Gibson L-1 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar , c. 1928

Gibson  L-1 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar ,  c. 1928
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Item # 11074
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Gibson L-1 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, c. 1928, made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, sunburst top, dark mahogany back and sides finish, mahogany back, sides and neck, spruce top, original black hard shell case.

This is an early and fairly fancy version of Gibson's first serious flat-top guitar, the L-1. While Gibson's early catalogs vehemently denigrated flat top guitars, by the mid-1920s it became obvious to the company management there was a big market for them that expensive archtops could not fill. Hawaiian entertainers and the earliest "Hillbilly" entertainers were ready customers and the line was a success from the start. This guitar matches the 1928 specs for the model, but the 4-digit Factory Order Number is too faded to make an exact dating determination.

These first flat tops were somewhat experimental using the rounded body form of the small L-1 archtop; some of the first actually used carved backs held in stock for those never-to-be-made guitars. The top has an unusual H-brace pattern specific to the earliest non-arched Gibsons. The bridge is a somewhat complex and eccentric affair, made of two layers of rosewood with a rear flange and a single small bridgepin behind the others, functionally useless but perhaps intended as decorative!

The very first L-1 of 1926 had a natural finished top, but by the time this one was made around 1928 a lovely Cremona brown sunburst had been added to the specs. This really dressed up the fairly fancy little guitar which also featured a side-bound fingerboard, triple binding top and back, and multi-ring soundhole trim. This made the L-1 is a fairly upscale guitar for its time, even for the hefty $50 price tag. The neck is a very comfortable round-backed affair quite unlike the heavy "V" style of the '30s, and equipped with an early adjustable truss rod. "The Gibson" is screened in thin silver script on the headstock.

The body is a fine grade of Mahogany with a dark natural finish with a nicely grained the spruce top sporting that beautiful hand-rubbed sunburst. This variation of the model is shown in the 1928 catalog, and disappears soon after in favor of the larger-body, X-braced L-models introduced in 1929-30. All these early small-body Gibson flattops are categorized as "Robert Johnson" guitars due to his being photographed with a battered early small-body L-0 in the 1930s. This one is a bit fancier than his but certainly still blues approved, with a bright and barky sound all its own!
Overall length is 37 15/16 in. (96.4 cm.), 13 13/16 in. (35.1 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 in. (10.2 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 1/4 in. (616 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.).

This is a well-worn but excellent playing guitar, showing a decent amount of overall wear but still in better shape than many of these somewhat fragile early Gibson flat tops. The finish has a generous collection of dings, dents and scrapes overall but the bulk of the picking wear is into but not through the finish. Some of the deeper scratched have been lightly touched up. Structurally it is excellent with the original bridge and tiny maple bridgeplate untouched, and no internal repair save for a cleat under the resealed top seam. There is one other long sealed grain split to the top south of the center seam, and a few small sealed side splits at the turns of the lower bouts.

This guitar is nicely original, including even the celluloid bridgepins; only the tuners having been replaced with correct repros of the original flat-plate engraved Waverly pegs; several other sets look to have been fitted over the years. We would assume it has been refretted, but the slim wire is so close to original spec. it makes one wonder! At any rate this guitar is a truly excellent player, worn in but not abused with a very comfortable action and without the heavy repairs and/or alterations these often have seen 85 years on. It still resides in the original fitted hard shell case. Overall Very Good + Condition.