The traditional electric guitar shape gets the Steinberger treatment
True to the legend, the M was inspired by Mike Rutherford of Genesis and built by English luthier Roger Giffin. It was the first design (but certainly not the last) to originate from outside the company. Click here to read the official Gibson press release about it.
Mike Rutherford with the first GM guitar - a GM1T. Note the logo placement above the strings.
The M's were the first "normal" body style guitar undertaken by Steinberger. They were confident the traditional body shape would appeal to a broader range of players than the original body shapes. It's introduction and eventual success propelled the companies rise even further.
The original M's featured a flat topped strat-style dual cutaway hard maple body with a complimentary body binding. These were models were entirely assembled in the Newburgh, NY plant and are often referred to as "Newburgh" or "Newburgh bound" M's. Though the guitars were the first model introduced, basses soon followed. All of the normal hardware options (TransTrems, etc.) were available
A rare 3 single coil Newburgh bound white GM (GM3T)
Most of the early instruments were either black w/ white binding, white w/ black binding or red w/ white binding. Even in the early days the did offer some custom finishes - mid 80's catalogs feature a clear coat koa body, a flamed maple translucent blue, and a flamed maple translucent burgundy finish (see the Marketing Materials page). These custom axes also sport a gold Steinberger logo, different from the normal white or black ones. From time to time these rare gems do come up for sale and fetch a high premium when available.
It should be noted that Steinberger did not produce their own wood bodies. They contracted this out to many different vendors - usually several at one time. This insured that if any one supplier was having troubles or was late in shipping product that it wouldn't hold Steinberger up. All were made to the same specs and each one was carefully inspected for quality by the plant staff when they arrived. But like any wood instrument, subtle differences can be heard in different bodies.
A nearby company named Unico did the early M's, P's and some of the GS bodies for the Newburgh plant. They also had Roscoe in TX and Guitabec (the Canadian parent of Godin Guitars) build some as well. With the Gibson buyout things moved "in-house" and the Gibson Montana factory provided some stellar pieces of wood for the later M's and Q's.
A bound Newburgh style black GM double neck
As for the shape and features, after the buyout Gibson stopped making bound M's and modified the bodies to have curves (rather than sharp corners) on the front edges. When production later moved from Newburgh to Nashville, Ned was consulted to redesign the M's again. With Gibson having it's own body production facility on site, this part of the operation was brought in house. The body was sculpted a bit (including an angled heel), and figured translucent maple tops on an alder body were included standard. All of the other features and hardware remained. It's interesting that although the 2 (hum-hum) configuration dominated the Newburgh Ms' the 7 (hum-single-hum) configuration seems to be the most common on the Nashville ones.
A later Nashville unbound quilted maple GM7TA.
It should be noted that when Gibson was entertaining the idea to bring production in house they notified their suppliers. Many of them submitted "prototype" bodies to show them what they could do - stunning figured tops, and even some with "German carved" tops (like the traditional PRS bodies). All of these sport Steinberger logos. We've seen them for sale and many folks think they are faked because they've never heard or seen them before. These are authentic and can fetch pretty high prices.
A translucent blue burst GM4T w/ Seymour Duncan pickups
A very rare carved, birdseye maple top tobacco burst GM.
Click here to read and see more about it.
There is also some interesting pics of a development piece for the model on the official Genesis website.
In 2002, Gibson/MusicYo offered new GM's for sale again after a 4 year hiatus. The first batch were assembled from NOS (New Old Stock) finished bodies found packed away with the rest of the Steinberger factory contents in a trailer. These were mated to new Steinberger M/S blend necks (produced exclusively by Moses Graphite). Future bodies will be made both by Gibson Nashville and Terada, a well-known quality Japanese manufacturer.
MusicYo plans to re-introduce the older "Newburgh" bound style as well in 2003.