A brace of Kalamazoo's finest...
Gibson Advanced Jumbo 1936
The first round shouldered Gibson design and the first acoustic seen on TV
Gibson has always made the most handsome acoustic guitars. Their style tends towards the more ornate, with bold fingerboard inlays, imposing headstocks, dark brooding sunburst finishes and even scratchplates that make a statement. The Advanced Jumbo was launched in 1936 and can be seen as a direct competitor to Martin, whose products even then were deemed classier. Instead of mahogany or maple – Gibson’s usual choices – the AJ adopted Brazilian rosewood, as used on Martin dreadnoughts from the D-28 upwards. Built using Gibson’s now famous round-shouldered design, the guitar also featured a ‘fire-stripe’ pattern celluloid pickguard and diamond and arrow fingerboard and headstock inlays. The scale length increased from 24.75 inches to 25.5, aping that of Martin and bringing stiffer string tension and therefore greater power and projection into the bargain. Unbelievably the model stalled and was withdrawn after just three years, but demand for these incredible guitars made them one of Gibson’s most prized acoustics. The model is once more being built, at Gibson’s acoustic guitar factory in Bozeman, Montana, 66 years after Helen Diller played one at a demonstration of a new broadcast medium, television, in Cincinnati, the year Hitler invaded Poland and Britain declared war.
Gibson SJ-200 1937
The King Of The Flat-Tops was a country and western singer’s dream-come-true…
Not for nothing is Gibson’s 1937 monster dubbed King Of The Flat-Tops. In every respect it’s a giant. Measuring 17 inches across its widest point and boasting more decoration than almost any other production acoustic guitar, the SJ-200 Super Jumbo cost a whacking $200 at its launch. A collaboration between Gibson and a variety of country singing stars, most notably Ray Whitley, the guitar initially came with rosewood back and sides but this was soon changed to the brighter sounding maple. Early models also had a plain tortoiseshell pickguards and it wasn’t until later that the floral motif emerged. Developed from the L-5 archtop design, the SJ-200’s fingerboard boasted the beautiful pointed lip at the last fret, perfectly echoing the headstock’s cleft. The most sought after SJ-200s also feature the ‘moustache’ pin bridge. This gargantuan pearl-encrusted creation was indeed shaped like a Mexican top lip ornament, with open sections at each end revealing the lacquered spruce top. Some early instruments had cowboy scenes etched into the pearl fingerboard inlays, but these gave way to the attractive ‘cloud’ markers we know today. From Bob Dylan to John Lennon and Jimmy Page, it seems any musician wanting to be noticed has chosen this incredible guitar as their stage prop cum musical partner.