TODAY is the 60th anniversary of the launch of the legendary Gibson Flying V electric guitar that dazzled the world on its first appearance and is still being produced, albeit in updated form.

Earlier in the 1950s, the Gibson company had become famous across the musical world for its Les Paul guitar, which many people credit as kick-starting the rock ‘n’ roll age along with the Fender range. By the mid-1950s, Gibson, originally based in Michigan but now headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, knew they needed to move with the developing times and company president Ted McCarty designed two new futuristic guitars that threw away the electric guitar mould and re-invented the instrument.

They were the Explorer and the Flying V, the first with a radically new body that resembled an X-shape and the Flying V even more radical in that the body split into a V-shape as the name suggests.

The National:

The new Flying V was exhibited at the company’s Kalamazoo plant on January 6, 1958, and the following day the company was granted a patent for the guitar. An icon of modern music was born.

THE Flying V turned previous thought about guitar design on its head. For a start it dispensed with traditional hardwood and used limba, a wood that was not as dark as the mahogany which the company had used in their earlier models. Limba, which Gibson trademarked as Korina, was combined with mahogany in the body and neck of the Flying V. It looked and felt gorgeous.

In no way did the Flying V sacrifice sound for looks – on the contrary, many musicians would later say it had a really distinctive sound which is why it went on to feature in so many musical styles.

THAT’S the strange thing. After an initial burst of enthusiasm which saw numerous top players acquire one – blues-rock pioneer Lonnie Mack bought the seventh-ever made and played it until his death in 2016 – the buzz about the Flying V died down and the company discontinued production in 1959, as was the case with the Explorer.

The distinctive guitar was merely ahead of its time, however, and gradually the music world caught up with Gibson’s stunner, especially when the British 1960s pop music revolution took off.

By then, the Flying V was back in production by popular demand and the interest of star players added to its reputation.

THE list of Flying V aficionados is Who’s Who of blues and rock music. As well as Lonnie Mack, the great blues performer Albert King was an early user, and being left-handed he flipped the guitar upside down with the strings in different order.

It was the British stars of the 1960s, and an American who made his home in the UK, who really sealed its legend. Dave Davies of The Kinks managed to acquire a prototype 1958 model Flying V, and played it on numerous television appearances.

The National:

Probably the greatest exponent of the Flying V, even though he is usually associated with the Fender Stratocaster, was Jimi Hendrix who had three of them, including a custom-built, left-handed version decorated by himself in psychedelic style. Gibson would later return the compliment by issuing a replica version of Hendrix’s Flying V complete with psychedelic decoration.

The coming of heavy metal and glam rock boosted its image, with Kirk Hammett of Metallica a devotee and Marc Bolan of T Rex also a fan.

Lenny Kravitz, Mick Box of Uriah Heep and Billy Gibson of ZZ Top used Flying Vs as did Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash has played a Flying V throughout his career.

Their appeal is extensive and worldwide – Michael Schenker of top German band Scorpions swears by them and is said to have more than 70 Flying Vs in total.

Probably the most famous players of the Flying V still going strong today are Neil Young and Keith Richards, the latter first using one for the Rolling Stones back in the late 1960s when he was pictured with an original 1958 model that was unfortunately stolen while the Stones were on tour in 1971.

THE current top-of-the-range Flying V will leave you a dollar change out of $6000, according to the Gibson website, although the cheapest in the range can be bought new for under $1000.

If your dad or mum were rockers it might be worth checking the attic as an original 1958 Korina Flying V in mint condition is now worth a six-figure sum – one sold last year in London for £191,000.

An original Gibson Explorer is worth even more – they were a very limited edition of less than 50 and that’s why one sold recently for more than $1m. Most owners love their Flying Vs and will give them just one value – priceless.