Museum: Gibson Guitars

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1936 Gibson AJ

Of the thousands of guitars that have passed through our doors, our website, and our repairshop, there are a small number which are forever branded on our memory here at Folkway. That shortlist includes our 1935 000-45 and 1935 D-28, the near-mint 1936 Jumbo of a few years back, the impossibly clean 1941 J-35 with cherry edge-burst finish, The Kel Kroydon KK2 Birds of Paradise, and as of today, this first-year 1936 Gibson Advanced Jumbo.

This AJ came to Folkway with the family the gentleman who bought the guitar in Hamilton, Ontario (about 45 minutes south of the store) in 1951. Coming up on his 90th birthday, he was ready to move the guitar on to a new owner. The guitar arrived in near-perfect original condition but with a top crack and in need of a neck reset. No changed parts, original finish throughout, no playwear of any real significance, and with a factory-original bridge and saddle.

The top crack repair and neck reset were carefully completed by Mark Stutman this winter, with the work properly documented during all stages of repair. The reset is of the highest calibre, with no damage of any kind to the neck or body, no finish repair or fretwork, and the neck angle was set to the guitar’s original saddle with an action of 5-6 64ths under medium string tension. The guitar plays perfectly with original full-height frets.

It is among the finest sounding Dreadnoughts we have played. An amazingly loud and surprisingly well-balanced guitar with headroom that seems infinite, strong and clean fundamental, enough warmth to please a singer and enough cut to make a flatpicker relax and play their best. The Advanced Jumbo was Gibson’s attempt at competing head to head with Martin’s D-28, and they put their strongest horse in the race. It’s built unlike any other model Gibson was producing at that time, with a long scale neck, solid Indian rosewood back and sides, heavily scalloped dual tone bar bracing, and Martin-style wide/flat lower back braces for extra bass. This particular guitar was built quite early in AJ production and features a non-scalloped X brace, unlike later models. The extra stiffness imparted by the straight X brace adds to the sheer power and volume of this guitar relative to Advanced Jumbos.

The guitar’s nut width measures 1-11/16”, and the string spread at the bridge is 2-1/8”; scale length is about 25.5” The neck has a modern rounded feel that is night-and-day different than just about every other neck Gibson was carving in 1936. As this was an early build, the bridge appears to have been originally made for use on a Jumbo and shows factory plugged 2-3/8” pin holes, re-drilled at 2-1/8” for the narrow AJ neck, and lacquered over. The guitar’s Grover tuners are original, and the decal on the back of the headstock dates from 1951.

We’ve not seen a finer Advanced Jumbo on the market for many years.


With period non-original hardshell case.

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