Gibson L-5CES Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1969)

Gibson  L-5CES Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1969)
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Item # 11676
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Gibson L-5CES Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1969), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 561569, sunburst lacquer finish, maple body and neck; spruce top, maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black tolex hard shell case.

One of Gibson's classiest electric guitars, the large-bodied L-5CES (Cutaway Electric Spanish) has been a company mainstay since 1951 and a particular favorite of many jazz and classic R&B players. This example is from the end of the 1960s, made just after the sharp Florentine cutaway body reverted back to the old rounded profile used in the 1950s. Although Gibson quality is generally thought to have slipped somewhat in this time period, the top-line carved guitars suffered the least; the L-5CES still has the feel of a top-quality instrument from an earlier era.

This L-5CES is built on a 3 1/4" deep, 17" wide body with a fully carved spruce top over a laminate back. It is finished in a subtly shaded sunburst darker than many 1960's Gibsons, but still with a bold red layer. The maple back and sides have a lovely flamed grain figure. The neck is a 5-piece maple laminate with a pearl block inlaid ebony fingerboard. There is multiple binding everywhere and the headstock bears a pearl flowerpot inlay that is the longstanding L-5 hallmark. The neck is slimmer than earlier examples with a very narrow 1 1/2" nut width typical of the later 1960s.

The hardware includes two patent number humbucking pickups with gold plated covers. The standard Gibson wiring rig is topped off with the "witch hat" amp-style knobs typical of this period. The original gold-plated tailpiece has the traditional silver-plated center insert and retains the old "top-buster" tension adjustment almost nobody has ever used. The tuners are Kluson Sealfast enclosed machines, the truss rod cover is engraved "Custom" as is often seen the late 1960s.

The L-5 CES is considered one of the seminal jazz and R&B guitars, used by many greats in the 1950s and beyond from Freddie Stone to Kenny Burrell. This is not an exceptionally rare guitar as 170 were shipped 1969 this still represents a small fraction of the totals for many other Gibson instruments that year. This is a nice example with some repair work, still a supremely classy guitar and fine player with the classic Gibson sound.
Overall length is 42 1/4 in. (107.3 cm.), 16 15/16 in. (43 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/4 in. (8.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 1/2 in. (648 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/2 in. (38 mm.).

Overall this is a nicely original guitar not showing too wear but with some visible repairs done over the past 50+ years. The finish is quite clean overall, showing minimal checking, very little fade and not much in the way of play wear. The back of the neck has possibly been oversprayed with a black stinger on the headstock. This blacklights well as period lacquer; we can find no evidence of any cracks or breaks. This appears to have been done a long time ago and feels identical to a typical Gibson finish. There is no serial number visible on the headstock, but it is present on the label.

The neck has been visibly reset, with some finish touch up around the edges of the heel and checking on the heel itself. There is also a small crack to the rim just inside the cutaway that has been touched up. There is another area finish touch up just along the bottom edge of the back where it looks like some chipping occurred, with some fairly subtle strap burn above running up the back above. The lower back/side seam has been resealed under the endpin, and there is a thin sealed rim crack running backwards from the jack.

The guitar carries the original hardware except for a correct repro pickguard; damage to the plating on the pickup covers confirms the original guard was outgassing long ago, as does a wear spot inside the case. The rest of the hardware is original, with most of the remaining plating shows only light wear.

The guitar was neatly refretted with somewhat taller than factory-style wire some time back and playability is excellent. This is a truly lovely guitar to play and hear, with the warm, rich, yet still lively sound characteristic of these fully carved-top Gibson electrics. It has seen more repair than evident wear, so we don't know exactly what its story is but it remains an excellent playing and sounding instrument. It still resides in the original yellow-lined HSC. Excellent - Condition.