Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open - 50

COLUMN The (Way) Back Beat
(despite a recent proliferation of
literature) there is no detailed
reference to the many models
Gibson produced between 1903
and 1970. In that spirit, we offer highlights of Kalamazoo-built archtops.
T his legac y t races d irec t ly to
Orville Gibson, who believed f lattopped instruments of the late 19th
century were poorly conceived and
tonally inefficient. Throughout the
1890s, he designed mandolins and
guitars with backs, sides and much
of their necks laboriously carved
from a single piece of (often repurposed) wood. In October of 1902, a
coterie of Kalamazoo businessmen
founded a company to market these
instruments, but discovered Orville's
quirky creations were impractical for
factory production. From 1903 until
1908, the Gibson guitar evolved into
something modern players would recognize (if not necessarily embrace).
This adaptability became a Gibson
hallmark; through the 20th century
the company was
never afraid to
change course
to whatever
t he market
dictated.
In the earliest years of the
Gibson company, guitar played
a distinct second
f iddle to the

(LEFT TO RIGHT) The L-1 in Catalog H from 1911. Gibson
introduces the O-2, 1903. An early Style O, from 1911.

EVERY ONE A
"GIBSON-ITE"

Early Carved-Tops from Kalamazoo
By Peter Stuart Kohman

G

ibson pioneered many
things in the 20th cent u r y, c reat i ng more
iconic fretted instruments
than any other source, with
the carved-top guitar and
mandolin - adapting the
principles of violin construction to the fretted world -
perhaps the most important.
Gibson's acoustic archtops
created a new species of guitar - one that would prove
dominant in the swing era of
the 1930s, then fall from grace
as players turned to amplified instruments. Like the
dinosaurs that disappeared
into extinction but gave rise
to birds, jazz-era archtops

were the seed from which
evolved most successful
early electric guitars.
By the '70s, carvedtop acoustics were
being built in miniscule numbers, receding to the background of the guitar
world. Some jazzor ie nt e d pl aye r s
and collectors still
prized these beautiful instruments, but
for the most part they
were ignored in favor of
f lat-tops or electric guitars. The acoustic archtop
has experienced a renaissance
over the last couple of decades, but

VINTAGE GUITAR

50

December 2016


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open - 1
Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open - 2
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Vintage Guitar - December 2016 - Open - Contents
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