Gibson 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute
Price: $4,255 retail; $3,299 street
The Gibson L-1 boasts the kind of intriguing history that makes it a legend. In the late 1920s, it was the company’s low-end model. But Mississippi Delta blues man Robert Johnson happened upon one: two surviving photographs show him holding an L-1, though it’s not known if he played it on his famous recordings. Still, thanks to the blues, the budget guitar has today become collectible.
Gibson began offering a replica 1926 Robert Johnson L-1 a number of years back. But this new orange-label 1928 L-1 Blues Tribute is a different creature. In fact, Gibson will tell you that it differs from the Johnson reissues in most every way except the body’s dimensions. It replicates visual and structural elements of the original instrument, but uses modern production techniques. The result is what Gibson calls a “customized” L-1 replica.
The new L-1 is the result of a visit several Gibson Bozeman folks paid to collector Gary Burnette in Asheville, North Carolina. Aiming to replicate Burnette’s rare Advanced Jumbo, the team’s eyes and ears were opened by three other guitars in his collection. The L-1 that inspired the Blues Tribute was one of them.
This new L-1 sports an Adirondack red spruce top with X-bracing using hot hide glue. It’s set on a mahogany body and has a rectangle open-slot bridge and multi-ply binding. The V-profile neck features a period-correct 1.77″ nut, tapered peg head, and open-back vintage tuners. The finish is a finely faded vintage sunburst.
The construction of the guitar is rock solid, and yet it’s amazingly light in weight. The fit and finish are beautiful too, like a brand-new 1928 instrument.
As a parlor-sized guitar, it’s petite, of course. Your picking arm hangs off the back of the body and you’ll never reach much beyond the twelfth fret no matter how hard you try. But once you’re used to the size, it’s a handy little player.
The sound is warm and woody, clear – yet concise. But then again, this is a new guitar, and you get the sense that it will open up the more you play it. And that vintage-vibe V-neck makes you want to play.
Picking this parlor guitar, you soon can’t help but forget where you are as the L-1 carries you back in time to a hotel room in Dallas with the recording machine running.
This article originally appeared in VG February 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.