Entries in gibson (8)


The environmental politics of Sitka spruce

I recently visited the Martin guitar factory; it was my 5th time taking the tour, but my first time on the 2-hour "behind the scenes" tour. I first visited Martin when I first moved to the east coast 12 years ago. At some point I'll write more about the transformations that I've seen there over the last decade. But for now, one thing that is clear: things in the tonewood world are changing. I recommended checking out the documentary previewed above, Musicwood (see my previous thoughts on environmentalism and guitars here). While this film focuses on future of Sitka spruce, this is something industry has confronted in the past (e.g., rosewoods from Brazil and Madagascar), with increasing frequency manufacturers and consumers will have to adjust their expectations.


Grinnell Guitars, by Gibson

"GGG"...and not in the way that Dan Savage means.

This post pays tribute to a wonderful combination of two things I love: vintage guitars and Grinnell (College...although in reality, this doesn't have anything to do with the college). Grinnell Brothers was a music retailer in Michigan in the '30s, and much like the Kalamazoo, Recording King, Cromwell, Martelle, etc. brands, these guitars were made by Gibson. Although the general body shapes are similar to Gibson models, there are typically some structural differences like ladder (rather than X) bracing and a lack of truss rods.

Here's a 1940 Grinnell Spanish Special (images from TR Crandall Guitars in NYC; please buy this guitar from them so that it doesn't keep tempting me):


This one is a 1945 694-F from Southworth Guitars:


Update: Martin made some guitars for Grinnell Bros. too...


Daniel Roberts discusses his custom guitars


Kathleen Edwards + Vintage Gibsons

This really isn't helping my GAS for an early-50's J-45 or J-50.


What I'm GAS-ing for

"GAS" = Guitar Acquisition Syndrome

Everyone knows I like guitars; nice acoustic instruments are really my only vice. If a big pile of money fell into my lap, I'd buy the following in a heartbeat:

1. A late-40's to mid-50's Martin D-28. I know that I'll never be able to afford a pre-war D-28, but one from a few years later isn't totally out of the question. Someday.

2. A mid-to-late-30's Gibson L-00 or similar. Something ultra-light, oozing with mojo. Update: ended up with one of the first Waterloo WL-14X guitars available to the public in fall of 2014. How cool are these? And at half the cost of a vintage Gibson, the price is right!

3. A Bourgeois Slope-D, Fairbanks F-35, Santa Cruz Vintage Southerner, Walker Wise RiverCollings CJ (new Mass. Street Music custom; update: what they call the "CJ35" now), and a vintage Gibson J-45 or J-50 (pre-1955). Not sure why I'm so into slope-shouldered guitars right now, but I want them. All. (note, a Kopp K-35 isn't on this list because I have one :-)

4. An early-30's Martin OM-18. Probably will never happen, so a newer OM-18GE might be as close as I get. But maybe a late-30's 00-18 or 0-18 could happen some day. Ditto on a pre-war 000-18 and contemporary 000-18 Authentic. A D-18 Authentic wouldn't be too bad either.

1953 D-28...Click to embiggen. Photo from vintage-instruments.com.


"The D-18 Song"

"The D-18 Song," written by Jerry Faires, performed by Norman Blake (on a Gibson L-00, ironically).

Have I mentioned that I like D-18's?  :-)


Summer update

Sadly, the summer is ticking away at a tragically fast pace. There's only one more week of the summer research season (students are funded to work in labs for 10 weeks), and then a month until the last minute crunch before classes start. My summer students have done really great work and I'm excited about their project and for the skills they've developed over the last nine weeks.

I'm teaching stats/methods in the fall and need to start working on that syllabus soon. Plus I volunteered for a "transdivisional seminar" during orientation week and have a stack of articles to review (i.e., peer review for journals). Oh, and those manuscripts I'm supposed to be writing. Sigh...Summer goes by way too fast.

Last week we went to the U2 show at "the Linc" (Lincoln Financial Field); it was a good, not spectactular, show. But it was a nice summer activity and a good time with friends (other than the 90 minute traffic jam trying to get out of the parking lot). We saw U2 in Indianapolis 11 or 12 years ago, and I thought the band was tighter and more energetic then, but of course Bono and company are that much older now (and coming off of back surgery) so I suppose they should get some slack. The stage/screen was impressive and the band played most of the songs you'd want to hear, so all in all it was a good time.

Yesterday I went to the semi-annual Philadelphia guitar show (a.k.a., the Great American Guitar Show). It was smaller than when I last went a couple of years ago, and it's probably 70% electric stuff, so there wasn't too much for me to see. Plus it's pretty loud and hard to hear any acoustic guitars you might want to try out. But I did play a 1948 Martin D-18 that seemed pretty fantastic and a 1957 D-18 that was in really great condition that was also nice, but a couple other mid-50's D-18's didn't impress me as much. I'm starting to think a late-40's models is where it's at for me (since I can't affort a pre-war model!), if I ever get into the vintage game.

I also played a few late-40's to late-50's Gibson J-45's and SJ's, as well as a modern J-35 reissue, and didn't find anything that I was particularly impressed with. I've been wanting to play more Gibsons, but so far nothing has particularly resonated with me. Maybe I'm just more of a Martin guy.


A trip to heaven

I've been in Philadelphia for ten years now, and I'm embarrassed to admit that today was my first visit to Vintage Instruments, which is a few blocks south of City Hall on Broad Street. When Acoustic Roots was in Bryn Mawr I didn't have much of a reason to go into the city to play guitars, but it's been gone for two and a half years now and I haven't found a new place to get my fix.

I was mainly interested in trying a set of Gibsons: a mahogany-topped "banner" 1944 J-45, a 1949 J-45, and a 1953 SJ. Unfortunately (for me, not for its new owner), the SJ had recently sold, so I went back and forth between the two J-45s for an hour or so. I had a clear perference for the '44; it was warm, with a good rumble in the bass, and had even tone across all the strings. It sported a huge neck; I guess this is the (in)famous wartime "baseball bat" neck that guitars of this era are known for. I tend to like big necks on my guitars, but this was a handful.

Even though I didn't go down there to play Martins, I couldn't help but give a trio of dreadnoughts a go: a 1948 D-18, a '49 D-18, and a '64 D-28. I love my D-18GE, with is loosely modeled after a 1934 D-18. The big winner of the day was the '49 D-18. It had a shadow of a second pickguard and a replaced bridge made from ebony (rather than rosewood); based on the playwear and new bridge, I suspected it was played by a lefty for many years. But it's back as a right-handed guitar and was warm and punchy like a good D-18 should be. Anyone have a spare $7.5k so I can bring the '49 D-18 home with me?

1949 D-18...Photo credit: www.vintage-instruments.com (click to enlarge the image)