Lyon & Healy #1201 9 String Acoustic Flat Top Guitar , c. 1921

Lyon & Healy  #1201 9 String Acoustic Flat Top Guitar ,  c. 1921
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Item # 2850
Prices subject to change without notice.
Lyon & Healy #1201 Model 9 String Acoustic Flat Top Guitar, c. 1921, probably Chicago, brown stain finish, birch body.

An extremely rare and interesting instrument: a factory original 9-string guitar.

This obscure stringing was favored by several early Bluesmen and used continually by Big Joe Williams until the end of his career. Many blues artists since, including John Mayall, have modified 6-string guitars to this format, but this is the real original period piece.

These guitars appear to have originally been a short-lived experiment intended for Hawaiian playing, and were briefly offered by Lyon & Healy around 1921-22 at the somewhat princely price of $17.88!

The 9-string guitar doubles the top three courses, creating a lusher treble sound without the chiming octaves on the low strings characteristic of the 12-string. This guitar has a dense tone which sounds instantly correct for fingerpicked blues, with clear bass notes and just the right amount of 'voodoo' to the higher end. The small birch body is of the same type as many period 6-string instruments typically used by itinerant performers.

This guitar has almost no decoration, just a painted-on soundhole ring and simple dot inlay. It is ladder braced with the main top brace on a slant. The instrument is all original including a wooden floating bridge with a fretwire saddle, stamped tailpiece adapted for extra ballends, gear-over-post tuners with celluloid buttons, and dyed maple nut. The "imitation koa" finish is essentially just a dark stain.

This is the exact type of instrument seen in period photographs of semi-obscure blues performer "Daddy Stovepipe" and heard on his 78's. While certainly a product of Chicago, it is not certain if these were built in the L+H factories or outsourced from another maker…much of the detail work is very similar to later Stromberg-Voisinet instruments.

We are extremely pleased to offer this rarely seen guitar…even many experienced blues scholars and enthusuiasts have never encountered one!
Overall length is 38 7/16 in. (97.6 cm.), 12 13/16 in. (32.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 in. (610 mm.).

Extremely playable and in very fine shape overall; the neck has been reset and several top and back grain cracks have been expertly repaired. The finish is completely original with some light wear, and this is certainly one of the best, if not the finest, surviving example of this especially rare bird.