Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 68

COLUMN Q&A With George Gruhn
What is the purpose/function of the small
barrel-shape "adjuster" under the trapeze
tailpiece on my Gibson Super 400? - Tom
Mondschein

The Varitone first appeared on Gibson
archtop guitars in 1939 and it forces a small
brass Allen screw down onto the top of the
guitar. When adjusted downward, the tailpiece is raised slightly from the top of the
guitar, resulting in a more treble tone. When
it's backed off, the tailpiece is lowered closer
to the top, allowing more midrange and bass
frequencies. These differences are at least
partially due to resulting changes in string
pressure across the bridge. The Varitone's
usefulness has always been questionable, and
it is possible to overtighten the screw, which
will likely crack the top.
I recently inherited a Daynor mandolin,
and I've read that the brand was once connected with Gretsch. Is that true? - Doug
de Castro

The back and neck heel of Creighton Miller's Fender Concert Tone Custom.

FIRST POST-WAR J-55?
And the Story of Fender's Concert
Tone Custom Banjo

I

have a '73 Gibson J-55 with serial number
A800000. My research indicates it may
be the first post-war J-55 made. I know
J-55s of this vintage are not all that valuable, but would this one be worth more if
it is the first? - Bob Gorman

As you probably know, the J-55 was reintroduced in '73, and your serial number fits
as likely one of the first. Present-day Gibson
is not forthcoming with information from the
Norlin period because shipping records from
that time have not been digitized. Therefore, a
researcher would have to examine the hardcopy
records page-by-page to locate the first J-55
shipped in '73, which could be time-consuming
(and thus, expensive). And there's another
problem; the first J-55 shipped is not necessarily the first J-55 produced. At the time, Gibson
serial numbers were assigned at shipping, not
at completion. It's also worth noting that the
very first examples typically were prototypes
with a stamp on the back the peghead reading
"Original Gibson Prototype."

I have a Fender Concert Tone Custom
banjo from the late '60s and am curious
how many were made. Also, were they all
carved (on the back, headstock, heel, and
rim of the body) and painted like mine, or
was that done only on certain orders? -
Creighton Miller

Circa 1967, Fender bought the Salstrom
banjo company in Oregon, Illinois. Having no
interest in research and development, Fender
used Salstrom parts to make its Artist and
Concert Tone banjos in Santa Ana, California,
until the end of production in 1979. There
were three variations of the Concert Tone
Custom, the earliest with unpainted carvings,
the second (beginning in '68) with carvings
highlighted in goldleaf, and the final (beginning '77) carved and painted. The carving
and painting were done by a subcontractor
whose name was never revealed. According
to Fender records, they produced a total of
18 Concert Tone Custom model banjos in all
three variations.

VINTAGE GUITAR

68

March 2018

Daynor was a brand-name of the Gretsch
Company, which marketed banjos and mandolins in the late 19th and early 20th century.
A search of commercial music publications in
our archives indicates the brand disappeared
circa 1906.
Early Gretsch-built mandos are bowlback or Neapolitan-style instruments. The
popularity of bowl-back mandolins began to
decline in the first decade of the 20th century
as the radical mandolin redesign of the new
Gibson Mandolin & Guitar Company began
to find widespread favor. The earliest Gibson
mandos had a much slimmer profile, with
carved tops and backs like a violin, resulting
in more volume, tone, and projection than
the bowl-back design. They were also easier to
hold. This innovation was largely responsible
for Gibson's rise to prominence prior to World
War I. Some companies continued to build
bowl-back designs, mostly for niche markets
where the look and sound is traditional.
This column addresses questions about features and
model changes on stringed instruments, information
on manufacturers, driving forces in the marketplace,
the effects of technology on music, and any other
related subject. Questions can be sent to vguitar@
vintageguitar.com with "Gruhn Q&A" in the subject line.
George Gruhn has been part of the Nashville music
scene for more than 30 years. He moved to Nashville
in 1969 after getting his Bachelor's Degree from
the University of Chicago and doing graduate work
at Duke University and the University of Tennessee
in Knoxville. In 1970, he established Gruhn Guitars,
Inc., one of the largest dealers of vintage and used
instruments in the world.


http://www.vintageguitar.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 3
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 4
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Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - Contents
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 11
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Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - IBC
Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - BC
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