Ted McCarty

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Theodore "Ted" McCarty (1910 – April 2001) was a pioneer of electric guitar design and production.[1] This began when he was chosen as vice president of the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1949, then later as president in 1950. He remained president until 1966. This period became known as Gibson's golden age of electric guitars. During his tenure, Les Paul's electric guitar design, the first solid-body guitar produced by Gibson, came to fruition. The Gibson Les Paul later became the company's flagship solid body. Never satisfied, McCarty sought to create a hybrid design that would combine the sustain of a solid-body electric with the mellow warmth of a hollow-body. The ES-335 was created as a "semi-hollow", with both a central block running the length of the guitar and hollow wings. McCarty was also responsible for the development of the Tune-o-matic bridge system, the humbucking pickup, and the Explorer, Flying V, Moderne, SG and Firebird guitars. Like Leo Fender, McCarty never played the guitar. He instead talked with every guitarist he could in order to find out what guitar players were interested in.

In addition to his numerous inventions, he also is responsible for increasing Gibson's production from 5,000 guitars a year to more than 100,000. This increase in production allowed Gibson to grow from 150 employees to over 1,200 employees during McCarty's 18-year span as president. The book, Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon includes a section titled, “The Ted McCarty Era.” [2] In 1966 McCarty retired from Gibson and became president of the Bigsby Company. He later became the mentor of Paul Reed Smith. Smith found out about McCarty during a visit to the U.S. Patent office in the early 1980s, where he kept noticing McCarty's name among Gibson's patents. Smith later hired McCarty as a consultant, and credits his experience with McCarty as a defining moment in his company. In 1994, Paul Reed Smith's company PRS Guitars, launched the McCarty model as a tribute to Ted. Previously, no instrument or company ever bore his name.

A 1999 interview in Vintage Guitar with Willie G. Moseley details the history of the Gibson Les Paul guitar.[3]

In April 2000 Ted became the very first person interviewed for the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History program, a video collection of interviews with many of the leaders and pioneers of the music products industry.

McCarty died in April 2001, at the age of 91.


  1. ^ The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Smithsonian Institution. "The Electric Guitar-Ted McCarty and Paul Reed Smith. http://invention.smithsonian.org/centerpieces/electricguitar/pop-ups/inno-01.htm
  2. ^ Carter, Walter. Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon. Los Angeles: General Pub. Group, 1994.
  3. ^ "Ted McCarty: I'm Not a Musician" by Willie G. Mosely Vintage Guitar(April 1999) http://www.vintageguitar.com/2826/ted-mccarty/
 4.  "Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty's Golden Era: 1948 - 1966" by Gil Hembree [Hal Leonard Corp 2007]