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1938 Recording King M-5
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Serial #: DW-1283
Body size at lower bout: 16". Scale length: 24 3/4" Nut Width: 1 3/4" Body Depth: 4"
Finish: Original sunburst finish, nitrocellulose type
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; bookmatched arched figured maple back and sides; solid maple neck with 3-piece walnut centerstripe; solid Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with mother of pearl inlay; ornate crown peghead inlay; checkerboard bound soundboard and fingerboard.
Hardware: Original hardware includes adjustable compensated Brazilian rosewood bridge, open-back nickel Grover Stat-Tite tuners, nickel trapeze tailpiece. Vintage correct bound tortoise pickguard.
Notes: Like Epiphone, Martin and other premium instrument builders, the Gibson company produced instruments on contract for distributors, music store chains, and sometimes even prominent regional music teachers. Bearing names like Cromwell, Mason, Ambassador, and many more, these instruments were often produced by a variety of manufacturers, but none exceeded Gibson itself in quality of construction. By far the best known and most widely distributed OEM Gibson instruments were marketed by mail order behemoth Montgomery Ward under their trade name 'Recording King'.
Recording King instruments were marketed by Ward as early as 1929, and by 1938 the brand was produced exclusively by Gibson, an arrangement that lasted until mid-1940. Instruments built during this period use Gibson serial designations (the "D" on this instrument indicating a 1938 manufacture, with the "W" indicating a Ward product.) Recording King endorsers included country pioneer Carson Robison, as well as Ray Whitley, later the father of the legendary Gibson J-200.
The M-5 model was Recording King's top of the line instrument, presumably positioned as Ward's answer to Gibson's flagship L-5 archtop. With a solid carved bookmatched spruce soundboard and highly figured maple body, the M-5 displays top-flight craftsmanship throughout, including unique ornate inlay in both peghead and fingerboard. Signature Gibson touches abound, from the classic Cremona sunburst finish, the 'Charlie Christian' style bound pickguard, even the checkerboard binding, as seen on the 30's Gibson L-10. Finally, the generous 1 3/4" nut, now so popular among contemporary players, harkens back to the earliest Gibson archtops of the 20's.
The differences are equally intriguing. The body is a full 4" in depth, substantially deeper than any other Gibson archtop, helping to impart a warm resonance to the bass and lower mids. The soundholes are somewhat larger as well, and the curly maple sides are finished in a distinctive lateral sunburst, seen only rarely on a few obscure Gibson models like the prewar L-75. Bridge and tailpiece are like those found on various prewar Gibson archtops, but the Grover tuners are an extremely rare and attractive variant, sporting stylish art-deco baseplates.
This example has been preserved in remarkable condition, and is notably free of pick, buckle or thumbwear. Action is smooth and low over a traditional full prewar neck with a very slight vee profile. The solid spruce top is exceptionally light and finely carved, with a sound that is clear, open and beautifully balanced, with excellent projection. A rare and stylish instrument, the M-5 is one of the best kept secrets of the archtop world, and an outstanding value in a true prewar Gibson built acoustic archtop.
Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished; 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-.057). 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: Deluxe black plush lined hardshell case.
Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips