Recording King Ray Whitley Jumbo Model 1027 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Gibson (1939)

 Recording King Ray Whitley Jumbo Model 1027 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Gibson  (1939)
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Item # 12265
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Recording King Ray Whitley Jumbo Model 1027 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Gibson (1939), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # EW-1921, sunburst top and neck, natural back and sides finish, rosewood back and sides, spruce top; laminated maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

This beautiful if slightly eccentric guitar is one of the rarest and most impressive of Gibson's pre-war custom brand instruments. The Recording King Model 1027 was exclusive to the Montgomery Ward company, endorsed in their catalog by Singing Cowboy (and regular Gibson booster) Ray Whitley. This was the top-grade flat top of Ward's line, listed for sale in 1939 at the princely sum of $29.95 (plus $4.75 for the case). This was an extraordinary bargain even at the time, as this Jumbo actually has solid rosewood back and sides. This was shared in Gibson's line only with the recently discontinued Advanced Jumbo, which retailed at $80. It is quite possible woods originally stockpiled for never-built AJ's were used up on this model!

While most of Gibson's contract-brand flat-tops were built with heavier ladder-braced tops, this model has an Adirondack spruce top with a typical Gibson Jumbo X-brace pattern. Internally it is not finished out as neatly as a Gibson-brand equivalent; the braces are not shaped as delicately or as finely smoothed, but functionally it is crafted as well as its full-line equivalents. A concession to its off-brand status is the neck which lacks the Gibson adjustable truss rod, but Gibson used a 5-piece multi-laminate maple/ebony sandwich that is quite stout.

Cosmetically this is quite a fancy guitar, especially for the price! The top is triple bound with a bound soundhole edge and large tortoise celluloid pickguard similar to the Gibson J-55, but with some engraved flourishes by the edges that model lacks. The rosewood bridge is the same elaborate shaped piece as the J-55 with a carved ledge around the edge. There are three pearl dots inlaid on the top covering retaining bolts, with an elaborate 2-part bridgeplate underneath to accommodate the oversize footprint. The rosewood back and sides are finished in natural, with single-ply back binding.

The neck is a deep and moderately chunky tapered "C" profile with dressed-away sides, carved from a 5-ply laminate blank familiar to Gibson fans from its later surplus use on wartime J-45s. The rosewood fingerboard is single-bound with elaborate pearl diamond inlay. The headstock has a center-point shape, pearl inlaid with decal overlay spelling out "Recording King" and adding detail to the crown. Ray Whitley's signature is stenciled across the face. The tuners are fairly upscale single-unit Klusons with metal buttons and a cord bracket is mounted on the back of the headstock. (A tassel cord was included in the package).

The Advanced Jumbo was out of production when this guitar was created, making this the only rosewood Jumbo Gibson was building at the time. The nearest equivalent in Gibson's 1939 line was J-55, the company's top 16" Jumbo flat-top but that was a less-fancy mahogany instrument retailing at $55. Recently researched data indicates only 153 of these 1027s were ever made, and survivors are extremely rare. This is a very powerful sounding Jumbo guitar, with a "throaty" (Gibson's favorite term) and punchy sound. This is really a superb and unique piece of Gibson history, a nearly forgotten rosewood gem and about the perfect cowboy guitar, just as advertised!
Overall length is 41 1/4 in. (104.8 cm.), 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This extremely rare guitar shows both wear and repair but remains a well-preserved example for the pre-WWII era, now 85 years along. It is in structurally fine condition showing wear to the finish overall, and some typical work to keep it in playing condition. The top shows pickwear above and below the fingerboard and in a concentrated deeper spot off the back edge of the pickguard. The back and sides have dings, dents, scratches and rub wear but no heavy loss. The back of the neck is heavily worn mostly through the lacquer between the nut and 12th fret. The bass side laminate seam can be felt but the back of the neck is smooth and free of the typical capo divots.

There are a number of visible but mostly minor repairs. The top has two small plugged holes just in front of the bridge, probably from some sort of pickup installation. There is a larger hole patched in the lower rim from (assumedly) a jack, with finish touch-up in this spot. The top has sealed and cleated cracks off the treble side of the fingerboard to the soundhole edge and along the top edge of the pickguard, visible but solid. There are several sealed cracks at the turn of the lower bout on the treble side, again solid but visible with some light touch-up. The back has a couple of tightly sealed grain splits and one deep ding near the rear edge with a couple of small ancillary cracks. All are solidly sealed.

The "Recording King" and crown headstock decals have partially flaked off the pearl background as is common. The neck has been reset leaving a small inconspicuous rosewood grain split off the bass side of the heel. The guitar appears at least partially refretted long ago with exact correct wire; the lower positions on the fingerboard have some feelable divoting. The nut and saddle are newer, the bridge is original but was lowered slightly in front of the pins. The fingerboard appears to have been off and re-installed some time ago; the neck has some sort of non-adjustable metal rod installed. A steel rod was original to some of these guitars but may have been added or replaced on this one. Considering its age and history, playability is excellent with a big sound, a true survivor and extremely rare authentic original pre-war rosewood jumbo from Gibson, something that is almost non-existent in the 21st century. Overall Very Good + Condition.