Heritage Guitars

Heritage Guitars are having a resurgence in building the highest quality electric guitars in the infamous Gibson factory, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Heritage factory has a soul and vibe that you cannot just create on your own. This culture was created by Orville Gibson, who arrived in Kalamazoo in the late 1800's to start the Gibson guitar brand. Gibson flourished in the early to mid-1900's and then closed the Kalamazoo factory in 1984. In the Spring of 1985 several key employees from the Gibson era purchased the guitar manufacturing facility and started Heritage Guitar. In recent years, Heritage has continued to improve their lineup and is delivering incredible USA manufactured instruments for less than $3,000.

About Heritage Guitars

In the late 1800s, Kalamazoo, Michigan was a popular destination for wealthy Yankee farmers to send their sons to become leaders of industry. Born a New Yorker, Orville Gibson set up shop in Kalamazoo and acquired his first patent in 1894. Inspired by the subtleties of the violin, he recognized that the design of 19th century mandolins and guitars could be vastly improved. For example, the bowl-back, “tater-bug” mandolin featured back and sides made of bent wood strips, and a flat, canted top. He began producing instruments that instead featured solid, carved, arched tops and backs (the sides were likewise hewn from single pieces of wood). These new mandolins and guitars proved louder and more structurally stable, and a new era was born. Before long, he’d open up his own factory, and the gradual innovations of Orville and his team changed the course of musical history.

80 years later, Gibson Guitars of Kalamazoo was internationally known. Some of the best performers and instrumentalists of the 20th century had played Gibson guitars. Pickers in the big bands of the 1920s appreciated the way their arch-top guitars cut through the other instruments acoustically. Blues men and women made inspired music on their flat-top guitars in the 1930s. In the 1940s, their electro-acoustic models became popular amongst Jazz innovators such as Charlie Christian. In the 1950s, they further expanded the world of electric guitars to include solid-body models designed with the help of inventor and six-sting virtuoso, Les Paul. Demand for their instruments (now mostly guitars) had grown so great that the company decided to relocate their base of operations. However, a small handful of employees decided they’d rather stay put, having grown attached to the community and the old factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. These loyal mavericks founded their own guitar company in 1985, and named it Heritage, as an allusion to their noble pedigree. They set out to make instruments that were more built in a more “hand-crafted” fashion than a contemporary Gibson electric guitar. They dedicated themselves to using better woods and materials, in addition to an old wood carver machine designed by the original employees of 225 Parsons Street. By the late 1980s, acclaimed artists such as Johnny Smith, Kenny Burrell, and Roy Clark had embraced Heritage guitars, solidifying their reputation as makers of iconic instruments.

Heritage Guitars - A Heritage of Excellence

The shapes and sizes of the Heritage guitars should already be familiar to most guitarists. The quality control, voicing, and attention to detail, however, tend to surpass expectations. Heritage takes enormous pride in the meticulous detail they put into each instrument. Although housed in an old factory, their mentality is more that of and old-world wood shop.

Jazz archtop-top players take an immediate liking to the style, feel, and price of a Heritage guitar from Kalamazoo. The Eagle (the Heritage version of an L5) offers just the right combination of artistry and authenticity. It’s beautifully-voiced, solid Sitka Top and figured Maple back and sides offer the acoustic complexity that we all search for in arch-top guitars. In fact, they sound so good unplugged, that the ability to amplify them may seem like a free bonus!

Heritage Guitar Models

The Heritage H-575 is an elegant ES-175 inspired guitar with a stunning figured maple body and a sharp Florentine cutaway. The body shape is uniquely svelte and balances perfectly. This is truly a Jazz box that moves with you. It can also conjure a wide variety of rich, crisp tones. This model is a perfect example of the benefits of a heritage guitar.
The H-535 and the H-530 guitars are Heritage’s interpretation of the Gibson ES-335 and ES-330. These semi-hollows are favorites among jazz and rock players alike. The H-535 features a curly maple top and back, and comes loaded with two Seymour Duncan ‘59 humbuckers. The H-530 houses two Lollar P-90s, and owing to the lack of a center block, is the lightest guitar that Heritage builds. For players who want to split the difference between acoustic resonance and hard-rocking potential, either of these models would be a terrific choice.
The H150 and the H-137 are Heritage’s solid-body offerings. The H150 is a Les Paul-inspired powerhouse of tone, featuring a hand-selected maple top and mahogany back and sides. The cutaway and overall carve are as smooth and comfortable as they come, and it’s authoritative, yet sweet voice is unrivaled. The H-137 is a Mahogany bodied Jr.-style Heritage that positively shreds the competition. Its lightweight, ergonomic, one-piece mahogany makes even long gigs a cinch, and it's warm growl demands full attention. That said, the Lollar P-90s lend it enough definition and transparency for all styles of music.
In addition to their standard line-up, Heritage also offers all of their models as part of the Artisan Aged series. Their unique approach to “relic’ing” is designed to not only give each guitar a worn-in look, but a broken-in feel, as well. You’d be hard pressed to distinguish any AA guitar from a Heritage that had been played, loved, and gigged for years. For those who want to take the one-of-a-kind touch a bit further, the Heritage custom shop offers breath-taking examples of all of their popular body shapes using highest-grade tone-woods and parts.

Over the years, Heritage have largely relied on the unrivaled enthusiasm of their players to sell their guitars. It’s a “gotta’ play it to believe it” proposition. They’re that good. Sticking with the old recipes and drawing on the magic contained within the walls of 225 Parsons Street has paid off. In a world where every new year seems to bring another overhaul of tradition, it’s refreshing to find a team of builders with real lineage who are dedicated to preserving the original masterpieces of American electric guitar craft.

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