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1934 Sorrentino Artist
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Serial #: 7849, white label.
Body size at lower bout: 16 1/2" Scale length: 25 1/2". Nut width: 1 23/32"
Finish: Sunburst finish, nitrocellulose lacquer type
Materials: Hand carved solid spruce top; highly-figured hand carved bookmatched black walnut back and sides; 5 piece mahogany neck with centerstripe; Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with block mother of pearl inlay; triple-bound body; pearl peghead inlay.
Hardware: Original nickel hardware includes open back oval key tuners, polished black bakelite pickguard w/original bracket, adjustable Brazilian rosewood bridge with matching serial number. Prewar vintage Epiphone tailpiece.
Notes: If you're one of the lucky owners of a prewar Martin, you might have wondered what an archtop might sound like if it too was made of Brazilian Rosewood. But because of the cost, weight and difficulty in working this exotic hardwood, rosewood has never been commonly used on archtop guitars. However, between 1931 and 1939, the Epiphone Company, alone among major builders, produced several models with back and sides of solid black walnut. The resulting guitars had unusually attractive looks, but more. The voice of these instruments is absolutely unique among acoustic jazz guitars. The hard, thin walnut back and sides produce a tone that is distinctly more brilliant than ordinary maple bodies. 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 finely aged wood.
Like Gibson and other major instrument builders, the Epiphone company occasionally produced instruments on contract to various distributors, which were relabeled under the clients' own brands. These rebadged Epis are quite rare however, with names like Howard and Ideal that are so scarce today that only a handful of examples have ever been found. Best known of Epi's OEM labels was Sorrentino, built for Chicago Musical Instruments, a distributor so dominant they later acquired Gibson itself in the mid-40's. With a product line roughly parallel in specs and pricing to Epi's own models, Sorrentinos were built on the Epiphone production line, with serial numbers consecutive with the Epi labeled guitars.
Named the 'Artist', this handsome model is identical in dimensions, materials and bracing to Epiphone's perennial Broadway model. And like it's Epi cousin, the Sorrentino Artist boasted back and sides of solid black walnut, the only Sorrentino so constructed. Identical to the Broadway right down to the polished bakelite pickguard, the Artist offered only the slightest cosmetic diferences in the headstock contour and inlay pattern.
While Gibson continued to produce OEM models well into the postwar period, Epiphone barely flirted with this market, thus making rebadged Epis some of the rarest archtops of the 20th century. Indeed, it appears that Sorrentinos were produced only in this model year of 1934 alone, and this is the first of these elusive beauties we've seen since we opened the doors over a quarter of a century ago. This fine example shows the 16 1/2" 'Grand Auditorium' body, long 25 1/2" scale, and generous 1 23/32" nut width, along with the widely tapered fingerboard with comfy 10" radius, and early un-segmented violin style f-holes.
This remarkable example guitar has been maintained in wonderful condition, without pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear, and shows no cracks in the top, back or neck, just a single tight hairline crack in the bass side upper bout. The instrument as been restored to superb playing condition with an adjustable hex-key truss rod, positioned Epi style under the fingerboard, and a fresh set of smoothly crowned frets capped with vintage style binding along the neck. Several scratches and dings have been spot retouched on top, and sealed with a light dusting of true vintage style nitro lacquer. The neck profile is an easy gentle C, with a fine straight Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and smooth low action over a fresh high precision setup. The voice is clear and bright, with the power and projection of a brass band. Flat out, the instrument has the headroom and cutting power of a good older gypsy guitar, with the warmth and wood of a classic prewar acoustic archtop.
For years, we knew the Sorrentino as little more than an engraving in an old catalog. But here it is: an instrument whose rarity is exceeded only by its brilliant tone and playability. Don't dawdle: it could be awhile 'till the next one comes over the transom. Call now.
Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished as necessary; 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; 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: Original deluxe black arched plush lined hardshell case.
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