Claescaster

Tag: Michigan

Gibson B-15

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15, built in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in 1969

Another 1960’s Gibson came in to my hands this weekend. This one is actually not mine, it belongs to Sr Chinarro. The Gibson B-15 was introduced in 1967 as the last model of the famous B-series, the Gibson B-25 was already a huge hit and they continued to manufacture the B-series through out the 1970’s. The B-15 was an all solid model with a natural finished mahogany body, a mahogany stained spruce top and rosewood fretboard and bridge. Gibson referred to the B-series as student models at the time which is a bit misguiding considering what a student guitar sounds like today. These have great even tone and pretty amazing sustain for the size, a perfect little blues machine.

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969

This 1969 Gibson B-15 sounds and plays great and is pretty good shape for it’s age. There is a lot of scratches and wear to the top and sides but the are no cracks or structural issues. It’s all original and even comes with the Gibson made alligator chipboard case. The action is good and the frets has very little wear. This guitar is sold now.

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969

 

 

Gibson J-45/J-50

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAGibson J-45 ADJ, built in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in 1965

As mentioned quite a few times in the past, I’m very gay for the old round shouldered Gibson J-45 / J-50. I’m not entirely sure why, it’s not just for the amazing bass response, I think I really like the look of the round shoulders as well, it’s very woman like. I previously owned a 1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe which sounded great but it didn’t really have the look or sound I was after so eventually I sold it to a nice older gent living in Kent, no he lived in Asturias here in Spain but he might very well have been from Kent originally.

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAGibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USA1965 Gibson J-45 ADJ, round shouldered dreadnought, natural finish spruce top, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fretboard and bridge. All original except for the refinish which turned this J-45 in to a J-50

In the beginning of the year I was contacted by a seller that happened to sit on a 1965 Gibson J-45 ADJ with a natural top, apparently it was refinished in the early 1970’s. It looked exactly like the guitar I was looking for, round shouldered, small headstock with old school Kluson 3-on-a-plate machine heads and a big pickguard. The only downside was a couple of old cracks in the top and the adjustable bridge. The cracks had been fixed 45 years ago and it wasn’t that hard to carve a new bone saddle the size of the old rosewood saddle, insert and all. Finally I had my mid-1960’s round shouldered Gibson J-50, I would of course have preferred a mid-1950’s but the price difference is just insane. Even though it’s a 1965 Gibson J-45, the only difference between the J-45 a J-50 was the sunburst so with that gone it’s a 1965 Gibson J-50.

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAI wasn’t overly keen on the sound of the original adjustable rosewood saddle so I carved a new one in bone and removed all the nuts and bolts under the bridge. The rosewood saddle didn’t sound bad, just a bit muffled and to me the bone is huge improvement

Bob Dylan in 1963 on his late 1940's Gibson J-50This is how cool I feel with my 1965 Gibson J-45, like a 1963 Bob Dylan with his late 1940’s Gibson J-50

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.