Gibson ETG-150 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Tenor Guitar (1937)

Gibson  ETG-150 Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Tenor Guitar  (1937)
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Item # 9858
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Gibson ETG-150 Model Arch Top Hollow Body Electric Tenor Guitar (1937), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 577C-6 (FON), sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, period black hard shell case.

The "standard" 6-string pre-war Gibson ES-150 is one of the most important electric guitars of all time; this is the very rare 4-string tenor version. This model in both configurations was the first really commercially successful electric Spanish guitar and the ancestor of the entire Gibson electric line. While many of the early electric instruments from the 1930's have a rather mongrel look, the 150 has a beautifully understated elegance that undoubtedly helped it gain acceptance on the formal bandstands of the time.

While not a fancy guitar, The ES-150 was the first really professional grade dedicated electric guitar to gain wide acceptance. This ETG-150 is an early model from 1937, the first year it was cataloged for sale. The spruce top is carved, while the maple back is flat. Both are single-bound, as is the celluloid pickguard. The guitar mounts a narrower 4-string version of the famous "Charlie Christian" bar magnet pickup featuring a single-bound coil edge with 3 separate blade pieces under the strings, designed to improve string balance.

Besides its historical value the ETG-150 is a great and unique sounding instrument, certainly one of the best electric 4-strings ever built. The standard 6-string ES-150 remains most associated with Charlie Christian; this 4-string variant was the instrument of choice for Tiny Grimes, his contemporary and acolyte in the Harlem-based jazz scene of the time. This is a wonderful and fine-playing example of this rare instrument-less than 100 of these pre-war tenor 150's were made. They remain one of the all-time finest instruments of their type, pretty much the ultimate in a vintage 1930s electric tenor.
 
Overall length is 38 5/8 in. (98.1 cm.), 16 in. (40.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 22 3/4 in. (578 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).

This early ETG-150 shows some general play wear and minor repair, but appears well preserved and completely original except one tuning peg. This is not an obvious change-on close examination all of the two-tab Grover tuners are the same style but one actually appears earlier than the rest-probably a substitution from someone's parts box long ago.

There is some moderately heavy wear through the finish into the wood on the back of the neck from play behind the first three frets, one ding behind the 7th fret and a small scrape through the finish slightly into the wood on the back down by the heel. The finish on the rest of the guitar has some checking and the typical collection of dings, scratches and chips, but none of the strum wear to the top or finger wear around the tone and volume knobs that is oddly common on this earliest of electrics.

There is one small repaired spruce grain crack between the bottom edge of the fingerboard and pickup hole, other than that the top is crack free. The back also shows no cracks, which is a pleasant find on a 150 as they are also oddly common to this flat-back, carved top model.

All hardware including the "Charlie Christian" pickup, "radio" style knobs, jack-in-tailpiece unit, smaller adjustable wooden 4-string bridge and single-bound pickguard are original and unmolested; this last has often suffered Celluloid disintegration by now. This is one of the nicer early ETG-150's we have seen-as rare as the 6-string ES-150 is they do turn up regularly, while this 4-string is far less common. This is truly an excellent playing and sounding example, complete with a period case (probably original to the guitar but not tweed Gibson style) in moderately worn but functional condition. Excellent - Condition.