Claescaster

Tag: Gibson

Gibson J-50 Deluxe

1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USAGibson J-50 Deluxe, made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, between 1970-72

As mentioned before I have been dreaming of a Gibson J-50 for years now and last week I finally managed to find one. Of course I would have preferred a 1940’s or 1950’s one but it’s hard to even afford one from the 1960’s with today’s vintage guitar prices, and I really don’t approve of the adjustable bridge they used in the mid 1960’s. They changed from round shouldered to square shouldered around 1969 and at the same time got rid of the horrible adjustable bridges. Gibson reached a lot of low marks in the late 1960’s with laminated backs and sides, plastic bridges, massive bridge plates and double X-braces to stiffen up the tops and making sure that they wouldn’t belly or break. I knew when I bought this J-50 that it might not sound like James Taylor’s, not just because it’s not a round shoulder, but also because of the double X-bracing and the general build quality of a 1970’s Gibson. Even though it doesn’t sound like James Taylor’s J-50 I really like the sound of it and it’s very pleasing on the eye too, at least for me. I love the simplicity of the small black drop shaped pickguard and the grain of the top is just amazing. It’s a Gibson J-50 Deluxe with the original Gibson Deluxe machine heads, made at the Kalamazoo plant between 1970-72, apparently it’s impossible to date it any closer.

1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USA
1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USA

It has had a neck reset at some point and it seems like the bridge has been re-glued too, which could mean that it’s one of the earlier ones that perhaps came with an adjustable bridge and someone changed it to a normal rosewood bridge. I bought the guitar from a gentleman in Oxford, England where it had lived for the past 15 years but before that it came from Oklahoma, USA, where the repairs where made at some point. The bridge plate seems to be a really thin, delicate and made of spruce, perhaps that’s been updated too since these where know for having massive tone killing blocks of wood under the bridge. It has the double X-bracing which I guess has it’s pros and cons like any other form of bracing. It’s an extremely light and well sounding guitar, I don’t know how they managed to build it so light since these are supposed to be really heavy. Gibson got tired of all the returns which cost them a lot of money so in order to increase profit they started to build their acoustics thicker and heavier until they were built like tanks and could survive any beating. These are known as the Norlin era Gibson guitars, but it’s important to remember that even though Norlin took over in 1969, the old owners CMI kept control over the Gibson production up to 1974, so I guess that’s when the real dip in quality happened. As with any vintage guitar of any brand, there are good ones and there are bad ones. Not all Levin guitars are good, but all of the 12 I have sounds amazing so perhaps some brands are more even in the quality than others. I feel that I was lucky with this Gibson J-50 Deluxe and managed to find an extremely light built and very well sounding example. I wished that the bass was a bit deeper, it still has the Gibson bass response, but since the mid range and trebles are so good I’m still very pleased with my new guitar.

1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USAA picture of the inside, beautiful solid mahogany back and sides, with the dreaded double X-bracing. It actually sounds better than expected and since the braces are fairly thin and delicate, together with the thin spruce bridge plate, it’s a very light and resonant guitar with great sustain. Except for a little worn patch on the neck after a capo and two tiny cracks in the top where the pickguard has shrunk it’s in very good state for being 45 years old. The neck reset and general set up it had before it left Oklahoma has made it an extremely easy guitar to play with fantastic low action. It has 011 gauge strings on in the clip below, I guess with 012’s it will sound even richer.

Daniel Romano

Daniel Romano Sala Rocksound Barcelona 30 Sep 2014, © Claes Gellerbrink Daniel Romano last night in Sala Rocksound Barcelona

Araceli and I finally got to see Daniel Romano last night. It was my wife’s birthday so it was a pretty good ending to her special day. The gig was great, the sound was good and the band was awesome live. The only let down was perhaps that Daniel Roman wasn’t wearing his awesome cowboy suit, but what can you do on a Tuesday in small venue in the north of Spain after a long European tour. I got a chance to say hi to him after the gig and managed to ask the question that has been nagging me since the first time I heard him. What Gibson model is his awesome sounding acoustic, the one with the Daniel Romano inlays over the freatboard? My guess was a re-issue Gospel and it turned out I was right, it’s a 1995 Gibson Gospel.

Aaron Goldstein Pedal steel, Daniel Romano Sala Rocksound Barcelona 30 Sep 2014, © Claes Gellerbrink
Daniel Romano Sala Rocksound Barcelona 30 Sep 2014, © Claes Gellerbrink

VOX, Made in Japan

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970’s 

I recently found a nice looking VOX Les Paul copy that I couldn’t resist. I had decided not to buy any more Les Paul’s after I sold my Westone a few weeks ago but this was just too nice to miss out on. It has a bolt on neck, which you could either hate or love, I’m fairly indifferent myself and you can read why here. The good part with bolt on necks is that they are so easy to adjust. It’s fairly common that older Les Paul and SG guitars with set necks gets a hump over the neck joint, something that can cause buzzing and you have to either raise the action or level the fretboard to get rid of it. The bad part with bolt on necks is the second hand value, a lot of people are still a bit racist when it comes to Gibson copies with a bolt on neck even though Gibson built a few themselves in the early 1980’s. What I fell in love with on this VOX was the flame top and the thickness of the neck, it’s so nice. It feels even fatter than my Tokai Love Rock LS-55 which has a fairly accurate 59′ Les Paul neck. This VOX even have the small head as the real Gibson of the late 1950’s and the pickups sounds pretty close to my old Westone. The only thing that is annoying me a bit is that I haven’t figured out who built it yet. There is no info about VOX in my list of Japanese guitar brands, well there is a Magnavox and a Univox but that’s not the same. The only thing I know is that when VOX stopped making guitars in the UK they moved to Italy before they ended up in Japan. The build quality is not as good as my 1991 Tokai Love Rock LS-55 or my 1980 Greco EG-600C, but it’s easily on the same level as the Westone which was built by Matsumoku. Even though I really enjoy this Les Paul I have too many guitars and is therefore up for sale.

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sIf anyone happens to have more information about Japanese made VOX guitars please get in touch

 

Video of the day

Japanese guitar brands: Greco

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500The Greco family, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979

I’m so in love with my Greco‘s, every time I pick one up it hits me how good they feel to play. They might not be the best built guitars to ever come out of Japan but they all have something special, here is a list of Japanese guitar brands. I only have 3 in the 500-series and I have never tried anything in the 1000-series so I can only speak about the cheaper Greco models. I would say that the best built Japanese electric I own is my Fender TL52-75 and the best acoustic would be the K.Yairi TG-40 or my Morris W-40. Having said that, there is something that makes me like my Greco’s more than all the others, more than my Fender, my Tokai LS-55 and even the fabulous Fernandes RST-50 I sold that I really liked, and still miss a bit. There is a resonance in the wood on my Greco’s, especially on my Greco TL-500, that I haven’t felt in my other Japanese guitars. I’m not sure if it’s down to the brand, the factory or their age. All three were made in the late 1970’s by FujiGen, I have actually never tried a Matsumoku made Greco, they changed factory around 1974-75. In my opinion FujiGen built better guitars than Matsumoku, having said that this could be down to years rather than factories, read about it here: Are all Japanese guitars good? I have two Westone guitars made by Matsumoku and three Greco’s and one Fender made by FujiGen and I feel that later are way better, again could be down to brands and years rather than factories. The Hohner Strat I have might have been built by Morris, but out of the cheapest materials around, before they started up H.S. Anderson and all of that. Now I’m seriously considering extending the Greco collection with a nice late 1970’s Strat, ideally a Greco SE-500 in a three-tone sunburst, just like my Claescaster.

Japanese guitars, MIJ, Made in JapanI have sold some of my Japanese guitars so this is more or less what’s left, from left to right: Fender Telecaster TL52-75 1987, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Tokai Love Rock LS-55 1991,  Westone Les Paul 1970′s, Jazz Bass 1978, Hohner Stratocaster 1970′s, Westone Stratocaster 1979, K.Yairi TG-40 1977, Morris WL-40 1973, Morris WL-35 1980′s

Daniel Romano

Daniel Romano

Araceli and I are very excited about seeing Daniel Romano live in September. He is doing his first European tour and is planned to play Rocksound here in Barcelona on Araceli’s birthday, the 30th of September 2014.

K. Yairi TG-40

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977K.Yairi TG-40 a Guild D-40 copy from 1977. Every K.Yairi guitar is given birth in Kani, a small community in the beautiful mountainside area of Honshu, Japan.

My new K.Yairi TG-40 has finally arrived, after 40 days stuck in Spanish customs. I have mentioned earlier that it’s a lot easier to import things from Japan to Spain compared to buying things from the US, well that was a lie. I have bought three electric guitars, mainly Greco’s from an eBay seller called Tokyowax. They all arrived within 48 hours so I stupidly assumed that everything from Japan would arrive quickly and without any problems, but no. Tokyowax uses DHL Express and they tend to deliver things within 2-5 days and you pay the taxes straight to them when they deliver the guitar. It wasn’t that easy with EMS Japan, that package went straight to customs in Madrid and spent 40 days in their lazy company. How can anything take that long? K. Yairi could probably have built me a new guitar in that time, if he was still alive. It seems like the only option now when buying guitars on eBay is to use the Global Shipping Program, that worked for my Goya 163 at least. Anyway, the guitar is amazing so it was well worth waiting for.

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977

It has a really nice tone with great bass response. It easily has the best bass of all my acoustics, even better than my Morris W-40 which has that Martin D-45 bass sound, this is nicer and a lot clearer. I guess it sounds like an old Guild D-40, at least if I can trust the Youtube clips I have seen since I haven’t had the chance to play one myself. It actually reminds me a bit of a Gibson Jumbo, like I mentioned in my Gibson J-45/J-50 post: “The Yairi TG-40 is a Guild D-40 copy, which was introduced in the Sixties as a competitor to Gibson’s J-45. The Guild D-40 became famous as the Bluegrass guitar for their even response over all the strings and I really like the sound of them, it’s actually not too far off from a Sixties Gibson J-45. With a bit of luck it’s going to be an awesome Yairi copy of an Guild which might sound a bit like a Gibson.”

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977I didn’t have to do much to it, it was ready to play when I got it. However, the pickguard was loose so I had to remove that, clean it up and then glue it back again with my trusty fish glue. When the strings was off I quickly polished the frets and oiled the ebony fretboard. I also installed a jack for my LR Baggs M1 and a strap button.

I bought this K.Yairi TG-40 from a really nice eBay seller called montebell86 who was a pleasure to deal with. The guitar was listed as “Taniguchi Gakki” Japanese guitar shop original model, very rare. Solid spruce top, sides and back in solid mahogany, neck in Honduras mahogany, bridge and Fretboard in black ebony. The label states it was made in 1977 but the serial number starts with 51 which was the 51st year of Emperor Shōwa and puts it to 1976.

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977I got this K.Yairi TG-40 fairly cheap since the pickguard needed to be reglued and one machine head wasn’t working properly. It also has two cracks, one on each side that has been professionally repaired and can’t be seen from the outside. Since the machine heads needed to be replaced I decided to change them for Wilkinson WJ-309 in gold, just like I did on my Levin 174


Here is a quick little comparison between the K.Yairi TG-40 and my Morris W-40, they sound pretty similar and I don’t think I would be able to tell them apart in a blind test. Well the Morris has a bit more bass and is a slightly weaker on the treble side, I feel that the Yairi is more even over all the strings.

Yairi TG-40 Japan Catalogue 1970'sK.Yairi TG-40in the Japanese catalogue from the late 1970′s. List price ¥60.000, around 420€, which must have been a fortune back in 1977. Then again, this was a fairly cheap guitar for being K Yairi, the top model cost ¥200.000, about 1400€.

Kalamazoo Gals

Kalamazoo Gals 1944 Gibson factory

I have never thought about before but of course everything was built by women during the war. Not just guns, aircraft and cars, guitars as well. Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s ‘Banner’ Guitars of WWII by John Thomas is a book that came out in 2013.

The book revolves around the interviews of a dozen women who appeared in the Gibson Guitar Company’s 1944 workforce photograph. Prior to my discovery of these women, Gibson had claimed in Wartime advertisements and in a 1973 company history authored by its WWII personnel director that it ceased producing guitars during the War. The younger members of its workforce had left to serve the military War effort. The remaining seasoned craftsmen repaired some instruments but, because of their limited numbers and wartime restrictions on the use of raw materials, were unable to construct new musical instruments. I discovered that the female workforce produced nearly 25,000 instruments during the war. Taken from Banner Gibson

Paul Bigsby

Paul Bigsby
Paul Bigsby died on June 7, 1968. While most guitarists know him because of his wildly popular Bigsby vibrato, most are not aware that Bigsby is widely considered to have crafted the first true solidbody electric guitar. Bigsby was a motorcycle mechanic during the 1940s in Southern California. He became friends with noted country star Merle Travis when the two met at a motorcycle racetrack. Travis discovered that Bigsby was a notorious tinkerer, and asked Paul if he could fix a vibrato tailpiece on a Gibson L-10. Bigsby ended up replacing the vibrato with a better one of his own design. Travis then asked Bigsby in 1946 if he could build an entire electric guitar, complete with pickups that wouldn’t feed back. Using a design from Travis, Paul created what may have been the first solidbody electric guitar. The guitar had a single cutaway and a headstock that featured all the tuning pegs on one side instead of the standard three per side arrangement. This was similar to a design used a centrury before by German luthier Johann Stauffer. It would later show up in a very similar form on the Fender Stratocaster.
Taken from National Guitar Museum

Merle Travis Paul Bigsby guitar
Merle Travis guitar built by Paul Bigsby in 1946, the first guitar that Bigsby built

THE STORY OF PAUL BIGSBY - FATHER OF THE MODERN ELECTRIC SOLIDBODY GUITAR by Andy Babiuk
If you want to read more about Paul Bigsby there is plenty of info at Premier Guitar, or you can by the book.

Update: December 18th 2014, I just found this pretty cool video about Paul Bigsby’s third guitar he built in 1949 for “Butterball” Paige

Ad of the day

Gibson S-1- “Ron Wood” Advert 1977Gibson S-1 advert from 1977 with Ron Wood

Gibson’s S-1 was a guitar that tried to find a niche and couldn’t quite succeed. Created in the late 1970s when the guitar company was owned by Norlin, the S-1 was a hybrid’s hybrid. Featuring three single-coil pickups, a four-position chicken head phase selector switch- plus a toggle switch- but only one tone and one volume knob, and a bolt on the neck, the guitar seemed like an attempt to create an American guitar to outdo the Teisco Spectrum. The guitar was sold from 1976 to 1980, but despite getting Ron Wood on board as an endorsee, he had just taken over Mick Taylor’s spot in The Rolling Stones, almost no one was interested in a Gibson that tried to be a Fender by way of Tokyo. It eventually suffered the same ignoble fate as a similarly designed and marketed Gibson, the Marauder. Taken from The National GUITAR Museum