I was contacted by a gentleman in Tuscaloosa a few months ago about purchasing his vintage 1963 Gibson Hummingbird guitar. I told him I’d love to take a look at it. A few days later he was standing in my living room with an old black case with a metal badge that read “Gibson.”
The Hummingbird he brought me was a lovely example with rare Maple back and sides. I inspected the guitar and found it to be in nice condition. I asked him how he came to own the guitar and its history. He told his story of being in the Navy in the late 1950s and early 1960s but left and purchased this Hummingbird brand new shortly thereafter. His interest in the guitar waned in recent years compared to his interest in military history and World War II. I responded that I too was interested in that subject and grabbed a book from my shelf entitled Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s ‘Banner’ Guitars of WWII.
His eyes lit up when I began describing how the author researched how the production of Gibson guitars changed during the war years. He, too, was familiar with the wartime production board and how women played an integral role in both the war effort and American manufacturing. He said he would likely purchase the book when he got back home to Tuscaloosa but I said he shouldn’t bother and to take my copy instead.
He left my house in Birmingham to consider the offer I made on his Gibson Hummingbird guitar and to read the Kalamazoo Gals. I received a call from him a week later wherein he accepted my offer on his guitar. He showed up the next day with a Hummingbird guitar but my copy of Kalamazoo Gals was not returned!
So I recently purchased another. I love seeing the copies of the shipping ledgers, the research on what Factory Order Numbers were produced when, and how the specifications of the guitars changed throughout the war years. Even after all the research we’re still no sure why Gibson utilized a golden banner that read “Only a Gibson Is Good Enough” solely during the war years. I recommend this book to anyone whose interests lie at the intersection of guitars, music, and history!
You can purchase through Amazon here:
Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s ‘Banner’ Guitars of WWII