Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 56

COLUMN The (Way) Back Beat
A 19" Larson
archtop... in
a hayloft!

This 21" Prairie State
has a rosewood body.

tops are fitted with August's patented internal
support rods in the body, some with maple and
rosewood bodies. They can be fine-sounding
guitars, but many judge them neither fish nor
fowl, sounding not as rich as the brothers'
flat-tops nor as powerful as more-familiar
carved instruments. Extant examples run up
to an amazing 21" wide, along with a couple
of similarly gigantic f-hole guitars and more
conventionally sized 16" and 17" models. In the
'60s, many of these were converted to flat-tops,
making originals even scarcer today.
The brothers also made a (very) few cutaway
guitars. Requests for these may have come
from customers who'd seen Gibsons - though

if the timing of some
accounts is correct,
the Larsons actually
scooped the Kalamazoo boys. One unique
order came from a
player on his way up
- Rhubarb Red, a.k.a. Les Paul. During his
stay in Chicago in the mid '30s, Paul had three
guitars made by Carl. By his reckoning, each
took about six months. When Paul asked Carl
for a 14-fret cutaway archtop with 1/2"-thick
maple top, no soundholes, and a 20-fret
fingerboard, Carl countered, "You can't get
sound if there's no hole!" Les explained he
would be using an electric pickup and agreed
to a price of $45. Carl then built the guitar that
would be "heard through a wire," as requested.
"Rhubarb Red" also ordered a round-hole
flat-top with a fingerboard extension (giving
26 frets), and a dreadnought built in 1935. Paul
later sold the dreadnought to Jimmy Atkins

VINTAGE GUITAR

56

September 2018

(Chet's older brother), who
sometimes played second
guitar for him.
Unfortunately, none
of the guitars built
for Paul survive. By
his own recollection,
they were probably
dismantled for parts,
as evidenced by the
Larson fingerboard fitted to one of his famous
'40s "Klunker" electrics.
By 1940, Carl and August
had worked together much of their
lives, but the partnership ended when Carl was
struck by a car while crossing Damen Avenue.
The 73-year-old suffered a broken leg that did
not heal well, and it became difficult for him
to get around or stand at a workbench. Facing
these challenges, he chose to retire.
August continued to build and sell guitars,
slowed by age and the burden of handling
the business alone. Some have noted that
very late Larson instruments can look a bit
lopsided as August became a recluse, living
in the shop. When he died in June, 1944, the
business ended and their story began to fade
from consciousness.
So it might have remained if not for the
enduring quality and mystique of the instruments. Carl died in 1946, the brothers left scant
records, and their multiple brand names meant
no easily discerned thread to the instruments.
Some drew the attention of early collectors,
and the folk boom of the early '60s followed
by the subsequent revival of traditional


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 3
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 4
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 5
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 6
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Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 8
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Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - Contents
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 11
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Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 17
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 18
Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 19
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Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 34
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Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 41
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