Gibson J-55 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1941)

Gibson  J-55 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1941)

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Item # 7656
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Gibson J-55 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1941), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 5285G-36 (FON), sunburst top, natural back and sides finish, mahogany back, sides and neck; spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case.

The J-55 remains one of Gibson's most engaging flat-top creations, a fancy deluxe Jumbo flat-top available for only a short time just before WWII. This 16" round-shoulder model replaced the celebrated Advanced Jumbo in the company's line in 1939, selling at a somewhat lower price of $55.00 instead of $80.00.

The J-55's features marked a return to a more Gibson-standard layout and did not continue the "AJ's" Martin-influenced rosewood body and longer scale neck. With a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, and 24 3/4" scale, this J-55 is essentially a fancier version of the J-35, with more upscale cosmetics including a pearl headstock logo and single-bound fingerboard. Distinctive appointments include a large carved two-tiered rosewood bridge and an unusual larger stepped-edge pickguard that covers the sound hole ring.

These unique features were shared with the equally rare contemporary narrow-waisted SJ-100, both models originally intended for the flashy hard-strumming Cowboy singers of the era. This 1941 edition of the J-55 is a slightly streamlined instrument compared to the 1939 version, with a straight-sided headstock in place of the odd "stepped" design first used and a new smaller solid carved bridge. The tuners were originally openback Klusons with plastic buttons, and the pickguard is made of the flashy Gibson "firestripe" celluloid seen only on pre-war instruments.

This particular guitar has been well-used but still plays perfectly and the sound is big, rich, and powerful, ringing out with plenty of punch and an epic sustain. With well under 400 total of all variants of the model ever built, the J-55 is an extremely rare guitar, and examples in any condition are rarely encountered.
 
Overall length is 40 3/4 in. (103.5 cm.), 16 1/16 in. (40.8 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This guitar has seen some moderately hard use and shows some average wear, most notably small dings and scrapes to the top finish. The finish on the back and sides is relatively clean; the lacquer on the back of the neck is worn through in the lower positions.

The most obvious alteration is a small mirror-image pickguard mounted above the sound hole, similar in shape to the lower original guard but shorter, not extending the full length. This looks to have been in place for a long time and was likely added when the guitar was fairly new; the hard-strumming radio entertainers of this period often wore into the tops of their guitars fairly quickly, so this sort of thing is not uncommon. We think it adds character, but the guitar's price reflects this alteration.

There is wear to the lower edge of the sound hole, but overall less pick damage to the top than one might expect. The fingerboard shows a very good refret with the correct style wire, with a few small fills in the rosewood. The carved bridge is a well-done reproduction, and a small maple patch has been added on the bridgeplate. There are several old crack repairs, alongside the treble side of the fingerboard, along the top edge of the pickguard, and a re-sealed top center seam.

One oddity is a small filled and patched hole through the headstock near the top above the Gibson logo -- evidence of a hanger or strap attachment there at one time. This is a period oddity we have occasionally seen before. A previous endpin jack installation has been reversed and that area plugged as well. The tuners are more recent Grover Sta-Tites replacing the original Klusons, which could be re-installed with no overt evidence.

We rarely see this model in any state of preservation; this one has had an interesting life by the looks of it, but still sounds fantastic and plays excellent. A wonderful piece of pre-war Gibson glory. Very Good + Condition.