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1931 Epiphone Broadway Masterbilt

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Serial #: 5283, stamped inside back

Body size at lower bout: 16 3/8" Scale length: 25 1/2". Nut width: 1 3/4" Neck depth: .90/1.00, 1st/10th frets

Materials: Hand carved solid spruce top; bookmatched arched black walnut back and sides; solid maple neck with 3 centerstripes; Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with engraved star-pattern pearl inlay; triple-bound body; 3 banner peghead inlay in asymmetrical 'Masterbilt' headstock design.

Hardware: Original hardware includes nickel wraparound tailpiece, suspended Bakelite pickguard. Waverly-style aged nickel open-back tuners, compensated adjustable rosewood bridge.

Notes: Introduced in the very first flight of Epiphone archtop guitars, the Broadway model made its debut in 1931. One of three 'Masterbilt' models with 'Grand Auditorium' size bodies, they were the largest and most costly guitars in the Epi catalog. Unique among American archtops, the Broadway featured back and sides of black walnut, producing a tone that is distinctly more brilliant than ordinary maple guitars. The mids and highs have exceptional projection and a brilliant bell-like tone, making these guitars particularly well suited for acoustic lead guitar. The cutting power on these instruments is simply phenomenal, with the warmth and sustain of tonewood aged for over eight decades.

This remarkable guitar is not only the oldest Broadway model we have found to date, it's the earliest Epiphone archtop of any kind we've ever had the pleasure to present. Impressed with serial number 5283, it has no label inside, and is one of only six Broadways recorded in the NY Epiphone Database for that first year. (1931 was the trough of the Great Depression, and production was vanishingly small, making guitars from this year the rarest of all NY Epi archtops.)

The instrument displays a number of unique features of Epi's earliest efforts. The triple banner peghead is enhanced with a pearl lily above the nut, and the figured walnut back is bookmatched in a dramatic chevron pattern. The distinctive 'star' pattern fingerboard inlays, borrowed from Epiphone's Recording banjos, are each hand engraved with a delicate floral pattern, an ornament we've seen only on the very earliest models. (Interestingly, the highest fingerboard inlay is at the 14th fret, rather than the 15th, which quickly became standard later that year.)

The segmented 3 piece soundholes, nickel wraparound tailpiece, and polished Bakelite pickguard are all earmarks of the early Masterbilt Epis as well. Most intriguingly, the two conventional parallel braces of the soundboard are intersected by half a dozen transverse braces and a bridgeplate, all original to the instrument, a configuration remarkably similar to that seen in some of the earliest Stromberg archtops (with thanks to our friend and Epi expert Felix Weidler for the tips.)

The original binding is in excellent condition and tight to the body, and the early wraparound tailpiece is solid at the retainer. A pair of cracks have been soundly cleated at each f-hole, along with another pair under the bridge, and the neck has been repaired with a long oval splint from the peghead to the third fret. Some vintage style nitro lacquer has been applied over the original sunburst finish on the top and neck as well. Finally, the upper and lower banners of the peghead inlay have been replaced and engraved in solid pearl.

The generous 1 3/4" Brazilian rosewood fingerboard has a comfy 7" radius, and fans out to a full 2 3/16" string spacing at the bridge, making it ideal for either pick or fingerstyle play. The action is smooth and low over a fresh high precision setup, and a solid, gentle C profile neck. The voice is open and powerful, with a brilliance and clarity for which these walnut guitars are renowned. Played-in over many decades, the instrument has a wide open voice with excellent projection, sparkling highs, and clear, resonant bass.

A true bandstand veteran, from the very dawn of the archtop guitar, this extraordinary find is as rare as they come. One only: call now.

Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation strobe tuned; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and recurved as necessary; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished. This instrument is strung with medium gauge bronze strings (.013-.056). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 5/64" to 6/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.

Case: Black arched plush lined hardshell case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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