Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 82

Albanus 10-string
mandolin made
for Earl Backus.

	

George Allen, who pointed out a need
for such professional-grade instruments in Chicago. Guitarist Art
Ormaniec ordered one at that time,
likely having heard about Johnson from
Ron Steele, one of Allen's students.
Ormaniec received the guitar in early
'56, shortly before joining Tommy
Alexander's big band for a tour of the
South and Midwest. On the evening
of May 20, Ormaniec was a passenger
in a car (driven by Alexander) that
was in an accident outside of Berlin
Heights, Ohio. Seriously injured,
Ormaniec was confined to Sandusky
Memorial Hospital for several days;
the accident and his discharge were
reported in the Sandusky Register
Star-News on May 21 and 25,
respectively. Ormaniec's guitar
sustained a split in the top and
was repaired by Johnson.
In 1957, guitarist Pat
Ferreri took a job as staff
musician for the ABC
television affiliate in
Chicago and needed
a top-quality archtop.
As luck would have
it, Ferreri was also a
student of Allen, who
had recently taken
delivery of an Albanus
cutaway archtop and
offered his non-cutaway Albanus to Ferreri.
According to Allen, the

VINTAGE GUITAR	

82	

February 2017

Pat Ferreri in the late '50s, playing the second
Albanus at ABC Television studios in Chicago and
(RIGHT) performing with Bobby Christian's band.

non-cut was the second archtop made by
Johnson and originally shared the deepred finish on Ormaniec's guitar (and no
other Albanus uncovered to date); Johnson
disliked the color and asked Ferreri to let
him refinish the instrument in sunburst.
Ormaniec's awareness of Albanus
guitars meant at least one was already in
circulation. Considering the time it takes
to construct an archtop, Johnson probably
started building Allen's first one prior to
'55. Therefore, a best guess is that Johnson
completed his first guitar in '54.
Thanks to the quality of workmanship,
materials, and the style, by the late '50s,
word-of-mouth demand for Albanus
archtops had increased to an extent that
Johnson had more than enough work
to occupy his time. He used solid-wood
bodies and hand-carved tops and backs
(typically, cello sets). Though he offered a
floating pickup, his guitars were primarily
built to be played without amplification. 
Despite having little spare time, Johnson
imparted his knowledge to several people,
the most well-known being Barker, who
was looking for an alternative to life on
the road. Barker lived in Toledo and began
making weekly visits to Johnson's shop,
where he would take pictures, make drawings, copy tools, and use certain pieces of
Johnson's equipment. The only restriction was that Barker could not look over

Albanus mandolin courtesy of Ron Steele.

Elmer and Charles working
at the Stromberg shop in
the '50s. This was confirmed
by the late guitarist Chet
Krolewicz, a close friend of Elmer
who recalled Johnson's name coming
up in e-mail correspondence with
Stromberg expert Jim Speros.
Prior to his death in 2009, Rundquist
corresponded with Speros about a
Stromberg Deluxe he purchased from
Hank Garland in 1953/'54. It had a
short scale, and Rundquist asked Elmer
to build a long-scale neck and send it to
Johnson. Elmer communicated with
him about its installation (Stromberg
did not use glue to attach necks,
preferring instead a very tight joint).
One can speculate this work would
have provided Johnson the opportunity to study Stromberg's
work in-depth (bracing, carving, etc.) and ask sufficient
questions.  
T h o u g h i t 's n o t
known exactly when
Johnson bega n to
build archtops, it
happened prior to
mid 1955 thanks
to encouragement
f rom Ru ndqu ist
and guitar teacher



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 1
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 2
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 3
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 4
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 5
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 6
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 7
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - Contents
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 9
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 10
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 11
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 12
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 13
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 14
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 15
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 16
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 17
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 18
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 19
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 20
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 21
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 22
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 23
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 24
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 25
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 26
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 27
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 28
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 29
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 30
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 31
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 32
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 33
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 34
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 35
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 36
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 37
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 38
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 39
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 40
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 41
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 42
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 43
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 44
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 45
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 46
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 47
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 48
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 49
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 50
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 51
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 53
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 54
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 78
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 90
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 91
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 94
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