Saturday, March 30, 2013

1965 Fender Jaguar in Olympic White

And I don't!  Want to part with mine, that is.  I will certainly not take it surfing, although I don't have to worry about that here in Birmingham, AL.  My 1965 Fender Jaguar will not be cruising the waves anytime soon.

The Jaguar was introduced in 1962 as Fender's new top-of-the line model.  It's shiny chrome plates, clawed single coils and abundance of switches were supposed to make it more desirable than the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Jazzmaster.  The public didn't quite see it that way and went on buying the strats and teles like it was going out of style.  People didn't really like the shorter 24" scale.  The Jaguar didn't sell as well as Fender hoped but became popular for a lot of different styles starting with of course, surf rock.

This 1965 Fender Jaguar was purchased by the parents of the original owner for their 16 year old son.  He had played a little bit and wanted a nice guitar for his birthday.  The price on the tag of Jaguars at the time was $491 which according to the inflation calculator is about $3526.59 in 2012 dollars.  The custom color was about a 5% upcharge.  The strap, I believe, was purchased sometime in the 70s judging by the style.  

I purchased the guitar from the wife of the owner who said that this was the original case.  This case was sold from '62 to '63 so it is doubtful that this was the original case.  USA sold Fenders came guitar specific cases as in each guitar was shipped in its own case.  Maybe the store had guitars hanging on the wall but didn't organize their cases very well so an earlier guitar sold with a newer case and vice versa.

The Jaguars had a similar circuit to the Jazzmaster in that it had a separate rhythm circuit on the bass horn.  With the slider switch down, the lower controls are activated.  The main volume and tone knob and three slider switches let you dial in the tone desired.  The three switches are: neck pickup, bridge pickup and bass cut, also known as the "strange switch."  When this switch is on it has a very trebly and jangly tone.

You'll notice the interesting looking "claws" on either side of the pickups.  This was to help with the hum problem that plagued the Strats, Teles and Jazzmasters.  The electronics cavities were also heavily shielded which did noticeably reduce hum.  The Jaguar pickups still retain that fender tone but I think are a little stronger, hence the bass cut switch.  I haven't had enough time with it yet but I don't think that this guitar really lends itself to blues but it does the surf/indie rock thing in spades.

The tremolo is very smooth and usable.  This "Floating Tremolo" type does a lot better job keeping the guitar in tune compared to the "Synchronized Tremolo" on the Stratocaster.  Smooth, long weeps of the tremolo are accurate and even easy.  I always felt like I was breaking the strat's tremolo when I really used it, which was not often.  I really enjoy the jaguar/jazzmaster style trem.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Black Diamond Strings

Supposedly, in the old days, Black Diamond Strings were just about the only brand you could get.  I don't have any experience with them but I've been told that these things were really "stiff."  I don't have a date for this box but the price was $2.10.  Maybe 60s?

Vintage guitars are fantastic but vintage strings, well, I don't think they peaked in the 1930s or 40s.  I did a quick google search and came up with this little ditty:


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Vintage: Gibson's 2013 J-35

The Gibson J-35 was the precursor to the J-45 from 1936 to 1942.  It had a couple of variations in bracing patterns but was cosmetically a 14 fret jumbo, sunburst or natural with a firestripe pickguard.  This combination made for an absolutely gorgeous instrument.  Gibson has reintroduced the instrument for their 2013 line of Gibson Acoustics from Bozeman, MT.

Then (1939)

Now (2013)
The J-35 has was discontinued in 1942 but was reintroduced in this configuration sometime in the 2000s by Gibson through Fullers Guitar in sunburst.  It closer resembled the Gibson Jumbo (1934) because of its small pearl inlaid Gibson logo.  These are very nice guitars but the 2013 production version is a bit different.

Cosmetically the only differences between old and new are the natural finish, Kluson repro tuners, unfortunate banner headstock and the addition of the LR Baggs Element pickup.  I questioned Gibson's decision to put a gold banner logo on the headstock but I think I know what really happened.  These guitars are largely designed in Bozeman, MT however sometimes the Nashville guys sink their claws into the design, hence the banner.  One Nashville guy in particular thought this would be a good idea and had the unfortunate superiority for it to stick.  This is purely hypothetical of course.  Don't get me wrong, I love banner headstocks on wartime period Gibsons however the J-35 was decidedly prewar and never had a banner.  The Bozeman guys almost got away without putting the banner on there as you can see from the NAMM prototype:

But the production version's headstock had this logo:

Why would you do this HJ?
The original J-35 had 4 main bracing patterns: 3 tone bar scalloped, 3 tone bar unscalloped, 2 tone bar scalloped and 2 tone bar unscalloped.  "Scalloping" refers to the careful shaving of mass away from the parts of the brace where extra mass is less needed, such as the very center.  It appears that Gibson scalloped seemingly at will during this time period.  Some say that it depended on whether or not the builder though it was necessary on a certain top.  If they felt the top was too strong and would inhibit tone then they scalloped the braces.  This is just hearsay though, I was not there in 1939.  The 3 tone bar versions are largely seen from '36 to '39 and 2 tone bars until '42.

Gibson's new production version uses a 2 scalloped tone bar style bracing closely resembling what would have been in a '39-'42 J-35.  They call this their "1930s Advanced X Bracing."  This is the same bracing used in the current Advanced Jumbo and the J-45 TV with the only difference being that they use different glue.  The AJ and J-45 TV use hot hide glue to brace the top while Titebond is used to brace the top on the J-35.  Titebond is easier to work with and still provides a great bond.  Hide glue dries very hard and brittle.  This seems to transfer energy better than a Titebond joint.  Guitar nerds such as myself will swear that hide glue sounds better but the difference is marginal at best.  Hide glue is still used on the neck joint of all Gibson acoustics because is it much easier to reset the neck in the future.

I have played two 2013 J-35s and both were phenomenal instruments.  The J-35 was positioned (price wise) to compete with the Taylor range of prices so they can be had for much cheaper than the J-45 standard.  I have heard a lot of people say that they just weren't as good as the 45 standard but I must disagree.  Don't be fooled by the price point.  These guitars were priced and built by two different sections of the company.  The price is basically a marketing trick.  

In my opinion, the J-35 is a "better" guitar and not just because of the price.  The only structural difference between the 45 standard and the 35 is the bracing.  The 30s advanced bracing in my opinion results in a more resonant guitar.  I liked the sound of the 35s better than the 45 standard.  What do you think?  Which model did you like better?  Keep in mind that the J-35s will probably have fresher strings than the 45 standards.

I do not work for Gibson and have no affiliation with anyone in that company.  I don't care if Henry sells guitars or not.  I normally would not consider new guitars because they usually don't do it for me but for some reason this one does!  I was pumped about their reintroduction and I think Gibson did a great job with the exception of the banner.  If finances permit then I may get one!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

1931 Gibson L-1 with the original plush green case... Gorgeous

I hear a lot of folks talk about how it isn't like "the good ole days" anymore in the vintage guitar world.  They are referring to when you could run across great guitars that were undiscovered.  I was too busy soiling myself and eating creamed broccoli and carrots during the good ol' days but I have a feeling that they were somewhat similar to now.  Great guitars are everywhere and here is one of them.

The owner lives in California and was kind enough to send me some pictures.  She was wondering what it was, when it was made and about what it was worth.  This is a 1931 Gibson L-1 in the original case.  It features 12 frets to the X braced body made of Honduran Mahogany back and sides with an Adirondack Spruce top

The bridge and banjo tuners on this one kind of threw me off.  I hadn't seen either of these on a small body L-1.  After a quick research session I saw that banjo tuners were fairly common but this is the only example I could find with the large body L-1 style bridge.  That's Gibson for you I guess.  

I'd love to have one of these L-1s someday.  They are incredibly light builds resulting in great fingerpicking tone.  It doesn't take much to drive a lightly braced top so there is no need for picks.  Plus, just look at thing!  Gorgeous.