Gibson Johnny Smith Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1966)

Gibson  Johnny Smith Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1966)
$9,750.00 + shipping
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Item # 8744
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Gibson Johnny Smith Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1966), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 551082, sunburst lacquer finish, curly maple bank and sides, spruce top; laminated maple neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The Johnny Smith model has always been one of Gibson's classiest 1960s archtop guitars, but even so a relatively rare instrument. The Johnny Smith Artist Model was conceived in late 1960 by Gibson president Ted McCarty and Johnny Smith himself after Smith's Guild guitar endorsement deal had proved problematic. He had disagreed with Guild about construction details on his signature model, and eagerly jumped ship to Gibson as soon as the four-year deal expired. McCarty ensured that Gibson followed Smith's specifications to the letter, and in the process not only pleased the artist himself but created an enduringly beautiful guitar.

The Johnny Smith is a fully acoustic carved top cutaway 17" guitar generally similar to an L5-C but with the larger Super 400-style peghead and split-block fingerboard inlay. The namesake electronics rig consists of an Epiphone-style mini-humbucker pinned to the end of the fingerboard floating over the top. A volume control and mini-jack are mounted to the pickguard, so the guitar's top vibration is not hampered by the electronics assembly. All appointments are quite deluxe with multi-ply binding everywhere, top grade woods, and gold-plated hardware.

The bridge is ebony with an inlaid base, unique to the guitar at the time with a D'Angelico style non-staggered compensation on the saddle -- another of Smith's stipulations. The tuners are Kluson Sealfasts, and the heavy tailpiece is a gold L-5-style piece with a "Johnny Smith" engraved nameplate in the center. This guitar features the original-style gold metal-capped knob and large cased pot affixed to the pickguard as seen on the earliest Smiths; many mid and late-'60s examples have a smaller black knob. The label in this guitar is marked "J S D", so it is possible that it was originally shipped as a double-pickup example and then converted to a single. All the hardware (except for the actual celluloid pickguard) appears original period Gibson, so it is also possible this was simply a labeling error, which is not unknown for Gibson in 1966.

Johnny Smith was very specific in his requirements, and was very pleased with Gibson's success in meeting his exacting standards. His signature model has become recognized as one of the all-time great straight-ahead jazz guitars, and one of Gibson's classic 1960s models. The model was very expensive when introduced (initially listing for even more than a Super 400) and was only built in small quantities throughout the '60s; this fine sunburst example is one of only 22 shipped in 1966. This is a great-playing and sounding guitar with a very sophisticated tone both acoustic and amplified!
Overall length is 42 1/4 in. (107.3 cm.), 17 in. (43.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 in. (7.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This guitar has had some light wear and repair but remains an excellent instrument in every way. It has been very nicely refretted with slightly taller wire than the original and plays very well. The pickguard appears very close to the original but looks to be a well-done older replacement; the original likely suffered celluloid deterioration some time ago.

There is some minor finish wear overall and a touched-up spot on the top, at the edge curve of the upper bass bout. The only notable modification is a strap button added to the heel. This is quite simply one of the finest-sounding guitars we have heard in both the acoustic and amplified modes, a testament to the quality of work Gibson put into their best instruments even when the company was struggling in other areas. Includes the original yellow-lined black HSC with a replaced handle. Excellent Condition.