Museum: Gibson Guitars

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1935 Epiphone Olympic

One of Epiphone’s most sought-after acoustic archtop models today was at one point among the company’s least expensive offerings. We can thank David Rawlings for that. His signature guitar tone for many, many years has been that of his 1935 Olympic, with its sweet and melodic single note presence. His playing on most of the Gillian Welch catalogue brought Rawlings into the spotlight as one of this generation’s most important guitar slingers, and his weapon of choice was always, until recently, his ’35 Olympic.

The Epiphone Olympic saw a handful of body size changes through the first years of production, growing from an advertised 13” wide upon introduction through to 13-5/8” in 1933, and then to 14.5” by 1935, only to grow again by another inch shortly thereafter. The Rawlings guitar is version #2, with a lower bout of 13-5/8” across, the example offered here dates a few months later and features the mid-sized 14-1/2” body.

This Olympic is a wonderful sounding small archtop, with mahogany back and sides, and a carved spruce top. The neck has a soft V carve, a modern smallish feel, and a nut width of 1-11/16”. With a long scale neck of 25.5”, solid-foot bridge, and elevated fingerboard it has the important elements of a pro-level archtop, but the smaller body size does set-it apart from both the big guitars and the smaller archtops by other makers. Its voice is sweet and present, and it really does shine on single note runs and noodles, particularly in the mid-section of the neck.

Crack free and completely original, the guitar is in remarkably good condition. Cosmetically, there is finish damage on the heel of the neck and to the sides immediately adjacent to the neck (too bad they didn’t get the neck reset here at Folkway!) The neck shows worn finish, and the original tuners were temporarily replaced with vintage replicas, which left no evidence but for a couple filled screwholes under the base plates. Apart from that the guitar is straight and clean, plays well, and is nicely set-up.

With period chipboard case

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