Home / Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips / Friends
1969 Gibson Johnny Smith
Status: Pricing and hold status for all instruments currently available is shown on our Instruments page here. If this instrument does not appear on the Instruments page it has been sold, and is no longer available. Photos and descriptions of Previously Sold instruments may be found here. To be notified of examples of this model or similar instruments in the future, please contact [email protected],. Please be specific on which instrument(s) you're looking for, and we'll be happy to contact you as soon as they become available.
Serial #: 566035, orange oval label
Body size at lower bout: 17" Scale length: 25" Nut width: 1 3/4"' Neck depth: .80/.95, 1st/10th fret
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; highly 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: Original gold hardware includes engraved art deco tailpiece; solid ebony bridge with pearl inlay in base; Kluson Sealfast tuners; floating Johnny Smith humbucking pickup with endpin jack, volume and tone controls; truss rod cover with "Custom" imprint. Vintage correct quintuple-bound tortoise pickguard.
Notes: With his peerless musicianship and innovative design ideas, it might be said that Johnny Smith was the Les Paul of the archtop guitar. Never content to accept existing constraints as given, Smith worked first with Epiphone, then Guild to create unique instruments tailored to his demanding vision. By the end of the 50's, with his career at its peak, Johnny finally sat down with the design staff at Kalamazoo to create one of the most sought-after archtops of modern times: the Gibson Johnny Smith Model.
Introduced in 1961, the Johnny Smith 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, still an industry standard. Taking inspiration from the past as well as the future, Smith resurrected the prewar X-braced soundboard, a design used by Gibson and D'Angelico in the 1930's. With it's increased sustain and warm, throaty tone, the X-brace has become a standard 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 ergonomic 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 design 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, peghead and binding recall the opulent Super 400. The most expensive Gibson artist model of it's day, and produced in very limited numbers, the Johnny Smith has been coveted by discerning players to this day.
One of just 57 shipped in the last pre-Norlin year of production, this handsome example has been maintained in fine shape, with all-original sunburst finish over an smartly figured flame maple body. The solid carved Sitka spruce soundboard shows tight quartersawn grain with abundant crossgrain silk, and a lovely light cherry sunburst. Free of cracks, thumb or fingerboard wear, the body shows some scattered lacquer checking and some random lacquer nicks, but little in the way of playwear otherwise.
The neck profile is a classic gentle D, with the original medium-jumbo frets in excellent condition, and smooth low action over the solid ebony fingerboard, with a fresh high-precision setup. The tone is rich, open and resonant, and captured faithfully by the original JS floating pickup, with a convenient full size 1/4" jack mounted to the tailpiece. Originally fitted as a double pickup version, the guitar has been converted to single pickup operation, with the bridge pickup and controls included in the case. A particularly versatile instrument for acoustic or electric performance, this true 60's orange label classic is a delight for the player and collector alike. One only: 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 flatwound strings. 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.
Case: Original deluxe arched black Gibson hardshell case, with gold plush lining.