of his shows looks to be about 50.

I think they are going to have to re-develop a reputation by offering good guitars at fair prices, rather than expecting the brand name to cover all sins and mark-ups. When I look at the "Gibson Brands" fiasco, however, it does make me wonder how many people in the modern company were ever interested in making guitars, as opposed to "the compelling business case and opportunity presented by an under-valued brand name?"
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