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Serial #: 52812, Orange oval label
Body size at lower bout: 17" Scale length: 25" Nut width: 1 3/4"'
Materials: Handcarved quartersawn bookmatched solid spruce top; figured tiger flame maple sides and neck; handcarved bookmatched flame maple back; ebony fingerboard with mother of pearl block fingerboard and peghead inlay; 7-ply body binding, 5-ply peghead and fingerboard binding, 3 ply back binding, bound f-holes, bone nut.
Hardware: All original hardware includes engraved gold-plated medallion tailpiece; adjustable compensated ebony bridge with pearl inlay; gold Kluson Sealfast tuners; gold floating Johnny Smith humbucking pickup with 1/4" jack mounted to pickguard; quintuple-bound marbled tortoise pickguard; custom engraved truss rod cover.
Notes: Introduced in 1961, the Gibson Johnny Smith Model represented the pinnacle of Smith's design creativity, in an instrument that married classic body styling with unprecedented technical innovation. Four decades later, it's hard to envision a time when the only floating pickups available were the DeArmond or the McCarty pickguard pickup. The Johnny Smith debuted the world's first floating humbucking pickup, now the industry standard. Taking inspiration from the past as well as the future, Smith resurrected the classic X-braced top, a design used by Gibson in the 1930's. With it's increased sustain and warm, throaty tone, the X-brace has become favored as well among contemporary archtop builders from Benedetto on.
While some of Smith's innovations were revolutionary, many more were evolutionary; incorporating a number of refinements designed to improve the playability of the instrument in subtle but significant ways. Feeling constrained by the standard 1 11/16" nut, Smith again reached to past masters and revived the more generous 1 3/4" fingerboard of the early 30's, a favorite of finger-style players. Similarly, Smith introduced a 25" scale, to facilitate stretch voicings without sacrificing response. Finally, the body was slimmed by 1/8th of an inch to an even 3" depth, to make it just that much easier to hold. The result is an instrument unique in playability, tonal response, and aesthetics. The visual appointments of the Johnny Smith are drawn from a number of Gibson paramount models. The 17" Venetian cutaway body and deco tailpiece are those of the L-5C, the neck and peghead are from the Super 400, and the opulent 7-ply body binding recalls the classic Epiphone Emperor.
This rare example was built in the second year of production, and is one of a just 73 produced in its model year. Built for a player named Jim Fortese (whose name is engraved in the custom truss rod cover) this handsome guitar sports a smartly figured maple back and neck; all original finish and hardware including original gold JS medallion tailpiece and Kluson Sealfast tuners; solid ebony bridge with inlaid base, orange label. A rare and eyecatching feature of this early example is the original pickguard, multi-bound in Gibson's exclusive marbled tortoise celluloid. This material is generally reserved for the Super 400 model, but was added by request to Johnny Smith's own personal prototype guitar, adn appears on this early example as well. An additional bonus is the scarce original-issue Johnny Smith pickup, which employs a thin strip of tortoise material beneath the polepiece holes, in lieu of the metal polepieces of later models.
Lovingly maintained since purchase, this handsome guitar shows no cracks or repairs, and the warm original tobacco sunburst finish is without pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear. Apart from a few scattered lacquer nicks, the guitar appears to have spent most if its long career safely ensconced in the deep plush of its original Gibson hardshell case. The solid ebony fingerboard has smooth low action over fine professional medium jumbo frets, and an elegant light D profile neck that glides through the palm. The original screw-on jack and cable are included, now replaced with a standard 1/4" guitar jack, mounted under the pickguard, and the strap button has been moved from the heel to the heel cap. The X-braced soundboard produces a rich, resonant acoustic voice, ably transmitted by the warm, quiet floating humbucking pickup.
Early models of this groundbreaking guitar are few and far between, and highly prized by players and collectors alike. Even rarer still are examples in this exceptional level of condition. Call now.
Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, crowned and polished; 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 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 arched black Gibson hardshell case, wth gold plush lining.