Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 80
"ART FOR ART'S SAKE." The expression is
common. But how often is it practiced? ■ In a basement studio on
Chicago's North Side, Carl Johnson epitomized the maxim while
building archtop guitars bearing the Albanus brand from the
1950s until the '70s. Rather than seek fame or fortune, Johnson
was content to live modestly and draw pleasure watching people
play his instruments, including professionals Fred Rundquist,
Johnny Gray, Pat Ferreri, Ron Steele, Jack Cecchini, Bobby
Roberts, Earl Backus, and Dick Curtis.
BY JA M E S W. L E CK IN G E R
Today, many compare the sound and
quality of Johnson's guitars to those of
D'Angelico, yet little is known of his life
Born Carl Albanus Johannson on
December 18, 1892, his family lived in
Fjallbacka, a fishing village in Sweden.
Known for its herring industry, a periodic
shortage may have caused the family to
move inland to Barfendal by the time Carl's
last sibling was born in 1900.
Between 1910 and 1922, Johnson immigrated to the United States and settled
in Akron, Ohio. On October 2, 1923, he
married Maria Therese Kjellson. Their
marriage license says Carl was employed
by Mason Tire and Rubber.
The ensuing six years included a move to
Carl Johnson photo courtesy of Wade Thames.
Carl Johnson examines
a violin in his workshop.