As the head of Gibson, Inc., Ted McCarty was instrumental at breathing new life into the guitar market with innovative body shapes and groundbreaking hardware and electronic designs, many of which are still used heavily today. An engineer by trade and a music fan by nature, McCarty began his career working for the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. before becoming the vice president and general manager at Gibson in 1949. By 1950 he had been made president of Gibson, and held that position for the next 16 years.
McCarty made it a goal to boost the design creativity of both the structure of electric guitars and the electronics. With the advent of solid-body guitars, McCarty realized he could build guitars of any shape or size without compromising tone, and thus he and his team pushed away from traditionally shaped rounded-bout instruments and pursued new, angular designs. The fruits of these forays into angular designs became legendary instruments: The Flying V, Explorer, and SG, to name a few. Of course, McCarty’s team was also responsible for the Les Paul, Byrdland, and ES-335, as well as the Hummingbird and Dove acoustic models. At the 1958 NAMM show, the music world was shocked by the radical new approach to instrument design with the unveiling of the previously mentioned Explorer, Flying V, and Moderne. Apparently, McCarty was a bit ahead of his time. Conversely, the SG was almost instantly a classic.
In 1952, McCarty was granted a patent for the Tune-O-Matic Bridge, a design that is still a mainstay of Gibson guitars. Ted was also involved in the development of the stop bar tailpiece. Aside from the design and hardware innovations, one of the greatest inventions ever to grace a guitar was achieved under the guidance of Ted McCarty – the twin-coil humbucking pickup. With the humbucker, guitarists now had access to fatter tones and quieter, hum-free operation.
These achievements were foreshadowed by McCarty’s development of a pickup/pickguard attachment that allowed electrification of an archtop guitar without modifying the acoustic tone. This design became known as the “McCarty unit.” Under McCarty’s tutelage, Gibson saw record profits and growth, but more importantly, the strides made by McCarty and his team forever changed the look and sound of rock n’ roll.