If someone mentions a classic 1940s Gibson acoustic, the first model your mind flags up is the J-45. But the Southern Jumbo hails from the same period and, despite going through quite a few design changes over the years, is a model that is still with us today.
Classic period Southern Jumbos reach some quite dizzying prices on the vintage market - $12,000 is not uncommon for one in absolutely mint condition - and to this end Gibson recently revisited the model in its excellent New Vintage range.
Essentially a large-bodied slope-shouldered dreadnought, the Southern Jumbo featured a rosewood back and sides to begin with, this being changed to mahogany a little later on.
Some early models were made without a truss rod, too, but the standard became set with a bound rosewood fingerboard, double parallelogram inlays, Gibson’s 24.75-inch scale length and a Sunburst finish. The model quickly acquired a reputation for versatility, being equally capable of vibrant rhythm and powerful lead tones.
The remarkably pristine model featured here is a custom order, presumably for a player called ‘Bop’ Anderson, for it is his name that we find emblazoned on the bell-shape truss rod cover, along with a few sundry musical symbols.
Inside the soundbox, on one of the back braces, there are the letters ‘SJ’, denoting the model, plus the letters ‘RAA’, the meaning of which is, alas, lost in the mists of time.
Looking closely at the guitar, it seems to have had a fairly easy life, because the body, neck and fretboard show very few signs of wear, despite clocking up 56 years. Interestingly, the case is in pretty good condition, too. Picking it up for a casual strum or two reveals a loud, mature voice, full of character and rich overtones. Another one to add to the wish list!
We would like to thank the New Kings Road Guitar Emporium for giving us access to this beautiful piece of Gibson’s acoustic guitar history.