Stromberg Deluxe Cutaway Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1954)

Stromberg  Deluxe Cutaway Arch Top Acoustic Guitar  (1954)
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Item # 12244
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Stromberg Deluxe Cutaway Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1954), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 635, natural lacquer finish, flame maple back and sides, spruce top, laminated maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original brown hard shell case.

This beautiful 17 1/2" wide cutaway Deluxe guitar was made in 1954 by Elmer Stromberg, bearing the next serial number after and nearly identical to the famous cutaway Deluxe made for Nashville guitarist Hank Garland. In 1954 Jazz great Barry Galbraith was playing a Stromberg G-5, an unusual full-size but short scale instrument designed to facilitate complex chord voicings requiring long finger reaches. Galbraith showed this guitar to Hank Garland, who was impressed enough to promptly order a cutaway Deluxe model with the same short scale. That guitar was # 634; this is #635 made either at the same time or shortly after and carrying practically identical features.

There is a hand-typed label under the bass side f-hole stating "This guitar is guaranteed for a lifetime to the original purchaser, if used properly. Serial No. 635". One wonders what a player would have had to do to have Charles and Elmer refuse them service due to "improper use"! Stromberg guitar serial numbers only run up one further to #636, a G-5 cutaway model just finished at the time of Elmer's death. This #635 is thus the next-to-last Stromberg guitar ever completed. The Boston father-and-son team of Charles and Elmer Stromberg only produced about 340 guitars in a little over 25 years, with just a tiny proportion of the final ones being this short-scale cutaway style. Both of them died in 1955, ending the Stromberg line.

This is not only an exceptionally rare guitar but a top-line professional instrument in every way. The 17 1/2" wide body is made of figured maple with some interesting grain and numerous small mineral streaks. The top is tight-grain spruce, beautifully carved and constructed with Elmer's trademark single diagonal brace which imparts extra power and punch to the sound. All edges on the instrument are elaborately multi-bound, the hardware is gold plated including the bespoke bold Stromberg tailpiece. The finish is a lovely ambered natural lacquer, more common in this period and rather more attractive than the Stromberg's older dark orangey sunburst.

The slim, short scale 5-piece laminated maple neck has a medium deep "D" profile and a multi-bound, pearl block inlaid ebony fingerboard. The unique headstock shows the Strombergs' detail artistry with delicate engraving on the laminated, the legacy of decades of banjo making. The cut-through Celluloid is dressed away at the edge to appear multi-bound, beautifully designed and flawlessly executed. The floral engraved pattern on the face sets off the diagonal "Stromberg" logo with "Boston, Mass." and "Deluxe" in smaller banner motifs. The headstock is also backed with a black/white celluloid veneer and carries gold plated Kluson Sealfast tuners.

All Stromberg guitars are rare; older estimates ran to around 600 made, but recent analysis shows the serial numbers appear to start at 300, so the total is likely less than 350 guitars built. This guitar essentially duplicates Hank Garland's Stromberg, his primary recording acoustic through the 1950s used on untold numbers of historic sessions. There would have been only a tiny number of these short-scale, Cutaway Deluxes made, possibly just these two. While we don't know the detailed history of this #635, it is a fantastic instrument, easily the equal of Garland's guitar (which we have had in hand) and one of the finest, most historic carved top guitars of its era.
 
Overall length is 41 3/4 in. (106 cm.), 17 1/2 in. (44.4 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 23 5/8 in. (600 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This guitar remains in extremely fine original condition for 70 or so years on then planet, showing only very light wear and remaining an extremely fine playing and sounding instrument. There is broad checking and some very light wear to the original finish, with a few small dings here and there but really looking not much played. There is no heavy wear, wherever it has been the instrument was definitely extremely well cared for.

The only real condition issue is the engraved plastic headstock veneer is showing some noticeable deterioration, cracking and shrinking as is unfortunately nearly ubiquitous on Strombergs of this era. There are artisans working today who can replicate this piece but even so the facing is not crumbling off the headstock and all the lettering is still legible, so it is not immediately necessary to have it replaced. The tuners remain the original Kluson Sealfasts.

The massive Stromberg tailpiece is original, the celluloid pickguard appears to be original as well and in very solid shape. The guitar is fitted with a later bridge; the saddle is carved ebony with a slanted top piece without a B-string compensation, the bridge base is an older Gibson style two-footed piece.

There are no cracks or visible structural repairs. The guitar retains the original narrow frets showing hardly any wear. This is simply a wonderful guitar to play, with an amazingly deep powerful sound for an archtop instrument, especially considering its short scale design. This splendid guitar is a true original, a unique design and superb testament to the talents of the Stromergs both in its beautiful sound and historic significance. It resides in the original brown alligator-grain case, well preserved with one vintage travel decal applied. Excellent Condition.