The Gear that Should Not Be: 1980 Dean ML

NGD: 1980 Dean ML

This is what a mid-life crisis looks like when you are in your 40's and are into pointy guitars
Jef and his 1980 Dean ML

So I’ve had some money earmarked to buy myself a guitar as a wedding gift. I figured I’d get something classy. Maybe an ES-295,

Gibson ES-295
Gibson ES-295

or something antique. I would really love a turn-of-the-century Gibson Style-O Artist (although they are $8000 these days)

antique Gibson, Style O
GIbson Style 0

and I had a pending offer out on a 1959 ES-125 that would have made an interesting and historic addition to the collection and was closer to my budget, but the seller never called back.

Gibson ES-125
GIbson ES-125

Well, I guess we’re doing the opposite of that.

1980 Dean ML
1980 Dean ML in front of THE ONLY AMPS THAT IT NEEDS

Brazen and obnoxiously pointy then?

My new (to me) Dean ML, beside it's parents
1991 Gibson Lonnie Mack Flying V, 1980 Dean ML, 1996 Gibson Explorer

I’ve admired Deans from afar for some time. I am a particular fan of how they mash classic Gibson designs together, like the Cadillac

Dean Cadillac
Dean Cadillac

(Explorer + Les Paul) or the ML which is a cross of my two favourite body designs (Explorer + Flying V) with additional high end appointments like flamed maple tops and (then new) custom DiMarzio pickups. This model is from the third year of Dean production, when the small factory of about 20-25 staff would have been putting out about 40 instruments a week. You don’t see many Deans from this era because there aren’t many (although they did get into some high profile players hands quickly as rock and roll got to a point where V’s and Explorers fit in a bit better)

At the time, these were also priced higher than their corresponding Gibson brethren, so quality needed to be at a premium to justify it. Whoosh, does this thing sing! It feels and plays great. The case is a bit beat up, but all the latches and hinges work, and it’s done well at protecting its guitar as the cleanliness of instrument belies it’s 37 years of history.

If anything it is somewhat worrying that this doesn’t pass the case test.  The instrument should be in similar condition to the case, and the case is shy of “thrashed”, although is clearly an original ML case (nothing else would fit, and it has details that make it clear that it is orginal), but the instrument is in such good conditions, could it be a replica or copy?

Thing is, while these early Dean’s are worth a decent amount of coin, not so much to warrant the detail that has gone into copying this I’d thing.  Really nice wood has been used, and the pickups and electronics and fit and finish are all wonderful.  As I play it more I think this might be one of the nicest playing instruments I own.  If it’s a copy, I don’t care, as I definately feel like I have an instrument that plays and feels at least as well as it should based on price and build quality.

Best I can tell, it’s either original as is, or perhaps it has become lost from it’s original case, but is mated with another, albeit more beat up version of it’s original case (Trust me, ML fitted hard cases are both rare, and distinct.  you couldn’t fit anything else in this case)

I can think of few instruments less appropriate for a pudgy balding middle-aged man, which come to think of it, also describes the seller pretty well. Dimebag Darryl, eat your heart out. We are your legacy.

In the mean time, I am now officially a fan of early Dean’s and perhaps Dean’s in general. I will certainly be taking a closer look next time I come across one.

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