Thursday, April 3, 2014

1956 Gibson Les Paul Jr

The Gibson Les Paul Jr was introduced in 1954 as a bare bones entry level electric guitar.  It featured a slab Mahogany body, Mahogany neck, Brazilian Rosewood fret board and a single P-90 pickup in the bridge position.  The Les Paul Jr is known today as a rock and roll workhorse.

This Les Paul Jr's design is so well suited for rock and roll because of the average weight, single pickup, neck profile/width and the fact that it is a real 1950s Les Paul.  The lack of a Maple cap on the body makes these a comfortable 7 lbs, give or take a pound depending on the slab of wood. The single pickup in the bridge position is actually one of this model's secret weapons: the lack of a neck pickup allows the strings to ring and sustain free from the pull of another pickup's magnet.  The result is a rich, full strum that sustains with harmonic overtones for as long as you want it to.  The neck profile is the same as any mid-to-late 1950s Gibson.  It's full and comfortable and only slightly more full than a '59.  And let's be honest, who wouldn't want something that says Gibson and Les Paul on the headstock and is actually from the 1950s?

The Les Paul Jr went through some changes throughout the 50s and 60s, the two most important being the change to a double cutaway body in late 1958 and the change to the SG body in late 1962.  I've heard of only three 1959 single cut Juniors so it is possible to have one.  That would be quite a valuable guitar with the '59 neck profile and single cut body, although I prefer the mid 1950s neck profile over a '59.  One other change of note is the relocation of the pickup from being right up next to the bridge to a half inch away.  They also increased the depth of the bridge posts which fixed the common problem with leaning posts.

Do you have a Les Paul Jr that you are interested in selling?  Please contact me:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

1959 Danelectro Companion

I'll be honest, I'm not an expert on Danelectro.  I've owned a Silvertone U-2 in the past but didn't really do much digging on the history, etc.  I happened across this Dano Companion and bought it with no strings.  The bridge was just rattling around in the case and I even though it was missing a piece.  I decided to string it up as is after seeing some pictures online.  It played great and the bridge held very well.  It was just as intended.  The neck was straight and the action was perfect.  I fell in love!

The Companion was apparently a fairly rare model.  It's very similar to Jimmy Page's Danelectro 3021 with the exception of the natural finish and the bridge.  The electronics are the exact same setup with two single coil pickups with stacked/concentric volume and tone knobs for each.  The middle position on Danelectro guitars is the tone that everyone is looking for.  They wired it so the pickups would run in series instead of parallel.  These guitars come alive with lots of output when you're playing in the middle position.

Do you have one of these for sale?  Contact me.  I'm always on the lookout for this kind of stuff.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

1967 Epiphone FT-110 Frontier

1967 Epiphone FT-110 Frontier

The Epiphone Frontier was manufactured by the Gibson company in Kalamazoo, MI from 1958 until 1969.  This model was a continuation of the Epiphone made FT-110 which also featured flame Maple back and sides.  The Gibson made version introduced the square shoulder design for Gibson in 1958.  In 1962, Gibson introduced the Dove which was based off of this guitar but with the bird motif.  In 1963, Gibson added the cacti and lariat relief graphic onto the pickguard of the Frontier.  Isn't that a sexy guitar?!

The time that I had with my first Frontier was all too short so I was ecstatic when I got this one in.  I purchased it with a broken and loose bridge as well as a damaged nut.  Gibson had the bad habit of gluing bridges right on top of the finish during this time period.  Glue has an easier time of staying put if the joint holds wood to wood instead of wood to finish.

I dropped it off at my luthier's place (Burn's Repair) because I know I can trust him for a professional repair.  The bridge had split into two pieces because of the weak spot in line with the bridge pins.  Jason glued the bridge back together so that the repair was almost invisible.  If you're not looking for the repair then you won't find it.  There was one spot next to the saddle that showed signs of a previous attempt at repair.  Jason removed the old glue and glued it tight.  The nut slots had been cut down too low so Jason decided it was time for a new bone nut.  The new nut is gorgeous and perfectly cut and installed.

The resulting guitar is a dream to behold.  I don't usually like to refer to guitars in such flowery language but I believe this one deserves it.  The Maple back and sides and long scale length perfectly balance out the 60s build.  The tone is low and rumbly when it wants to be.  The highs are crisp and well pronounced.  It has good volume but likely won't overpower a singer/songwriter.

I'm always on the lookout for these guitars.  Do you have one for sale?  Please contact me.

Monday, February 24, 2014

1963 Epiphone Coronet Silver Fox

It's hard to beat a hot Gibson P-90, a wrap tail and a slab of Mahogany.  1963 was the first year of the batwing headstock and the custom color they called Silver Fox.  The early 60s saw many funky new designs including the Fender Jaguar, Gibson SG and endless Chicago made cheapies branded Kay, Harmony and Silvertone.  This guitar is light, super resonant and the P-90 just screamed.  The neck was actually 1 9/16" wide which was odd for Gibson pre-1965.  This bare bones rock machine paired with a tweed Fender Deluxe was more than enough to get an acoustic, folky type to play some of those classic rock licks.  

Do you have one of these that you would like to sell?  I'm looking for another.  Please email me about what you have for sale.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

1943 Gibson J-45

This 1943 Gibson J-45 came to me in the original case with zero prior repairs.  The bridge had pulled up and the bridge plate had puckered a bit so I had it expertly repaired by Jason Burns here in Birmingham, AL (  It came out gorgeous and the tone is truly spectacular.  Collector value is one thing but true tonal superiority is quite another.

Collector Value

I don't normally enjoy talking up the collector value on vintage instruments because it's usually pretty obvious.  However, this one deserves a bit of press for its rare features including the Mahogany top, no truss rod neck and original Lifton case.  There's more information on banner era instruments in John Thomas' recent book, Kalamazoo Gals.  

During the height of World War II the United States government imposed materials restrictions on manufacturing that cause companies like Gibson to improvise a bit.  Among those restrictions was Spruce which was used for guitar tops as well as steel, used for truss rods and tuners.  Gibson began running low on good quality Spruce in late 1942 so they began using 3 and 4 pieces glued together.  That only lasted a short time until the started using Mahogany for the tops.  Mahogany tops can be found on banner era models between late 1942 and midway through 1944 when they were acquired by CMI.  Gibson began using Spruce for Sitka, AK after the buyout.  Truss rods seem to follow a similar time table in that guitars without truss rods started being produced at random in late '42/early '43.  Truss rods reappeared as a standard sometime in 1944.  Tuners were being produced with thinner cogs which was supposed to save steel (albeit very little).

This guitar has all those juicy wartime features.  Instead of a truss rod, Gibson produced the necks a bit thicker and fuller with a triangular Maple rod in the center of the neck under the fretboard.  These necks are surprisingly stable and this one is no different.  The tuners have held up well too and don't seem to want to give up.  If I was to play this daily I would certainly replace them in order to preserve the originality.  The original Lifton case is in great shape with the original handle.

Player Value

The most surprising thing about this one was definitely the great tone is has.  It's loud but warm with woody overtones.  It's has the Americana dry thump but also crisp, articulate highs.  It really is all that they say they should be.  These banner era guitars just have the Gibson tone.  

My go-to playing style is fingerstyle blues using finger picks.  Gibsons usually lend themselves to this type of playing so it was no surprise when it sounded- and played- great.  The real surprise was when I flatpicked and it was loud and cut so well!  I couldn't have hoped for it to sound any better.  It does everything I need for an acoustic and then some.

"Squirt" Soda

This kind of thing was very common back in the 30s and 40s.  People wanted to adorn their instruments with stickers featuring their initials, puppies and kittens, brands, etc.  This one happened to receive a Squirt soda sticker on the back.  I love this sort of character as long as it isn't too distracting from the rest of the guitar.  This one is placed inconspicuously on the back so I'm happy to let it remain there for the duration of my ownership.

Do you have one of these that you would like to sell?  I'm looking for another.  Please email me about what you have for sale.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

1966 Gibson ES-330

Here's another ES-330 that I was lucky to babysit for a time.  This one was made in Kalamazoo, MI in 1966 but had been played very little before I snagged it.  This model is, in my opinion, the most under valued vintage Gibson electric out there.  The fully hollow body does make it a bit more prone to feed back at high stage volume but also makes it comfortable, resonant and warm.

Do you have one of these that you would like to sell?  I'm looking for another.  Please email me about what you have for sale.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

1949 Gibson Southern Jumbo

In 1942 the folks at Gibson's decided it was time to redesign the J-55 into something flashier, something that the folks south of the Mason-Dixon line would like.  What they ended up with was a model called the Southerner Jumbo which featured their split parallelogram inlays down the fretboard.  A few of the original batches even had Rosewood back and sides which command quite a premium over the Mahogany versions.  All further batches featured the J-45 base with the fancy inlays and thicker binding around the body.

This guitar was manufactured just after the war in 1948 or '49.  There's no record of which factory order numbers were manufactured when but there are a few aspects on this one that help nail down the date.  The headstock features the block logo which was introduced in late '46 or early '47.  The sides are solid Mahogany indicated by the vertical spruce sticks that help avoid splitting.  Gibson began manufacturing the sides with laminated wood starting in 1951.  The sunburst finish on the top has the "Cremona Brown" style burst that is much lighter than what they did starting in the 1950.  The kicker has got to be the belly down Rosewood bridge.

These bottom belly bridges first appeared on Southerner Jumbos in 1942.  They were soon phased out and by 1943 they were mostly rectangular.  But, throughout the 1940s the employees sneaked in a few bottom belly bridges on Southern Jumbos and even a J-45 or two.  That's just Gibson for you, the only consistency is inconsistency.

You might notice that the sunburst is a lot lighter than that of a 1950s era Gibson.  This burst is called Cremona Brown and Gibson first used it on their mandolins in the late 1920s.  They went to a darker burst sometime around 1951.  I am quite fond of the lighter burst.

This SJs tone can be described as the quintessential Gibson round shoulder tone.  It's got that warm mid-range with a woody low end thump that is so perfect for vocal accompaniment and songwriting.  I tend to lean towards fingerstyle blues and this one does that thing in spades.  

Do you have one of these that you would like to sell?  I'm looking for another.  Please email me about what you have for sale.