The word “rare” gets tossed around a lot on Craigslist and eBay so I contemplated not using it in the title. In my opinion, this one deserves it. This is a 1943 Gibson J-45 made from a laminated flame Maple back, solid flame Maple rims and a bear claw Spruce top. Well, at least one half of the top has some bear claw figure but it’s mostly obscured by the sunburst.
Quality wood was difficult to come by during the war, especially Adirondack Spruce planks wide enough for tops. The Gibson company had slimmed their product line down to just 6 models, only two of which were archtop style that commonly used Maple. Because of the shortage of quality materials Gibson started using parts of guitars from the basement to piece a guitar together. This is one of those examples.
The Maple is stained dark in an attempt to make it blend better with the Mahogany backed J-45s. The neck on this guitar is a 5 piece Maple-Walnut lamination, also intended for use on an archtop guitar. The bear claw figure on the top is very rare for a Gibson. Undoubtedly this piece of Adirondack Spruce was originally tossed aside until there were no more unfigured Spruce planks left. The bear claw figure is mostly covered by the burst but is still easily seen if you look close. Gibson considered this figure a lower grade than the standard straight-grained Spruce.
This guitar was owned by Gladys Atkins from Porterville, Ca until her death about a decade ago. It is unknown how it received such a great knock as to cause the headstock to break, or who did the repair. All I know is that it is a very solid repair but boy, is it ugly! I haven’t decided what I want to do with the front. I can’t bring myself to refinish the entire front and lose the original banner. I also don’t feel confident that the lower half could be finished and blended very well with the top. I intend to leave it as is for now at least.
In short: loud, articulate and very unlike a typical J-45. The Gibson J-45 model is know in part for its low-end growl and break up. They aren’t muddy like a D-28 can get in the low end. They have this distinct overdriven low end. This one substitutes the standard J-45 growl for articulation, note separation and sparkly top end.
This Maple J-45 still retains two tonal aspects common of the Mahogany backed J-45s. The first is a very balanced mid-range. It responds well across the figurative EQ curve and would record well. The other is the Gibson thump, but it is different than the Mahogany thump. The thump doesn’t sound as bass heavy but is still pronounced.
Gibson used solid rims on J-45s until about 1952. At this time they started using laminated wood and discontinued using cloth side supports to protect against splitting. Laminated wood isn’t prone to splitting at the grain lines because they layer it with the grain running 90 degrees to the other layers. I’m partial to solid rims myself, especially when they have nice flamey figure.
Do you have one of these that you would like to sell? I’m looking for another. Please email me about what you have for sale.