Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 81
A draft-registration card issued in '42
indicates Johnson resided on Malden
Street and was once again unemployed.
Most interesting, though, is that in the
field labeled "Name and Address of a
Person Who Will Always Know Your
Address," Johnson wrote, "Mr. C.
Rundquist, 2031 Wilson," indicative of
the bond between Johnson and the family
of Fred Rundquist.
It's not clear what Johnson did for a living
from the mid 1940s until the mid '50s, though
a clue may be found in a March '88 interview in
Archtop magazine by Martin Taylor with Carl's
friend, professional guitarist/luthier Bill Barker
(1924-1991). In the feature, Barker said Johnson
"...never did luthiery on a full-time basis - he was
actually a maintenance machinist with one of
the railroads." Prior to 1950, though, Johnson
began constructing violins, violas, and cellos
- primarily student-grade instruments sold
directly or through local shops. One person who
purchased several for students was Karl Fruh,
a cellist and teacher.
Around this time, Johnson moved to 1909
Wilson Avenue, the address that would serve
(LEFT) The second Albanus guitar, made circa
1955, has a cutaway and tailpiece added later.
(RIGHT) 1957 Albanus made for
Johnny Gray with hand-made
Johnny Gray guitar courtesy of Michael Gaughan.
Chicago and the birth
of a son, Werner. As
a sideline, Johnson
played violin at Swedish dinner dances,
which is how he met a
young Fred Rundquist.
Life was uneventful for
the young family until
Maria contracted tuberculosis and had to be committed to
the Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium. After several
years of confinement, she passed
away March 30, 1932.
With the advent of the Great
Depression, Johnson struggled
to maintain steady employment.
With little work available, he
sent his young son to Sweden,
where he then lived with Johnson's sister. Carl did not see the
boy again until he traveled to
Sweden in 1969.
As the country entered a new
decade, Johnson continued to
struggle to make a living. The
1940 census lists him as a lodger
in a house on Beacon Street,
in Chicago, his occupation,
"Machinist." He was employed
for just 21 weeks in '39.
as his home and workplace
for the rest of his life. A
basement apartment, it
consisted of a bathroom
and one other room that
ser ved as workshop,
kitchen, and bedroom.
By t he ea rly '50s,
Rundquist, then an NBC
staff musician and member of
the Art Van Damme quintet,
was bringing his guitars for
Johnson to repair; through
the years, Rundquist owned
multiple Gibson, D'Angelico,
and Stromberg archtops, which
gave Johnson the opportunity
to observe differences in design
One enduring myth is that
Johnson learned archtop guitar
construction from Charles
and Elmer Stromberg at their
shop in Boston. This has been
commonly surmised in part
because all three were of
Swedish descent and because
Johnson used a single diagonal
brace to support the top plate
in some of his guitars. To date,
though, no evidence suggests
there was anyone other than