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Gibson 1935 L-5 'Carl Kress'

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Serial #: 91615, white oval label.

Body size at lower bout: 16". Scale length: 24 3/4" Nut Width: 1 13/16"

Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; solid bookmatched tiger flame maple back and sides; solid three piece maple neck with walnut centerstripe; solid ebony fingerboard; mother of pearl script peghead logo; custom floral peghead inlay; custom 'wreath' style picture frame fingerboard inlay; triple bound fingerboard, body, peghead and pickguard.

Hardware: 100% original hardware includes gold trapeze tailpiece; original Grover Stat-Tite open back tuners; compensated adjustable ebony bridge and triple bound tortoise pickguard, both with matching serial numbers.

Notes: International radio and recording star. Composer and arranger. Chord melody innovator. Jazz guitar pioneer Carl Kress worked with the biggest names of the era, from Paul Whiteman, Bix Beiderbecke, and the Dorsey Brothers, to Red Nichols, Joe Venuti and the Boswell Sisters. Kress' duets with Eddie Lang, Dick McDonough and George Barnes are essentials in any jazz guitar library, and his innovative tuning style is still used today by chord melody mavens like Marty Grosz and Doug Mattocks. So influential among guitarists was Kress that he was favored by Gibson with both an endorsement contract and a custom built guitar as well, crafted to his particular specifications. It's one of the most distinctive instruments of the jazz era, and we're pleased to present this historic instrument for your delectation.

The neck has an elongated peghead like the Super 400, and a distinctive and highly ornate bordered floral inlay. (As unusual as it is, it's not a one-off, as we've seen it once before on another custom L-5, made for Roy Smeck.) The fingerboard is inset with a unique "picture frame" inlay design quite different from that seen on the 30's L-7. The intricate design is in fact the 'wreath' inlay pattern of the top-line Style 5 series Mastertone banjos. The neck is slightly wider than typical, with a nut width of 1 13/16", and a manly "U" shaped profile, quite flat across the back. Perhaps to compensate for the extra width, the back shows an oversize walnut centerstripe, all factory work. (Gibson's records show the guitar was shipped to Kress at least twice, which presumably would account for some minor variations in period photos.)

The body is that of a standard 16" L-5, but with back, sides and neck of 3D tiger flame maple of the most extravagant variety. All hardware is original, and the guard, bridge, and label are all inscribed with matching serial numbers. The Cremona sunburst finish is all original as well, without overspray or spot finish. It shows the expected thumbwear of pro-played guitar, with a bit of pickwear near the guard, and a small patch of wear on the back, right about where Mr. Kress' tuxedo button would have been. Repairs appear minimal, and are confined to two small grainline cracks on either end of the bass f-hole, and a resealed center seam under the tailpiece.

The instrument posesses a wonderfully rich timbre, with exceptional bass response, and remarkable volume, clarity, and balance. Given Kress' use of a low Bb tuning, it's possible that Gibson could have voiced the top to ensure that the bass response would be equal to the guitar's sparkling high register. Whatever the reason, the instrument has a voice for the ages. The Kress guitar is a superb working instrument, and an incomparable piece of jazz guitar history.

Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished as necessary; trussrod tension and neck relief adjusted; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; 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; bridge wheels 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 4/64" to 5/64" 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: Original black plushlined hardshell case.














































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