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c.1949 Gibson L-7C 'Charlie Christian'

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Body size at lower bout: 17". Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut Width: 1 11/16" Neck depth, 1st/10th frets: .93/.1.04

Materials: Hand-carved solid spruce top; solid bubble-figure carved maple back; three-piece maple neck; Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with split-parallelogram mother of pearl inlays; solid bone nut.

Hardware: Original compensated adjustable rosewood bridge. Gibson single-notch ES-150 'Charlie Christian' adjustable single coil pickup, wartime Gibson trapeze tailpiece with rosewood crossbar, Gibson logo Kluson Deluxe tuners with single ring tulip keys, vintage bakelite pointer knobs, vintage correct wide-beveled black 5-ply pickguard.

Notes: Jazz legend Barney Kessel was not only one of the most celebrated guitarists of his day, he was also a pretty good businessman. Signing with Kay guitars for an artist model bearing his name in the 50's, Kessel finally inked a pact with Gibson for a namesake instrument in 1961. Only thing was, Barney never played either one of them. Gibson produced the double cutaway Barney Kessel model guitar until 1974, but they never built the guitar the man actually played. If they had, it would look a lot like this.

Kessel's favored axe was his custom late 40's Gibson ES-350, a full depth Venetian cutaway model, with dimensions identical to the L-7C. Emulating the sound of fellow Oklahoman Charlie Christian, Kessel had his guitar fitted with a prewar Gibson ES-150 'bar' pickup. With its fat, horn-like tone, this pioneering pickup was the defining sound of early jazz guitar, and many feel it remains unequalled to this day.

This fascinating instrument is virtually identical to the Kessel's own, with an important distinction. While the ES-350 is a plywood box, the L-7C is fully carved of solid spruce and maple, just like the costly L-5C. Not only does solid wood produce an instrument that is tonally richer and more complex, it's also significantly lighter in weight. And this guitar shows exceptionally handsome bubble figure maple in the back, a variety that is notably scarce today.

Though no label remains, its headstock logo is found only on guitars built between 1948 and 1951. It is fitted with a prewar style Gibson single-blade bar pickup, with a notch under the 'B' string and single bound bobbin, a variant originally produced only in 1938. Due to persistent demand, Gibson reissued these pickups intermittently through the 50's and '60s for the occasional custom order. Given the evident age of the adjustment screws, it would appear the installation took place many decades ago.

A veteran working guitar, this instrument sports a number of unique features, including a wartime Gibson trapeze tailpiece with rosewood crossbar, now grounded to reduce hum. The Gibson logo Kluson Deluxe tuners have single ring tulip keys, for original appearance with modern performance. Fully refinished long ago, the light walnut stain highlights the deeply figured back to great advantage. A short grainline crack near the treble soundhole was cleated and resealed at that time, and the veneer at the back of the headstock re-applied, with some spot touchup to the back of the neck. The guitar shows some normal scattered playwear, but no major patches of pickwear. A handsome set of vintage bakelite pointer knobs are installed as well, along with a 1/4" output jack in the usual position in the lower bass side.

At just 5lb 14oz, the instrument is nicely lightweight, and well balanced on the lap or the strap. The neck is straight, with a gently rounded C profile, and action is smooth and low over fine original style fretwork and a fresh high precision setup. But it's really all about the tone through the amp: smooth and creamy, yet remarkably detailed, with excellent separation and clarity. It's pure bop heaven, with the voice only years of vigorous play can impart. A great old trouper with a voice for the ages, ready for another turn in the spotlight. One only: call now.

Setup: 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. Electronics tested and adjusted.

Case: Deluxe black plush lined hardshell case. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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