Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 52

COLUMN The (Way) Back Beat
Nick Lucas
with a
'20s L-5.

Eddie Lang
with a
circa-1930
L-5.

DEPRESSION, DECO, AND
THE L-SOMETHING
A Field Guide to Gibson Archtops, Part 3
By Peter Stuart Kohman

B

y the late 1920s, Gibson archtops were still
unique, even if their novelty had faded
with their having been around for more

than 30 years.
Orville Gibson created carved-top guitars
in the 1890s, adapting design principles of

violins. Despite Gibson's subsequent decades
of evolving designs, most other builders seemed
content to leave this niche to the craftsmen in
Kalamazoo. Other builders, including Lyon &
Healy, eventually followed Gibson's lead and
adapted the carved/arched top to mandolins,
but only a few minor competitors (like Dayton)
attempted carved-top guitars prior to the end of
the '20s. This would change at the beginning of
the '30s, as the public embraced the idea. And,
despite Gibson's lead in archtop design, the
company struggled to fully exploit the market
they'd created.
After the stock market crashed September of
'29, life in America changed dramatically and
sales of "luxury" goods took a nosedive. Even
prior, though, the fretted-instrument market
had begun to falter. By '28, once-booming sales
of tenor-banjos reached saturation. Ukuleles
likewise declined. At the same time, the guitar
was becoming accepted in many new musical
situations, most importantly for Gibson as it
replaced the banjo as rhythm instrument for
dance bands dominating popular music at the
time. Guitars were also a staple of the increasingly
commercialized "hillbilly" radio and recording
acts. Gibson should have been in a perfect position to profit.
Still, like the old dreadnought battleships,
musical-instrument builders can find it hard
to rapidly reverse course. For years, Gibson had
been pushing out mostly banjos and their big
product introduction for the 1930 music trades
convention was the All American banjo - the
gaudiest item yet to emerge from Kalamazoo -

Gibson's 1930
archtop line.

VINTAGE GUITAR

52

March 2017

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

Contents
Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 3
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