Recording King Roy Smeck Model A-104 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1940)

Recording King  Roy Smeck Model A-104 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1940)

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Item # 7933
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Recording King Roy Smeck Model A-104 Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1940), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 934F-1 (FON), sunburst lacquer finish, laminated maple back and sudes, spruce top, mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, original grey chipboard case.

When Gibson got into electric guitars, they got in all the way, and before too long even the company's budget-brand jobber lines were plugged in. This guitar is a very rare variation on the iconic Gibson ES-150 guitar, immortalized as the "Charlie Christian" model due to his extensive use. This model is, however, actually named for another "Wizard of the Strings" -- Roy Smeck, who lent his endorsement to a bewildering variety of fretted instruments over the years! Sold only through Montgomery Ward stores and mail order catalog, the A-104 was a short-lived effort at a fully professional quality electric Spanish guitar for the retail giant available only from 1938-40. The "A-104" logo on the headstock is obscure; most Wards materials refer to this guitar as the "Model 1127".

The instrument itself is very similar to the classic ES-150, with the same carved spruce top mounting a full "Charlie Christian" pickup rig. As with all Gibson "budget brand" instruments, the adjustable truss rod was not fitted. There are a number of other detail differences; the pickup cover is unbound with rounded ends, but mounts the same way with three large bolts through the top. The f-holes are larger, and the back and sides are laminated instead of solid wood, with an arched back instead of the 150's flat back. The jack is conventionally mounted in the side instead of the base of the tailpiece. The headstock has a center peak, stenciled logos, and fairly high-grade Kluson openback tuners with translucent plastic buttons.

The most inexplicable variation from Gibson's established standard is the placement of the tone and volume knobs, mounted directly ABOVE and behind the pickup on the bass side of the body. This obvious eccentricity aside (it's actually less cumbersome than it sounds), this guitar is fully equivalent to the much vaunted ES-150 in sound, and yes, we just A-B'd a set! While perhaps a bit less classic-looking than its Gibson sibling, the Roy Smeck Model A-104 is also a truly great pre-war electric guitar under the skin, with a look combining Gibson class and some extra period tongue-in-cheek snazz!
Overall length is 41 in. (104.1 cm.), 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This is the nicest example of this unusual early Gibson-made electric we have ever seen, complete and all original except a perfect repro pickguard (the original is included, with some early-stage celluloid disintegration). Everything else is untouched, with the finish showing light play wear in spots but that's about it. There is some corrosion to the pickup blade and mounting screws from the outgassing pickguard, fairly minor but noticeable.

The only repairs are one very small spruce grain split to the top on the treble side waist area, and a small veneer repair to the back edge. The "Recording King" logo decal on the headstock is just about perfect -- many of these have flaked away over the years. The oft-disintegrated plastic tuner buttons are perfect as well; in fact, all the hardware is as well-preserved as can be. Includes the original budget-minded but well-made canvas-covered chipboard case; a wonderful time-capsule package. Excellent + Condition.