Gibson L-5 Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1934)A great sounding example!
Gibson L-5 Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1934), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 91100, sunburst lacquer finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black - red line hard shell case. Item # 7071
This 1934 L-5 is a very nice example of the pre-eminent orchestra guitar of its era-the original F-hole archtop guitar- and an extremely fine sounding and playing instrument. Debuting in 1923-4 the L-5 was the first modern F-hole archtop guitar; at the time this one was built just ten years later is was still the top of Gibson's line and generally considered the finest of its type. Orchestra and jazz band banjoists had by this time almost universally converted to guitar; the $275.00 L-5 along with Epiphone's competing Deluxe were the choice of nearly all top professional guitar players of the time. Eddie Lang, the era's most influential guitarist, went from a Gibson L-4 to a dot-neck (probably 1927) L-5 then an early block neck L-5 in 1929 setting the trend for all to follow. In 1934 L-5 still ruled the roost for orchestra guitars, and gave Gibson a dominance in this style of instrument that the company never lost.
That said, these early L-5's are fairly rare guitars today. Retailing at $275.00 (plus case!) the L-5 was extremely expensive (a top-of-the-line Martin pearl-trimmed Style 45's retailed around $100.00 less). At the height of the depression only top professional users with steady salaries could afford the indulgence of such an instrument. Most 16" 1930's L-5's were used extensively for many years, some owners preferring them to any later guitars…they are still often seen in the hands of recording studio players well into the 1960's. The year after this one was made, the design was "Advanced" to a 17" instrument and the L-5's character changed dramatically-many players over time have felt for the worse. As working guitars these instruments have often been heavily modified, refitted or refinished…like most this one has had some repairs over time but remains an absolutely superb instrument with its original character intact.
This guitar shows typical features for the early 1930's 16" L-5's; the bound, straight-end ebony fingerboard has pearl block inlay in place of the dots used up through 1929. The 3-piece laminated curly maple neck has a fairly prominent "V" spine with a medium shallow profile. The pearl inlayed flowerpot in the headstock and straight across "Gibson" logo are the hallmarks of the early 1930's L-5, as are the early pattern individual openback Grover Sta-Tite tuners. The top, back and sides carry a beautiful dark sunburst finish over lovely figured curly maple. The top, back and headstock are bound in 3-ply celluloid, with a matching heelcap. The hardware is gold plated, including the 1930's pattern "string-through" trapeze tailpiece. The nut is bone (1920's ones were pearl) and the adjustable ebony bridge is a period 1930's piece but not original to the guitar. The name of the original owner "Frank M. Scully" is factory engraved on the truss rod cover, a not unusual touch on these high-end Gibsons. This guitar is an extremely fine playing instrument with quite a powerful sound typical of the best early L-5's; simultaneously warm and incisive with plenty of depth.
Overall length is 40 3/4 in. (103.5 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 3/4 in. (44 mm.). This guitar is an excellent player and remains quite nice overall; there is some general wear and tear over the entire finish but no major damage or heavy strum wear. The guitar is all original except the pickguard is missing and the bridge is a period Gibson piece but not the correct style for an L-5. Two of the original riveted Grover tuning pegs have a slightly different patina from the rest (the gold is shinier and less dark)-it is possible they were replaced at some point but it is all period correct. The pickguard and bracket are missing. The most notable wear is to the back and sides of the neck around the lower fret areas where there is finish worn away a bit up, especially near the binding. The neck finish is also worn away on the spine with a bit of wear into the wood in a few spots. There is aome typical longitudinal checking to the finish, mostly on the back.
Overall the rest of the instrument's lovely sunburst finish is pretty clean, with strong color and very little fade. There are numerous small dings and scrapes to the top and back, nothing too extreme. Structurally this guitar is in very fine shape; there was a neck set performed recently so there is an excellent neck angle and only some very minimal top sag. There is a 5" long grain on the back under the treble-side F-hole to the rim, solidly repaired but visible with some light touch-up. The guitar appears to have an older correct-style refret and playability is excellent. The guitar sounds wonderful and is simply a joy to play, a superb instrument complete with a nice original HSC. Overall Excellent - Condition.
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