Gibson L-4 Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1923)Just Arrived!
Gibson L-4 Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1923), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 74055, red sunburst top, dark stained back and sides finish, birch back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingergoard, original black hard shell case. Item # 7695
This is a very interesting, fairly rare and mostly great sounding guitar-An oval-soundhole L-4 from the height of the "Loar Era" at Gibson. This guitar is generally similar to the 1910's/earlier 1920's L-4's but with a wide round-backed neck in place of the earlier "V" style, and a noticeably thinner top. It has all the other new features introduced by Gibson in the early 1920's including the adjustable ebony bridge, truss rod neck and solid tailpiece bar in place of the earlier pin variant. Built soon before the change-over to the "snakehead" Loar-designed peghead it features a slanted, "The Gibson" logo on its single-bound peghead, above the then-new truss rod cover. The soundhole is bordered with an elaborate diamond marquetry motif and the original adjustable bridge has the "turn over" saddle for Hawaiian playing seen only in the 1920's.
Lloyd Loar's tenure as "acoustic engineer" at Gibson has become so mythical that sometimes separating fact from fiction is difficult. Certainly the mandolin family instruments made during the period of Loar's employment are the most perfectly realized in Gibson's history, and have become the template for most similar instruments since. While Loar himself as both player and designer was primarily concerned with the mandolin, the guitars of the "Loar Era" were also improved from the earlier designs, benefitting from the influence of a master player on both design and execution although other Gibson employees (especially Thaddeus McHugh and Lewis A. Williams) actually engineered many of the technical improvements. Loar was primarily concerned with 'voicing' the instruments properly; the Master Model Style 5 line was his greatest contribution with their violin-style F-hole tops but all Gibson instruments were refined and improved at the same time.
The L-4 did not top the Gibson line but was still a fancy high-end guitar for this era, with only the just about to-be-discontinued scroll-body Style O and subsequently the new-for-1924 Master Model L-5 exceeding it in price. With a large 16" wide body and carved top and back it was unlike any other guitar available at the time-Martins of this era were still mostly gut-string instruments, and the L-4's combination of steel-string power and punch was unique. Many early jazz greats used similar L-4's extensively into the late 1920's including Eddie Lang and Freddy Guy with Duke Ellington's Orchestra. Besides being a considerable rarity, this Loar-era L-4 is a very powerful sounding guitar with a big open tone.
Overall length is 39 1/8 in. (99.4 cm.), 16 in. (40.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 7/16 in. (8.7 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.). This is a superb example of this rare L-4 variant, with some minor repairs and restoration but in unusually fine condition for the period-one of the nicest L-4-s we have seen in a while! The instrument shows some light wear overall-it has been played but extremely well cared for. A piece of binding on the back/side edge of the upper bout adjacent to the neck heel has been replaced, as the heelcap itself. There are small dings and scrapes here and there on the body and headstock, the only notable loss is to the finish on the treble side of the neck which is down to the wood along the edge. The frets appear original-it is certainly period wire-but show very little wear and remain eminently playable. In the further interest of playability the original adjustable bridge top with the Hawaiian turn-over saddle has been replaced with a hand-made piece with a lower profile. The base is intact and the original saddle is included and could used if desired, with a somewhat higher action. All other hardware is complete and original except the single-bracket tortoise celluloid pickguard is a modern reproduction. The original varnish finish has a deep rich red hue and still shines like it was 1923! The original owner added his initials to the top just under the tailpiece crossbar in gothic script. This is truly one of the best sounding L-4's we have ever heard-bright, full and powerful with a room-filling tone that most of this model do not muster and plenty of authority that never gets strident. Includes a very nice OHSC with some wear and a later handle. Overall Excellent Condition.
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