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Author Archives: George Gruhn

Gibson Johnny Smith


In 1961, Gibson’s Johnny Smith model not only associated Gibson with one of the most popular guitar stylists of the day, it also brought high-quality amplification and high-quality acoustic sound together for the first time. From Gibson’s first electric “Spanish” guitar, the ES-150 of 1936, Gibson had fashioned an electric guitar by cutting a hole […]

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Dan Fogelberg’s Gretsch White Penguin


Dan Fogelberg’s success as a singer and songwriter far overshadows his reputation as a musician, but the man whose tenor voice and sentimental songs ruled the Adult Contemporary charts in the early 1980s was actually quite an accomplished guitarist. Evidence is on The Innocent Age and Windows and Walls – the albums that yielded his […]

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Martin 0-28K

Martin 0-28K

The exotic figuration of Hawaiian koa wood on this Martin 0-28K from 1923 has a visual appeal that matched the exotic sound of Hawaiian music in the 1920s, and koa guitars accounted for a significant part of Martin’s sales through that period. Koa guitars played a larger role in Martin history, introducing steel strings to […]

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1965 Epiphone Emperor

Epiphone Empero1965 Main

The Epiphone Emperor has a long, convoluted history. It first appeared in Epiphone’s catalog in late 1935 as a response to Gibson’s Super 400, which was introduced in late 1934. Epiphone went one better on Gibson’s 18″-wide Super 400 by making the Emperor 18 1/2″ wide. This was the top model in the Epiphone line. […]

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Recording King Ray Whitley


As a maker of high-quality instruments, Gibson was hit hard by the onset of the Depression in the 1930s. Company president Guy Hart, a former accountant, recognized that Gibson could not survive by simply waiting for better times, and he took action, diverting some guitar production to wooden toys, creating the Kalamazoo line of budget-priced […]

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Gibson’s Experimental Archtop


Orville Gibson invented the carved-top guitar in the 1890s. The Gibson company refined the design with the addition of f-holes in 1922, and brought the concept to full potential in the mid ’30s with larger-bodied (more…)

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Late 1920s Gibson L-1 (Flattop)

Gibson "Florentine"
Late 1920s Gibson L-1 "Florentine" Home page main

Because I don’t know what to call this Gibson guitar, I refer to it as a “Florentine,” for lack of a better name. Though the body decoration is unlike any cataloged Gibson guitar, the fingerboard and headstock ornamentation is almost identical to Gibson’s Florentine banjo (made between 1927 and ’37). In size, shape, construction and woods, […]

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George Fullerton’s Fender Jazzmaster

A Master's Pallet
A Master’s Pallet

This Jazzmaster is an interesting example of what went on behind the scenes at the Fender factory with the research and development of body shapes and materials, and during the pre-production phase for new models in the late 1950s and early ’60s. After having great success with the Esquire, Telecaster, and Stratocaster, in 1958, Fender […]

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Orville Gibson A model


All carved-top guitars and mandolins trace their ancestry back to Orville Gibson of Kalamazoo, Michigan. However, as this A model mandolin illustrates, Orville’s designs went through considerable refinement through the early years of the Gibson company’s existence to reach the standard of design that we know today. The highlights of Orville’s life are well-known: Born […]

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1944 Martin 00-28


This Martin 00-28 is a highly unusual instrument. Made as part of a group of six created with shop-order number 366 (dated 12/14/1944) and bearing serial numbers 90002 through 90007, they were entered on the Martin shop order slip as 00-28G, indicating they were classical guitars designed strictly for gut strings. There is no indication […]

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