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1959 Gibson Super 400: 'Blacktop'

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Serial #: A-30524

Body size at lower bout: 18" Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut width: 1 10/16" Neck depth, 1st/10th frets: .83/.92

Materials: Handcarved bookmatched fine grained solid carved spruce top; figured solid carved tiger flame maple back, sides and neck; solid ebony fingerboard with mother of pearl block fingerboard and peghead inlay; 5-ply body, neck, head and pickguard binding, triple bound f-holes, polished bone nut.

Hardware: Original engraved gold S-400 trapeze tailpiece, original gold Kluson Sealfast tuners. Vintage Bigsby cast aluminum single coil neck pickup, vintage Gibson P-90 bridge pickup. Newer gold Gibson Tuneomatic bridge with ebony base, 5-ply bound dark tortoise pickguard, gold bell volume and tone knobs, 3 way pickup selector switch.

Notes: In the far north reaches of Alaska lived a musical family, and Dad was very fond of Gibson guitars. He was also a big fan of the great Merle Travis, the fingerstyle pioneer who influenced Chet Atkins, and entire generations of thumb pickers to this day. And so the story of this remarkable guitar begins.

Originally built as an acoustic Super 400C model, the guitar was converted to electric, with the addition of two pickups and controls. The bridge pickup is a period Gibson P-90 pickup of considerable vintage: the gold standard single coil since WWII. The neck pickup, however, is another story altogether.

Though inventor Paul Bigsby is today remembered for the vibrola tailpieces that bear his name, he was much more than that. In addition to crafting pioneering steel guitars, electric mandolins and other instruments for a host of first-call California pickers, Bigsby also built what's generally recognized as the first modern solid body guitar in 1948. For none other than, wait for it... Merle Travis himself.

Except perhaps for the tuners, Bigsby built everything else on his guitars himself, including the pickups, which he wound with 41 gauge wire, and his own hand crafted aluminum covers. Made famous by studio hotshots like Grady Martin of 'El Paso' fame, Bigsby's pickups attained legendary status for their distinctive voicing: the iconic sound of postwar Western Swing. They are also vanishingly rare. How rare? So rare that until this guitar showed up, we'd only ever seen one in pictures.

So how did one wind up on this guitar? We wish we knew, but we're glad it did. With its classic 3K low impedance output, and un-potted construction, the pickup is warm and clear, with the appealing microphonics of the legendary DeArmond floating pickups. Combined with the sparkle of the P-90 at the bridge, this Bigsby neck pickup affords the player faithful 40's style tone, with the deep resonance of the biggest guitar body Gibson ever built.

Sporting a striking two-tone finish, this magisterial guitar is carved from spectacular flame maple in the back, sides, and neck, with a warmly ambered original blonde finish, free of buckle or thumb wear, with only some light age checking on the sides and back. The solid carved spruce top has a lustrous deep ebony lacquer finish added later, contrasting dramatically with the blonde body and neck. (Though rare, Gibson themselves occasionally finished guitars with two tone lacquer, like this handsome L-5CES here.)

The neck has a sleek elegant feel, with a gentle D profile, and a solid ebony fretboard that glides smoothly under the fingers, with a fresh high-precision setup over fine pro fretwork. Bridge height and neck angle are both excellent, with ample room for adjustment. Well maintained, the instrument shows no cracks or structural issues, with pickups installed without alteration of the braces. An additional jack hole in the side has been professionally filled, along with an extra control knob hole on top. The voice is rich and deep, with a commanding warmth and elegance that only the super jumbo body can deliver.

And true-blue Travis fans will be delighted to find an additional vintage Bigsby long arm vibrola supplied in the case, a special bonus along with the original engraved gold Super 400 tailpiece. A one of a kind classic for rockabilly, bebop, or Western Swing, this big beauty will turn heads from the footlights to the neon lights. All nestled in its fine original brown Lifton arched hardshell case, with pink plush lining. 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.

This instrument is strung with medium gauge nickel roundwound strings (.012). 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.







































































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