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ca. 1960's Albanus Short Scale 17

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Body size at lower bout: 17", Body Depth: 3" Scale length: 24" Nut: 1 11/16" Neck depth: .79/.92 1st/10th frets

Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer.

Materials: Solid bookmatched handcarved fine grain spruce top; full-depth handcarved solid maple back and sides; tiger flame maple neck with walnut centerstripes; solid ebony fingerboard with block mother of pearl inlays; pearl diamond and headstock logo; 9-ply body binding, 3-ply neck and headstock binding; triple-bound f-holes; solid bone nut.

Hardware: Original hardware includes gold Kluson Sealfast tuners; hand carved ebony tailpiece with pearl inlay, compensated adjustable ebony bridge with inlaid feet; bound black acrylic pickguard with volume control. Kent Armstrong floating 2D humbucking pickup with endpin jack.

Notes: The decade of the 1960's saw the most explosive increase in guitar sales in the history of the instrument. In the wake of the folk revival, the British Invasion and the legacy of Elvis, baby boomers kept guitar manufacturers scrambling to meet exponentially increasing demand. Swamped in the tsunami of mass produced dreadnoughts and solid bodies, the venerable archtop guitar kept a lonely vigil at the top of the catalog, with the major manufacturers booking their lowest production figures in history.

Nowhere was this more true than in the rarefied world of the hand-built archtop. D'Angelico's long career had ended with the beginning of the decade, and his successor D'Aquisto wouldn't fully hit his stride until the next. The Strombergs had passed away in the mid-50's, and the renaissance in hand building sparked by Benedetto and his followers was almost a quarter century away. Despite the setbacks, a hard core of working session players, sidemen and soloists continued to demand hand-carved instruments crafted to their exacting specifications. Into the void stepped Carl Albanus Johnson.

Born in a small Swedish fishing village, Johnson emigrated to the US sometime around WWI, and eventually turned his skill as a precision machinist to violin making, and finally to archtop guitars in the mid-50s. From his workshop in Chicago, Johnson built a reputation among the working players in the area with his finely crafted instruments which, like those of D'Angelico, were generally built to order. Few of his instruments bear a date or serial number, but it's believed he was active as a luthier between around 1954 until his death in 1977. having built no more than about seventy five archtops in his career, Johnson's Albanus guitars are among the rarest of American archtops.

This unique instrument is a full depth 17" archtop wth a lighning fast 24" scale, just about halfway between a Byrdland and an ES-175 in length. Ideal for fast runs and stretch voicings, this short scale guitar with a full size, fully acoustic body is not just rare: we've never seen another one like it, ever. Handcarved of highly figured fiddleback flame maple on the back, sides and neck, this gleaming guitar has a tap-tuned X-braced spruce top, with crossgrain silk throughout. The body binding is extravagant, with a full nine plies on the body and triple bound f-holes. Of particular note is the handcarved ebony tailpiece, which reflects Johnson's roots in violin building. (Predating D'Aquisto by a number of years, Johnson may indeed deserve credit for introducing the wooden tailpiece on the modern archtop guitar.)

Expertly contoured with a slim contemporary D profile, the neck is reinforced with a three piece centerstripe and is dead straight with smooth low action over a solid ebony fingerboard with excellent medium jumbo frets. A Kent Armstrong floating 2D humbucker is installed on the original pickguard with a volume control and endpin jack.

This example has been maintained in fine condition, without cracks, pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear, and showing only very light normal checking in the all-original sunburst finish. The original multi-ply binding is now heavily ambered and showing its age, with some shrinkage here and there but still tight to the body, with no crumbling. The body is particularly light in weight, just 5 lb. 13 oz., and the voice of this guitar has unusual warmth and depth. Of particular note is the remarkably resonant bass response, with rich complex mids, and fine clear highs, every bit the equal to a number of contemporary D'Angelicos and D'Aquistos we've seen, and superior to some.

An unusually fine playing guitar, and one of the rarest American archtops, the Albanus is a continuing testament to the Stromberg of the Windy City. One only: call now.

Setup: This instrument is strung with medium gauge roundwound strings (.013-.056). 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: Deluxe arched black plush lined hardshell case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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