Half the fun of vintage guitars are their history and the path they took to get to me. Some of the guitars I have bought came with pictures of the original owners and stories about how all those scratches came to be (most have to do with the owner drinking a lot). Sadly, the sellers are rarely the ones that owned the guitar for so long.
I’m not always successful in my pursuit of vintage flat-tops. Sometimes it will get snagged by someone else or the owner decides not to sell. Here are a few of the ones that got away.
I was really upset about this one. This is a mid forties Gibson Southern Jumbo. The seller didn’t really know what he wanted for it but invited me to come take a look. It was in Knoxville, TN which is quite a drive from the school I was attending in Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide). Long drives have rarely gotten in the way of a me and a guitar so I was planning to leave after my last class that day. I called the seller back after class let out and it was sold.
This was the only picture I had of it but it was all I needed to know this was a real banner Southern Jumbo. The split parallelogram inlays on the neck told me it was a SJ and not a J-45. The belly down bridge combined with the lack of binding on the neck told me that this was most likely wartime (meaning is has the desirable banner on the headstock). I should have skipped class!!
Yes. You are seeing this correctly. This is a 1958 Gibson Les Paul with the original case. This one was in northern Florida and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Most of the pictures you see of these floating around without a price tag of 200k+ are fakes. This one was not. I spoke with the owner and she said that she had already sold it by the time I even saw the ad. She was working on taking the ad down and was having trouble. Figures.
There was a musician who passed away in Cullman, AL in 2008. His family was ready to sell off his collection of 10 instruments but they didn’t know anything about any of them. I had found a picture of this guy online that showed him holding a late 30s Gibson J-35:
I was a bit disappointed when I showed up to take a look at the collection. It was pretty much all junk. There was no J-35 or anything close. There was a jacked up parts telecaster, a squire strat, a plywood parlor guitar. That was the best of the lot and I was not really interested. I thanked old lady that survived the man and on my way out the door she handed me this picture:
I turned to her and asked politely, “Where is this guitar? We need to find it.” She didn’t know anything about it. Supposedly there was a blackface deluxe too but it wasn’t there. I figured that all this stuff had been picked over long ago and I was too late. WRONG. I was too ill-informed! A year or two later I found this picture that I had taken:
With the help of my buddy Keith we came to the conclusion that this is that blackguard tele!!! But how, you ask? The neck is changed, the pickguard, hardware, all changed. Take a look at the screws. There are 5 old screws and one new one. The holes are in the right place for a black guard Telecaster. The body has been poorly refinished but I would be willing to bet that this was that telecaster- right before my eyes and I missed it! Who knows what parts of the electronics were original. Maybe none, maybe all. I called the lady back and she said she had sold it a while back. Still kicking myself. The moment that you think you know what you are doing is when you find out that you really don’t!
I would be impressed if you knew what this was just from the picture. I sure didn’t. All I knew was that this was not your typical Asian made Epiphone. This was a pre-Gibson buyout Epiphone flat top which have been aptly described as “rare as hen’s teeth.” After a bit of research I found that this was the presursor to the Gibson-made Epiphone Texan. This was a 1943 Epiphone F.T.-79. Good luck finding another one of these at any price.
Having little knowledge of Epiphone flat-tops, I posted this picture on the Gibson guitar forum that I am a part of. There was a guy on there that is a fellow vintage guitar guy that told me what it was and how uncommon they really are. They are especially uncommon in this good of shape!
A buddy of mine agreed to come with me on the road trip but I decided to call the seller one more time before we left. He had just sold it to a buyer in California. I posted on the forum on how it had sold and the guys were giving their condolences when all of the sudden there was a new member on the forum. It was the buyer in California! He was a very cool guy and certainly deserved this fine, rare bird.
Of course, there were a few scores that I didn’t expect. One of them was this little number:
This Epiphone is from roughly the same time period (WWII). It sort of fell into my lap. It had been through a house fire and ownership by a someone who decided to carve her name into the top. She apparently like stickers and glue as well. Strangely enough her name was “Kelsey”. This happens to be my wife’s first name. Strange how that works out.