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Author Archives: George Gruhn

L-5 to Super 400

The Story of Gibson’s Big Archtops
 
L-5 to Super 400

The archtop guitar is a uniquely American instrument which can be traced directly to the creative genius of one person – Orville Gibson. In the mid 1890s, the man who later formed the company started building guitars and mandolins with carved tops and backs, and though his creations were quite different from a modern jazz […]

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The Martin 000-18HS

 
Martin 000-18HS

According to Martin company records and research by late Martin Historian Mike Longworth, Cable Piano Company, in Atlanta, special-ordered at least three Martin 000-18HS guitars in 1937. Two others have previously emerged – serial numbers 67197 and 67198 – and this one recently found its way to Nashville for a Martin event featuring company historian […]

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Gibson’s Mastertone Banjos

 
Gibson’s Mastertone Banjos

This Gibson RB-3 five-string from 1925 is a rare piece, as is any five-string banjo from the era dominated by tenor banjos. But it’s more important as a representative of one of Gibson’s first steps in a desperate attempt to develop a competitive banjo. Gibson recognized the impending popularity of the tenor banjo as early […]

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Gibson Johnny Smith

 
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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

 
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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

 
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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

 
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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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